Greening the Super Bowl

(Photo Flickr Creative Commons/Sienar)

It’s 2 days before the super bowl and, when most people are thinking about key match ups and hot wing sauce, Jack Groh, Director of the NFL Environmental Program is thinking about how to make football’s biggest day green.

Wait a second. The NFL Environmental Program? Say what? Jack Groh has been with the NFL Environmental program since its inception 17 years ago in 1993 when they introduced a solid waste management program to increase recycling and ease material waste.

Back then, according to Groh, they had to invent the entire process because no one was doing what they wanted to do on such a scale at the time. Eventually, their programs and projects would develop into what it is today: Environmental initiatives riding on the heels of one of the biggest days in sports.

“The Super Bowl is not just a football game,” said Groh, on Friday in a phone interview. “It’s the center of a web of activities for kids, the military, fundraising, hunger, the environment and more. [Sunday] is a tremendous interlocking, overlapping web that forms what we call the Super Bowl. The game is just a part of it.”

While an entertainment spectacle in itself, the Super Bowl allows the NFL to get involved with the host city unlike any other game. “We start sometimes 2 or 3 years in advance talking to non-profits and organizations, listening carefully to what they want to do in their community,” said Groh. “This is the permanent legacy we leave behind. These partnerships [and initiatives] survive long after we leave.”

On Super Sunday 2010, the NFL Environmental Program will focus on several key issues.
The NFL has partnered up with NextEra Energy to provide renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by wind and solar energy reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. NextEra’s green energy will be used not only for the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, but for an entire month from the middle of January to the middle of February as preparations and activities take place within the Sun Life Stadium.
According to Groh, a typical Super Bowl day would cost an estimated $5,000 in energy costs, but, utilizing clean energy, the entire month should cost around $20,000.

The NFL Environmental Program has also partnered with the US Forest Service to plant hundreds of trees as an urban forestry project. Since the urban forestry projects began six years ago, some 23,000 trees have been planted in Super Bowl cities.

Recycling programs and waste management have become normal practices for the NFL, but recently, they created resource management and reallocation programs to put toys, clothes, books and even food into the hands of those in need rather than the landfill.

The Super Kids Super Sharing program is where local kids can bring “used but usable” textbooks or sports equipment and donate them to other kids in the neighborhood.

“It’s one kid saying, ‘I have two sets of rollerblades. I bet there’s a kid that doesn’t have any. I’m going to give them one,’” said Groh who mentioned in 2007 5,000 items were donated and, this year, the number has grown to 25,000.

On the trend of reallocation, unused food from the Super Bowl will be given to local food banks for the hungry and all of the 1,000 square feet of vinyl décor from the Sun Life Stadium (banners, streamers, etc…) will be collected and shipped to Tucson, Arizona where they will be remanufactured into tote bags, messenger bags and backpacks.

“I am so pleased where we are and how far we’ve come, but I think we need to continue to create more projects” said Groh. “After all, this is the Super Bowl. Everybody that works here is constantly pushing the envelope.”

“If you can do something good, do it. Don’t worry about whether it’s our mission or not, if we see opportunity to do something good while we’re here, we want to do it. Sometimes our most significant projects start as kooky ideas,” Groh said with a laugh.

Check out "Ticket Master" under the "Play" heading of our September-October 2009 issue for more on greening the game of sports.

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