Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena and Marlins Park, and Orlando’s Amway Center are among the venues cited as figuring prominently in the green movement in pro sports in a report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, in collaboration with the Green Sports Alliance.
The report, Game Changer: How the Sports Industry is Saving the Environment, reveals the collective impact the industry is having on advancing environmental protection in North America, documenting innovative and cost-effective steps taken across all professional leagues.
The Miami Heat’s Triple-A became LEED-certified for existing buildings in 2009. The report quoted Jackie Ventura, the Heat’s operations coordinator, as saying the project resulted in $1.6 million in energy saving within the first year. It cost $73,384 to make the changes needed to obtain the certification.
“We also attracted about $1 million in new corporate sponsors, which include Home Depot and Waste Management, who aligned with our greening efforts as sponsors of our LEED initiative,” Ventura said in the report. “Being environmentally conscious improves our brand’s image so that we now talk with companies that never would have approached us before, such as Johnson & Johnson and Georgia Pacific.”
Marlins Park in May became Major League Baseball’s first LEED Gold-certified new ballpark. Among the ballparks green features, efficient plumbing innovations are designed to reduce water use by 52 percent, saving six million gallons of water each year compared to the national average for similar stadiums.
The Orlango Magic’s achieved that distinction among NBA arenas in 2010. The arena uses approximately 25 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than arenas of similar size and type, saving the team nearly $700,000 annually in energy costs.
“The motivation for sports to engage in greening is simple; the games we love today were born outdoors, and without clean air to breathe, clean water and a healthy climate, sports would be impossible,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, director of NRDC’s green sports project. “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.”
Some highlights from the report, whichcan be viewed at the NRDC site:
Of 126 professional sports teams in the five major North American leagues, 38 have shifted to renewable energy for at least some of their operations and 68 have energy efficiency programs. Examples detailed in the report include:
• Solar – STAPLES Center has a 1,727-panel solar array covering 25,000 square feet of the arena’s roof. The 345.6-kilowatt system supplies 5 to 20 percent of the building’s energy use (depending on load) and produces 525,000 kilowatt-hours annually, saving an average of $55,000 per year.
• Wind – In 2012, Cleveland’s Progressive Field became the first professional sports facility to install a wind turbine, which generates more than 40,000 kilowatt hours per year.
• Renewable Mix - Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, home of the National Football League’s (NFL) Philadelphia Eagles, will be the first stadium in the U.S. capable of generating 100 percent of its energy through a mix of solar panels, a generator that runs on natural gas and biodiesel, and, soon, 14 wind turbines.
• Efficiency - The Seattle Mariners replaced an old incandescent scoreboard with a new LED scoreboard, lowering annual electricity consumption by more than 90 percent and reducing energy costs by $50,000 a year.
Access to fresh, safe water is an increasingly dire concern across the globe. The report details myriad innovative water conservation techniques that have already been integrated into facilities. These include:
• Irrigation – San Francisco’s AT&T Park uses an irrigation clock that uses up-to-the-minute local data to establish zone watering times, saving 33-to-50 percent in irrigation water use. Changes in the composition of the infield surface have reduced field watering by 33 percent.
• Efficiency –Minnesota Twins’ Target Field installed low-flush, dual flush toilets and aerated faucets, which use 30 percent less potable water than conventional fixtures. This shift is saving approximately 4.2 million gallons of water annually.
• Water Restoration Credits – For the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and 2011 Winter Classic, the NHL purchased over 4.5 million gallons in Water Restoration Credits from Bonneville Environmental Foundation to balance the amount of water used during the events. In early 2012, NHL Green introduced Gallons for Goals, committing to restore 1,000 gallons of water to a critically dewatered river in the Northwest for every goal scored during the regular season.
The NHL announced in April 2012 that the league replenished more than 6.7 million gallons of water.
Virtually all professional sports teams have developed recycling and composting programs. Meanwhile, all major sports concessionaires have developed environmentally preferable offerings. The increased demand for sustainable products - like compostable serviceware and recyclable paper products – has resulted in competitive pricing and far more waste being recycled and composted rather than sent to landfills. Examples include:
• Recycling – The Cleveland Indians have cut their trash in half from 1,262 tons to 613 tons by implementing an enhanced recycling program. This reduced the number of trash pick-ups by 64 percent, saving $50,000 annually.
• Composting – The Cardinals’ “4 A Greener Game” program, launched in 2008, is credited with recycling more than 1,836 tons of solid waste, more than 575 tons of yard waste, and more than 110 tons of composted organic material.
• Supply chain impact - The Montreal Canadiens implemented a purchasing policy requiring the organization buy only environmentally-friendly cleaning products. 80 percent of purchases now include products that are locally made and/or composed of reused or recycled content.