Professional Sports Will Never Be Green (But We Can Try)

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Published on February 5th, 2009  |  Discuss This Article  

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Last Sunday night, after Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a knee, putting the cap on one of the more exciting Super Bowls in recent memory, an obligatory commercial flashed across my screen.

t told me that, for a small fee, I too could wear the official Super Bowl Championship hat and t-shirt — just like those XXXL bad boys worn by the players during the post-game celebration. And, bonus: This year’s t-shirt is the first “eco-friendly” commemorative t-shirt ever offered by the NFL.

That’s right, even the Super Bowl — determiner of the “world champion” of a sport only Americans play, home of the $2.6 million 30-second commercial, second only to the Hummer as a symbol of American excess and frivolityhas gone green.

OK, but maybe not.

Let me just state for the record: The NFL,  and all major international sporting leagues for that matter, (yes, even my beloved soccer) will never, ever, ever be environmentally-friendly pursuits.

Stadiums must be lighted, cars must be parked, beer must be quaffed in plastic bottles and cups, fields must be fertilized and watered or made out of petroleum-based synthetic grass (and still watered).

It’s a fact of life: For as long as there will be professional athletics of any kind, there will be environmental sins.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t do things a little better and find some efficiencies when we can. Take Raymond James Stadium, home of this year’s Super Bowl. According to the New York Times, the facility has worked to increase its energy efficiency through L.E.D. lighting and other efforts, cutting its energy costs by $580,000.

The stadium’s electric bill has risen by 23 percent over the last five years, compared with an industry average of 42 percent. Raymond James also has a fairly aggressive recycling program, uses biodegradable plates and forks and recycles its cooking grease.

Will Raymond James save us from the specter of climate change? Certainly not. Will the efficiencies they’ve created save them some money and ease the environmental burden of hosting 75,000 people for a nighttime football game? Yes.

And unless we’re willing to give up our beloved gladiatorial contests, that’s probably the best we can hope for.

(Image: Stadium lights: Credit: Brian Marhkham through a Creative Commons License.)

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