Just five days before Super Bowl Sunday, Jack Groh, NFL Environmental Program Director, stood before a packed room at Arizona State University and explained the journey this iconic, all-American event has gone through since the lack-luster recycling days of the early 90’s. Citing the impending danger of climate change as the catalyst for the progressing effort of ‘more efficient use of resources and less waste’, Groh stated, “…there will always be things in the world that are broken… but those who have the means have a responsibility to fix them”.

The Super Bowl XLIX event may only last a few hours, but Groh and his team have been directly involved in the community of Phoenix, Arizona for months building local partnerships and strategically planning their sustainability initiatives.

Not Just Recycling, Repurposing!

  • Super Bowl is partnering with four non-profits including Keep Phoenix Beautiful and Salvation Army to divert usjack groh
    able materials from landfills to people.
  • A quarter of a million square feet of fabric have already been recovered from event prep for use at local gardens to shield from the desert summer sun.
  • Game day waste from the stadium will be sorted into recyclables and compostables by volunteers from Arizona State University and Pepsi Co the following Monday, with a goal of achieving an 80% diversion rate.
  • The NFL’s Super Kids- Super Sharing program encourages students to bring in unused items for donation to disadvantaged schools in the area. In Phoenix, over 400 students donated 33,000 items in one morning worth a value of approximately $130,000.

Supporting Renewable Energy

  • Carbon emissions generated from the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl events will be offset by renewable energy certificates (RECs) purchased through the local utility.
  • The Super Bowl helped fund the planting of 200,000 trees within the city of Phoenix to further offset emissions and provide ecosystem services to the community.

Triple Bottom Line Benefits: People, Planet, Profit

Not only are the NFL’s environmental programs great for the environment and community, but they make business sense. Groh stated, “NFL is all about the business of football in addition to the sport of football”. Building vibrant sustainable communities not only benefits citizens but also builds value for the Super Bowl brand and the NFL as a whole.

  • Recycling directly saves the NFL $5-10,000 on waste hauling bills per Super Bowl
  • Food Recovery directly saves $4,000 on waste hauling while generating $160,000 in offsets for local community shelters
  • Material repurposing saves $5-15,000 on waste hauling while over $400,000 worth of valuable materials are donated

Why haven’t you heard about any of this?

When asked why the NFL doesn’t market these initiatives, Groh’s response was simple- he’d rather spend limited funds actually doing good work than doing less so they can afford to brag about it. Future plans include a long-term strategy to implement environmental risk management complete with offsets for the entire month the Super Bowl facilities are in use- instead of just game day.

The NFL’s commitment to develop communities while lowering the Bowl’s contribution to climate change is a noble effort which deserves recognition. Share this inspiring news with your friends, family, and colleagues over a beer this Sunday or in the break room Monday afternoon. Regardless which team wins Sunday, Phoenix will have many reasons to cheer.

 

Guest blogger: Alex Slaymaker (Masters, Sustainable Solutions, Arizona State University)

Image: Rachael Warriner (Earlham College 2014)

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