Every sports fan loves to enter a huge arena or stadium to watch their favorite players compete. As they cheer and scream, most fans don’t even realize how much danger the environment could be in just from that very seat they are sitting in.
The huge million-dollar complexes are what attract fans. It makes them comfortable and it allows the team to present their best work in a fashionable and glitzy stadium. Every touchdown, basket and home-run is celebrated, but the place where these athletes perform comes at a price for the environment we live in.
In 2009, Tom Zeller with The New York Times shed some light on how sporting events have more of an impact than people think in terms of going green.
“Whenever a person engages in sport there is an impact on the environment,” states the United Nations Environment Program on the website of its sports and environment division.
Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the nonprofit environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council and head of the organization’s green sports initiatives, knows how meaningful the waste has on the planet, especially with the number of fans that enter these events.
Hershkowitz told the New York Times, “You get 30,000 to 50,000 people showing up each time, most of them driving, and there’s a lot of waste — paper waste, plastic waste, energy, chemical waste, a lot of water use. It’s meaningful.”
In these events, there are more than just the buildings that are the concerns, but the travel to the game that also pollutes the air as most fans drive. The lack of urgency to recycle or use environmentally friendly napkins and cups is a problem that some feel they are not responsible for in the sports world. But, it all plays a role in the building or tearing of the atmosphere.
Tennis legend and former Grand Slam Champion Billie Jean King, who is an ambassador for the United States Tennis Association’s environmental efforts, talked more about the public transportation impact in a public service announcement.
“Public transportation is a great way to reduce global warming, take a simple step to help the planet. Take the subway, train or bus to get to your next match.”
Bud Selig, the 2009 commissioner of Major League Baseball in the United States told the New York Times these sporting teams are trying their best to promote healthier alternatives for the environment when it pertains to their sport.
“Every club, regardless of its field surface, seeks to create a healthy and pleasant environment for its players and fans, This requires attention to a wide array of environmental issues, including clean air, clean water, fertilizers, pesticides, transportation, procurement policies and the collection and disposal of waste materials generated by baseball activities.”
The truth is that while many fans come into these sporting events, they are leaving some sort of footprint on the atmosphere. This can be from the wasted food in these events to the dozens of lights that illuminate these stadiums.
Gina Warren, a University of Houston associate professor, spoke on this matter with Forbes about how these footprints are calculated.
“The study found that the average attendee generates a footprint seven times greater than someone going about normal, everyday activity,” Warren said. “Increased travel by event visitors accounted for the biggest part of this significant increase. The consumption of food and drink, and the energy and resources required to produce that food and drink, makes up the next largest part of the footprint.”
A lot of teams are looking to make a conscious effort to reduce these factors, one of the most prominent teams in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, has even tried reducing their light bill. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania wrote on this topic about the social impact certain venues had.
“Big venues can have outsized environmental impacts,” Wharton wrote. “During game time, Cowboys Stadium in Dallas is illuminated with 30 million LED light bulbs. But the impact would be far greater if the team wasn’t resolutely pushing environmental initiatives, including pledges to reduce solid waste by 20%, energy by 20% and water consumption by a million gallons annually.”
The great thing about this research and the attention to this impact is that there are solutions to the problem. And these sporting teams are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they are making this experience healthy for their fans and the people around them.
Michael Casey for CBS News wrote a “9 ways professional sports are going green” article in 2015, which details a lot of these efforts we see implemented today with even further development, giving credit to the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Indians and many more professional teams around the United States.
The Philadelphia Eagles reduced their recycling rate by 209% since 2010 and also offset their travel by financing tree plantings in various parts of Pennsylvania and purchasing seedlings for a wildlife refuge in Louisiana.
Some teams such as the Boston Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners have helped go green as well. The Boston Red Sox even made their entire stadium green. Casey gives more insight into this with CBS.
In 2008 the Fenway Greening program was started and it included the installation of enough solar panels to provide 37% of their energy. The stadium also has “solar-powered compactors that can collect six times as much refuse as the old trash barrels.”
The Seattle Mariners are assisting in helping the environment as well as making the Safeco Field not only one of the most appealing venues, but the greenest.
“Since 2006 the team has reduced the use of natural gas by 40 percent, electricity by 25 percent and water use by 25 percent. (The savings amount to more than $1.75 million in electricity, natural gas, water and sewer charges.) They installed a new scoreboard in 2010 that uses 90 percent less power than the old one.”
And the list can go on and on with all the different teams and sports that are striving to make a conscious effort in regards to helping our planet. As more technology and research are presented throughout sports, there will be even more positive results in the restoration and preservation of our planet.