The Greening of the NFL

Credit: Parker Anderson, FlickrCCWe live in an age when everyone from individuals up to the largest corporations have become acutely aware of our environmental and ethical responsibilities.

For the latter this means that they have policies in place and protocols to follow.

So, it stands to reason that organizations involved in the sports and leisure industries should be just as invested in this drive for sustainability.

As a sport with an estimated 185 million fans worldwide the NFL, and the teams that it includes, is no exception. Its very nature also means that it is ideally placed to encourage many of those followers to take more notice of how they can be “greener” in many ways on an individual level.

It’s almost impossible to list all of the ways in which football has a potential effect on the environment. From how stadiums are built and maintained to the methods of transport fans use to travel to games, every single one has an impact of some kind.

Then there are the responsibilities that the sport has to the wider community around it, whether or not its members are followers of their local team.

Fortunately, as a forward-thinking organization, the NFL has been quick to adopt countless policies and practices and runs them all under the umbrella of the NFL Green initiative.

Instilling sustainability in all areas

The NFL was an early adopter of green policies first starting to make efforts under its 1993 Environmental Program. This covered several areas including solid waste management, material reuse, food recovery, and greenhouse gas reduction.

Alongside this, the league started to take a far greater interest in the construction of stadiums encouraging the use of environmentally-friendly building techniques such as the use of green roofs which have been proven to offer very many benefits.

Similarly, many stadiums also now use recycled rainwater for irrigation alongside other low-usage techniques. This, combined with an increasing reliance on renewable energy, has made great strides in reducing the league’s overall carbon footprint.

The many tendrils of the NFL Green initiative reach out into numerous areas. But the one that arguably makes the biggest difference, week after week, is the commitment to waste management.

In a bid to prevent as much waste as possible from going into landfill recycling and composting is positively encouraged at all games and within the organization itself.

So, although fans might be more focused on the odds to win Super Bowl, they might also be interested to learn that ever since 2019 around 90% of all waste generated by the event has avoided landfill.

The Super Bowl showcase

In fact the annual February event has now become one of the main focuses for the NFL both to show off its green credentials and to encourage sustainable behavior in its fans. So, for example, efforts are made to promote the use of public transport to reach the game instead of traveling by car.

As part of the build-up to the event there is also a local E-Waste drive to recycle valuable components from broken or unwanted electrical equipment. The money raised is then donated to a local zoo or wildlife project.

The Super Bowl is also used a s springboard to help to improve air quality, build community gardens and increase food security in and around the area in which each year’s event is being held. With the eyes of the world on it, these are all messages that are spread far and wide.

Caring for the community

It’s reaching out to communities that, arguably, leads to the greatest levels of engagement so it’s worth looking at a few of the ways in which this is achieved in more detail.

One of the most immediately helpful of these is the redistribution of leftover food from events. Joining forces with local food banks, these are distributed amongst those in need in the local area, saving it from going to waste.

Community greening also has a key role to play in the initiative. In this, local groups and parks departments are supported in projects ranging from tree-planting to produce-growing and reclaiming spaces to create community gardens. Funding comes both from the NFL  and many of its sponsors, keen to be associated with such worthwhile activities.

The wider environment also benefits from the NFL with broader projects that in the past have included regenerating a Californian kelp forest as well as helping to restore a coral reef off the coast of Florida, run in association with the Super Bowl LV held in Tampa Bay.

So, from the local to the national, and even global perspective, the NFL can justifiably claim to be a green league. Yes, there is always more to be done, and no doubt there will be. But with the drive and commitment shown to date we can be confident that it will come to fruition soon.