When you think of the Super Bowl, the color of green might come to mind — as in money and lush grass.
For Super Bowl XLII, to be played on Feb. 3, 2008, in Glendale, green also means environmentally friendly. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is joining the National Football League and the Arizona Host Committee to stage what ADEQ is calling the greenest Super Bowl ever.
ADEQ Director Steve Owens says the partnership is the first of its kind between the NFL, a host committee and a state environmental protection agency.
“We’re very excited about the unique partnership we have created,” Owens says. “ADEQ is working hand in hand with the Arizona Host Committee and the NFL to make this an environmentally friendly and carbon-neutral Super Bowl. We want to make Super Bowl XLII the greenest Super Bowl ever. It will be good for Arizona’s economy and good for our environment.”
Owens says he chatted briefly with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the commissioner’s luncheon in Phoenix on Oct.16. “I told him about our work here, which he already knows about, and he’s very enthusiastic about it,” Owens says. “He re-emphasized to me how important they think all this is, the tree planting and the other programs.”
ADEQ’s role in the Super Bowl stems from the relationship the state agency established with the Arizona Cardinals and the operators of University of Phoenix Stadium.
“We started a recycling program at the stadium last year,” Owens says. “It was an opportunity to get things right from the beginning. Because of that relationship, when the NFL Host Committee started talking about what they wanted to do, we heard about the NFL environmental program and they heard about us. There was a mutual interest in working with each other.”
Owens says this is the first time that the NFL has worked with a state environmental agency. “It’s a groundbreaking relationship,” he says. “In the past, they would come in and do their own thing. They had a set menu of things. Because we had established a relationship early on, there were a lot of face-to-face meetings, a lot of brainstorming. We have had an unprecedented level of cooperation.”
In the months ahead, ADEQ, a sponsor of the NFL Host Committee, will continue to serve as a sounding board for the committee on environmental issues, Owens says.
The ADEQ director mentions the NFL’s tree-planting program as part of its environmental push. “We talked extensively with them about where to do the trees,” Owens says. “We made them aware of the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire area, and they thought that was a terrific suggestion. It’s very important from a reality and symbolic aspect. They’ll also do some urban tree planting, and we will be helping them implement that.”
Clearly the NFL is no stranger to looking out for the environment. Jack Groh, director of the NFL’s environmental program, outlines a five-point effort designed to minimize the potential pollution impact of the Super Bowl.
Launched 15 years ago, the initial focus was on recycling solid waste. “Except for the Olympics, no other events were doing this,” says Groh, an NFL consultant. “We had to invent the wheel.”
After a couple of years of trial-and-error, the recycling effort was under control, Groh says. It became clear that a large percentage of the waste was food.
“We addressed it from the environmental end with the prepared food recovery program,” he says. “Food that is cooked but never gets to the serving table, never leaves the kitchen, can be collected and distributed to soup kitchens and other agencies.”
Thousands of pounds of food saved
The Super Bowl typically has 25,000 pounds to 65,000 pounds of food that is available for such purposes, Groh says. Last season’s Super Bowl in Miami produced about 75,000 pounds of food for distribution to charitable venues. In Arizona, the NFL will be working with Waste Not, a perishable food delivery operation for the needy.
“The NFL’s material donation project involves the recovery of everything that can be reused, including building materials, office supplies and equipment, decorative flags, banners and plants — everything that goes into the process of building a Super Bowl,” Groh says.
Those reusable items will be stored in a warehouse and made available for nonprofits statewide through the United Way, Groh says.
The sports equipment donation project, now called Super Kids, Super Sharing, recruits schools in the host community, encouraging youngsters to turn in their used sports equipment and books, generally about 10 days before the Super Bowl. The equipment will be stored in a central location for distribution to after-school programs selected by the Super Bowl Host Committee. This year’s drive is co-sponsored by the Arizona Cardinals.
The fifth environmental aspect, the carbon mitigation initiative, seeks to diminish and offset greenhouse gases produced at the Super Bowl site. Working with scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee five years ago, it was determined that 70 percent of the carbon dioxide was generated by ground transportation, which includes an NFL fleet of 3,000 vehicles — buses, limousines, vans and staff cars. The remaining 30 percent of what Groh calls the “greenhouse gas footprint” comes from energy usage at the stadium and the NFL Experience, a 1-million-square-foot interactive theme park.
That amounts to 1 million pounds of greenhouse gas/carbon dioxide at every Super Bowl.
ADEQ and the NFL will be working to make Super Bowl XLII carbon-neutral. The NFL will use low-emissions vehicles, as well as compact fluorescent lighting, to the greatest extent possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with Super Bowl activities.
“Our original strategy was to get involved in reforestation projects,” he says. “What can we do to get rid of the gas? The answer was a tree-planting program to absorb an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas. To do that we would need three and a half acres of new forest each year. Scientifically they can be planted anywhere on the planet, but we plant them in the host community.”
After Super Bowl XLII, and working with the National Forest Service, trees will be planted on 42 acres of White Mountain Apache tribal land and on 42 acres in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Groh says.
He points out the symbolism of 42 trees per acre in connection with Super Bowl XLII. To get 42 trees to survive on each of 42 acres, it is estimated that 115 trees will have to be planted at each site, he says.
Rodeo-Chediski fire area chosen for new trees
At ADEQ’s suggestion, the area was chosen as a response to the Rodeo-Chediski fire, which burned more than 460,000 acres of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and the Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests. Lost vegetation included chaparral, ponderosa pine, juniper and brush.
“We have funding available through the Host Committee and we have partners in the tree-planting project,” Groh says. “We’ll plant native species in Arizona where there is a need to preserve the n
ative habitat. Another benefit is that work will be done by tribal forestry crews. That’s a big advantage because unemployment is so high in that area.”
Bob Sullivan, president of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, says the committee is proud to partner with the NFL and ADEQ for the tree-planting project.
“This joint effort,” Sullivan says, “will help repair some of the damage caused by the Rodeo-Chediski fire, and make Super Bowl XLII not just a carbon neutral event, but also a healing and restorative effort for one of the most pristine areas in our beautiful state. We hope that the trees planted in honor of Super Bowl XLII prove to be a legacy of this great event for generations.”
Regarding the 120 sycamore trees that died recently on the Great Lawn around University of Phoenix Stadium, Groh says he doesn’t know if it’s an appropriate place for tree planting, but indicated he would work with the Cardinals on a possible solution.
Owens says of the dead-tree dilemma: “It’s a real shame. We haven’t been involved in that. They (the stadium operators) have to definitely address that before the game, and we’re assuming they will.”
Another of the NFL’s carbon mitigation strategies is the use of renewable energy, from wind and other sources provided by the Salt River Project, also a Host Committee sponsor, Groh says. That will prevent the generation of about 300,000 pounds of greenhouse gas, he says.
Super Bowl contractors are Arizona businesses
Yet another program not intended to aid the environment is doing just that, Groh says. All contractors used in connection with the Super Bowl come from a list provided by the Host Committee. They are considered emerging businesses that are either minority- or women-owned located, in this case, throughout Arizona.
So instead of transporting goods and services from far-away locations, they will be brought to the Phoenix area from Arizona businesses. “We will be cutting down on a major source of greenhouse gas by reducing transportation miles,” Groh says.
Why does the NFL take all the environmental steps it does, though not required by any government regulation?
“We began with a mission statement, and that is to incorporate environmental principles into the management of special events consistent with sound business practices,” Groh says. “We were not hired to create a green image. Incorporating environmental principles is cost-effective — it saves more money than it costs. It’s a good and a smart thing to do to run your business.”
As part of the joint effort, the NFL will use recyclable materials at the game, as well as in the construction of event structures and venues. The NFL also will recycle leftover material from Super Bowl events like lumber, bricks and decorative fabric and will donate the materials to Valley charities after Super Bowl XLII.
ADEQ will place recycling waste receptacles at various Host Committee activities, including the 100 Day Countdown to Kickoff event in Glendale’s Westgate City Center on Oct. 27.
The state agency also will have booths with information about recycling and other environmental issues at the events and will provide environmentally focused materials for the estimated 10,000 volunteer workers and at the Super Bowl XLII Media Center in downtown Phoenix.
“The NFL and the Arizona Host Committee share Governor Napolitano’s commitment to addressing the problem of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” ADEQ Director Owens said. “This is a terrific project.”
Super Bowl XLII to be the greenest ever?
When you think of the Super Bowl, the color of green might come to mind — as in money and lush grass.