It’s Superbowl Sunday! Perhaps the single biggest annual sporting event in the United States (I don’t include Canada because I suspect here the Stanley Cup is slightly more popular; hockey is followed regularly throughout the year, whereas the NFL, being strictly American, is only really followed in any detail in the playoffs, and even then, only really paid attention to in the final game. And probably a lot of people watch it for the commercials. That said, the Superbowl is a big event here, too). I will be curled up in front of the tv this afternoon with a bowl of snack food to enjoy the game. No party for me; I’m more comfortable by myself or just with a friend.
However, there are lots of people who’ll be going to parties, to pubs, or to other events. An estimated 93 million people tuned into last year’s Superbowl broadcast, the most-watched tv event of the year (estimates are reaching up to 135 million for this year’s). A further 70,000+ people will travel to the stadium to attend the game in Glendale, Arizona. Not to mention all the NFL personnel (players, coaches, referees, and all the behind-the-scenes folks who help make it happen).
Think about this for a moment. When you consider the fuel necessary to transport teams and fans, the electricity necessary to power the facility, as well as the tv sets of people at home, the amount of waste produced from refreshments both at the game and away, the event starts to have a rather large environmental impact. A whopping 3,000 vehicles will be involved in transporting just the NFL folks and equipment alone.
Last year the NFL announced that Superbowl XLI (41) would be “carbon neutral”. The concept of carbon neutral stems from the idea that one can balance the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels (eg. gas in cars, coal or other sources in power plants) by doing something that reduces emissions, such as by planting trees or purchasing power from renewable energy sources. This has been popularized with the idea of “carbon offsetting” – for instance, you still want to take that plane trip to the Carribean for your vacation, so you make up for the carbon emissions that will create through offsetting – usually paying money to a company that will take the necessary steps (such as planting the trees) for you.
Although the NFL did run a very green Superbowl last year, they received some flak for labelling the event “carbon neutral” when in fact the offsetting only accommodated for the actual venue, and not the carbon cost of fan travel, etc. Because of the difficulty in not only factoring in and offsetting this increased cost, but also just simply calculating it, the NFL this year has shied away from applying the term “carbon neutral” to the event.
That said, they have taken many steps to make it green and offset 100% of the direct carbon impact. For example, some 42 acres of wildfire-burned forest will be replanted in nearby locations in Arizona. This will more than offset the carbon cost of the 3,000 vehicle fleet as the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they live and grow. The venue will draw its energy for that week from Mexican wind turbines and Californian geothermal energy sources, both green, renewable sources of electricity. The stadium has recycling containers available for fans to recycle their cans and papers, rather than throw them into garbage bins that would be dumped in a landfill (and with 70,000+ fans, that makes a big difference). I have to admit that, with recycling so widespread here in my home area, it baffles me that there are places where it’s still a novelty. But there you go.
If you’re hosting a superbowl event and want to try to offset some of the costs associated with it (such as additional electricity usage or carbon fuel costs of transportation), here’s some ideas:
- Recycle! If you don’t already have a recycling program in place in your home, start one. If you’re part of an apartment complex that doesn’t have it, petition them to get it. Not only do you keep waste out of landfills by doing this, it also means trees don’t need to be cut down for new paper, or ore mined for pop cans, etc. Recycling a single aluminum can saves enough energy to run a tv for 3 hours.
- Cut down on your car usage. Do you really need to drive, or is it close enough to walk or bike to? This is, admittedly, easier to do when the weather is nice or you won’t be carrying much. If you don’t want to or can’t walk, think about taking public transportation.
- Plant a tree in your backyard, or buy one for your balcony. Or, join in a local tree-planting program. One tree will offset about 64 litres (about 17 gallons) of fuel burned per month.
- Investigate green energy options from your hydro provider. Many providers have special programs where you can purchase your electricity “from” the portion of electricity that they get from renewable energy sources (in reality there’s no way to make sure the actual electrons flowing into your home were from the wind turbines or whatever, but the energy source will create enough energy for a set number of people, which then gets added to the total amount available in the grid. You’re essentially saying “make me one of the 100 people that the wind turbines provide for.”). If they have 150 people asking for green energy, but only enough current energy sources for 100, they’ll invest more in renewable energy sources.
And don’t forget to enjoy the game!
All photos borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.