The Super Bowl has long endured as one of the greatest spectacles in U.S. professional sports, unifying millions of people across the nation each and every year.
This year, Super Bowl 50 (yes, the NFL has broken its roman numeral tradition), marks a milestone for the greening of sports, as host city San Francisco is leveraging the sports spectacle to tremendously impact society. The objective that was set forth three and a half years ago when SF began bidding to become the host city? To architect Super Bowl 50 into the greenest and most philanthropic Super Bowl the world has ever seen.
“The idea here is not that we are tree huggers. What I’ve seen over the years is that the world is very polarized around sustainability issues, but we want to demonstrate that you can do both well and good. We are not just focused on delivering social and environmental returns, but economic returns as well.”
– Neil Duffy, Sustainability Director, Super Bowl Host Committee.
Although the Panthers and Broncos will compete tomorrow at Levi Stadium (the first-ever LEED gold-certified professional football stadium) in Santa Clara, California, the Super Bowl Host Committee is very persistent that Super Bowl 50 be recognized as the “Bay Area Super Bowl”.
And, for the past nine days, the Bay Area has been hosting sports fans, sustainability enthusiasts, celebrities, and corporate big shots – all conjugating at the junction of sports, technology – and, you guessed it: sustainability. San Francisco reports that an approximate one million people have visited its grounds over the past nine days.
As Lew Blaustein, writer of GreenSportsBlog, articulates from the ground:
“Super Bowl City (SBC)’s greenness is present, albeit subtly, throughout the mix of concert stages, fun football-themed activities for kids of all ages, and sponsor exhibit structures. The under-the-radar-ness is by design. Fans come to SBC for football, football, and, more football. If the sustainability message is too heavy-handed, it’ll come across as a “eat your broccoli!” scold and will turn people off…organizers want to show fans that being green is the norm for San Francisco, and that it’s easy being green.”
But, it should be noted that Super Bowl 50 is going green in a big way.
Previous iterations of “greening” Super Bowls and Olympics have involved peripheral efforts of quantifying and limiting carbon emissions. Super Bowl 50 is taking green to a whole new level.
“We’re not just hosting the Super Bowl. We’re redefining it.”
As proclaimed on the Super Bowl 50 website, “It was only natural. Given the Bay Area’s leadership in innovation, sustainability, and technology, the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee set out to do something that’s never been done before: to make the most healthy, sustainable, shared, and socially responsible Super Bowl ever.
Walking the talk, the Bay Area is inspiring the greening of sports through four major pillars, or sustainability objectives:
- Deliver a low carbon emissions event (power/transportation).
- Use resources and materials responsibly (food/water/waste).
- Leave a positive legacy for the region.
- Inspire fans to join a cohesive effort in embracing sustainability.
Sustainability objective #4 – inspiring fans to embrace sustainability – is of utmost importance. In contrast to the numerous organizations that pursue sustainability initiatives and then subsequently tell their stakeholders about said initiatives, the Super Bowl Host Committee has recognized the massive power in unifying stakeholders and owners alike in a cohesive effort to make the world a better place.
INTRODUCING PLAY YOUR PART: TAKE ACTION, CHOOSE YOUR CAUSE, WIN PRIZES.
I pledge to _____________ to make Super Bowl 50 a “net positive event” by making more sustainable choice in my life now and in the future, to leave Bay Area communities better than before.
Pledging options (indicated by a drop down list on the SB 50 website) include: riding a bike, offsetting your carbon footprint, donating to the 50 Fund, hosting a Sustainable Super Bowl Party, bringing your own reusable water bottle to the game, using e-tickets for events and travel, taking public transport…the list endures.
The incentive? To be part of something bigger than yourself. Oh, and to win big prizes like free tickets to the game.
Fans who participate are entered into a sweepstakes, with the Grand Prize being two free tickets to the game. Participants also receive 50 “Gold Coins” to donate to one of four Bay Area environmentally-focused charities: Education Outside, Environmental Volunteers, Hunters Point Family, and the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.
These virtual Gold Coins are transformed into actual dollars – $200,000, to be exact. The Host Committee’s philanthropic arm, the 50 fund, has allocated $1 million to be divided among these four charities: $200,000 to each, and to the charity that receives the most coins from fans, an extra $200,000.
“In other words, we are asking everyone involved with Super Bowl 50 to leave this place better than they found it and pay it forward to the next generation of fans.”
A cohesive effort:
Architecting Super Bowl 50 into the greenest Super Bowl the world has ever seen is no simple task – and it is one that has involved numerous partnerships and initiatives.
What else is going on? Glad you asked.
- LEED gold-certified buildings: Levi Stadium (the first ever professional football stadium to be LEED gold-certified!) and Moscone Center, home of the NFL experience and hosting millions of fans this past week, carbon offsets, and NFL urban forestry grants.
- Increased public transportation and lower fares to encourage public transportation on game day. The Host Committee has created a special “SB 50” pass to ensure that public transportation is the most efficient means for fans to enter and exit the stadium. The Host Committee is also incentivizing all SP 50 volunteers to take public transportation to and from their shifts.
- Partnering with the San Francisco Bike Coalition, the Host Committee has established bike valet stations for game day and the entire 9-day celebration prior.
- Fan Express Bus on game day for fans all around the Bay Area.
- Fully electric buses have been incorporated into the NFL’s media shuttle.
- Official Clean Energy Partner of SB 50 = PG&E, enabling Super Bowl City to run almost entirely on renewable power.
- Generators throughout Super Bowl City are running on Neste NEXBTL renewable diesel. To reduce emissions and noise, Super Bowl City is relying on generators meeting EPA’s Tier 4 standards, and Hydrogen Fuel Cell generators are being used to supplement renewable diesel generators and celebrate/showcase the advent of fuel cell technology.
- Food recovery program: leftovers have already been scheduled to be delivered to various food banks in the Bay Area.
- #BringYourOwn campaign: all fans are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles to the game and free water stations have been established all over the property. The 10,000 game day volunteers will all be using reusable BPA-free stainless steel water bottles, courtesy of sustainability partner, Klean Kanteen.
- There are NO single-use bottles at Super Bowl City.
“With Super Bowl 50, the most important record will be set off the field, and its impact will be felt long after the last whistle is blown. We believe this milestone Super Bowl is a golden opportunity to lift up Bay Area communities, unite our region through a spirit of generosity, and leave a legacy that lasts for generations to come. Simply put, we created 50 Fund to make Super Bowl 50 the most philanthropic and giving Super Bowl ever.”
“Young people, millennials, and ‘Generation Z’ truly want to take care of the planet and will direct their purchases and careers towards companies that do the same. Purpose is a differentiator.” – Chip Bergh, CEO, Levi Strauss.
Inspiring Fans to Embrace Sustainability:
At the intersection of sports and sustainability lies an incredible opportunity to inspire others to act. Twenty years ago, sustainability would never have made it to the “theme” of such a sports spectacle, in such a grandiose fashion.
Progress has been made.
But it’s not enough.
Professional sports have long proven to have a tremendous influence on society: rallying patriotism, spurring social movements, and mitigating cultural differences.
The implications are tremendous.
“Professional sports may have a broader and more profound influence than any other single entity on American mindsets, slicing through socioeconomic and political divides.” – Forbes, 2010.
Kudos to the Super Bowl Host Committee for a job well done.