The NFL’s game plan for a greener Super Bowl

This weekend will be one of America's most indulgent. Based on last year's estimates, we can expect to ravage 1.23 billion chicken wings that we will wash down with 325 million gallons of beer. Perhaps the most stunning projection is that Americans will eat 3.8 million pounds of popcorn.

Think about that: 3.8 million pounds of one of the lightest foods known to man.

Game day has truly become one of the country's top holidays. Masterminded by the NFL, America's most popular and shrewdest professional sports league, the big day ranks second only to Thanksgiving in food consumption — sorry, St. Nick, Christmas dinner isn't what it used to be.

Well, all this fanfare is for good reason. The NFL is red meat for the American dream. It's fast, flashy and its made-for-TV format makes the event ripe for consumption. Not just in homes across America but at the event itself. A typical host city can expect nearly half a billion dollars to flood into its local economy.

The pre-parties, game, after-parties, hotels and limos — not to mention the ocean of jet fuel it takes to get everyone there — must have a carbon footprint about the size of Rhode Island. Now, don't worry, I am not about to rain on your game day parade by complaining about this gluttonous fervor. I'll be right there with you. In my mind, it's America's cheat day, and I am not about to grudge it.

The NFL, however, seems to disagree. Not willing to concede environmental irresponsibility, this year is being touted as the greenest Super Bowl ever. The idea of an eco-friendly orgy of consumption seems a bit ironic, but if you look at the reports, the efforts being made are nothing to scoff at.

Going for the environmental touchdown

The event is being held at the league's greenest venue. The resume for MetLife Stadium includes recycled and sustainable building materials, the use of rehabilitated land, composting initiatives and an on-site solar generation system. Game day efforts also will include converting cooking oil to bio-diesel, eliminating polystyrene foam containers, and recycling and composting whenever possible. 

Of course, all this is lost on the average NFL fan. I mean, it's not exactly a green demographic, right? Wrong. Using recent data from our MRI database, we've seen that some of the most eco-conscious consumers are just as big football fans as the rest of the nation. The stereotype that Americans who really care about the planet will be eating granola and doing yoga during the game is simply not accurate. Their wings may be free range and their Seahawks/Broncos stickers may be affixed to hybrids, but they will be cheering as loudly as the next guy.

So, is the NFL trying to be a good corporate citizen? Or is it, as one of America's shrewdest brands, simply trying to leverage its market and build more brand loyalty? My guess would be both. As wildly successful as the NFL is, rough road may be ahead. The bad press about how it has managed its most valuable natural resource — player bodies/brains — is mounting, and a planet-friendly initiative can help build goodwill. The NFL, a brand truly built on excess and consumption, is implementing a pretty basic principle that all successful companies are becoming aware of: Sustainability is good for business.

This story first appeared on the Shelton Group's Shelton Insights blog. Field goal photo by David Lee via Shutterstock.