Pro Sports Go Green. Do Fans Care?

Pro sports teams around the country are hyping their renewable energy use and promising to become more efficient. Will that help make their fans greener?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field is the greenest stadium in pro sports.

The NFL season finally kicked off last night when the Dallas Cowboys came to New York—or actually the New York-adjacent swamplands of New Jersey—to take on the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants. (As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I would have liked some sort of double-forfeit scenario, but it wasn’t meant to be.) The sky-high TV ratings of the NFL Kickoff game is a reminder that—Presidential campaigns and political conventions aside—what Americans really care about is professional sports. Doubt that? Nearly 167 million Americans watched this year’s Super Bowl, well above the 130 million or so people who voted in the 2008 Presidential elections.

The sheer influence of pro sports prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to begin working in 2003 to help green the multi-billion dollar industry. Yesterday NRDC released a report highlighting some of the best environmental initiatives being carried out by NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and WNBA teams—more than a quarter of which have shifted to renewable energy for at least some of their operations, while more than half have energy efficiency programs. How much of an impact a little solar and a little extra insulation have against the incalculably huge carbon footprints and energy bills of the nation’s pro sports teams isn’t clear. But NRDC hopes that pro sports—perhaps the one area where Americans of all political stripes come together—can demonstrate that going green isn’t extreme, as NRDC green sports project director Allen Hershkowitz put it in a statement:

A cultural shift in environmental awareness is needed in order for us to address the serious ecological problems we face, and the sports industry, through its own innovative actions, has chosen to lead the way. Pro sports are showing that smart energy, water and recycling practices make sense.  They save money and prevent waste.  That’s as mainstream and non-partisan as it comes.

(MORE: Clean Tech Support Is About to Fall Off a Cliff. Here’s One Way to Save It)

Or at least that’s what NRDC and environmentalists are hoping. Clean energy and efficiency are pretty mainstream and non-partisan notions, especially when they’re removed from the messiness of politics and stripped for the most part of any mention of more sensitive topics like climate change. If solar panels and biodiesel are good enough for the Eagles—whose Lincoln Financial Field is set to become the first stadium in the U.S. capable of generating 100% of its energy on site—it should be good enough for all Americans. Maybe even Cowboys fans.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The NHL has introduced Gallons for Goals, committing to restore 1,000 gallons of water to a critically dewatered river in the Northwest for every goal scored in the regular season. (Of course, this means that every time your favorite goalie stops a shot, he’s actually hurting the environment. Although that may explain what Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was doing during last spring’s playoffs.
  • This year the Cleveland Indian’s Progressive Field became the first stadium to install a wind turbine, which generates more than 40,000 kilowatt hours per year. (No word on whether the Chicago White Sox will try to tap the wind energy generated by major league strikeout leader Adam Dunn’s swings and misses.)
  • The Seattle Mariners replaced an incandescent scoreboard with an LED one, reducing electricity consumption by more than 90%. (It’s not part of their green program, but the Mariners are also saving on electricity consumption for their scoreboard by simply not scoring. That’s offensive conservation.)
  • In one year, energy efficiency at the Miami Heat’s American Airlines Arena resulted in 53% less energy use than the average facility of the same size. This saved the team $1.6 million—enough to buy you about 7 games of Lebron James.

MORE: The Philadelphia Eagles Go Green

Bill Slycat
Bill Slycat

Conservation and switching to LED's - and finding ways to reduce water consumption are all great ideas and have a positive effect on our environment. BUT INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ARE A SHAM AND DO NOT PROVIDE CLEAN ENERGY! Not one coal or gas plant the world over has been decommissioned because of IWTs...and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels is their whole purpose. To quote an expert: "Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don't go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal-or gas-fired generators (called "cycling"). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don't, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase." This is happening worldwide, and in places like Colorado and Texas where CO2 and power plant pollution have increased since installing wind farms:

The wind industry is built on crony capitalism, it is the only way it can exist. Taxpayer money builds them and power companies are mandated to buy wind generated power at much higher rates than conventionally produced power. There is no true benefit, except to wind power companies, politicians and lobbyists.  Get ready to pay a lot more on your electric bills if offshore wind proliferates.

Sara Rose
Sara Rose

Coming soon to a stadium near you:

1. Humanely-slaughtered pigskins.

2. No bats from old-growth trees.

3. Carrot sticks instead of hot dogs.

4. Organic snuff.

5. Energy generated by The Wave powers scoreboard.


I try to not support any company claiming to be "green" as much as possible.  I, for one, am not willing to deal with increased costs of living for the purposes of "feel good" greenyism.

It seems though that every company and their uncle is on the "green" bandwagon these days.  How refreshing it would be for a company to stand up and say "No, we will not be 'green', we will continue to ensure the lowest possible costs for our customers because we believe that the customers are number one, not greenyism".

One can dream.