The green guru of Super Bowl 50 on planning a net-positive game

Super Bowl 50 sustainability
Super Bowl 50 Host Comittee
A "Fan Energy Zone" planned for Super Bowl 50, which will be played in the Bay Area suburb of Santa Clara, California.

While we don’t know if Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, will be the greatest game ever, we do know that the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee has promised that game and the preceding week of associated events will be the most sustainable.

With the Carolina Panthers-Denver Broncos showdown less than two weeks away, Neill Duffy, the host committee’s sustainability director, reports the progress made on the four pillars of sustainability created for the event:

  1. Reducing impact on climate change by delivering a low-emissions event
  2. Responsibly using materials and resources
  3. Inspiring fans to embrace sustainability personally
  4. Leaving a lasting legacy

GreenSportsBlog Founder Lew Blaustein recently spoke with Duffy about preparations for the greenest Super Bowl ever.

Lew Blaustein: Congratulations on reaching your targets with almost three weeks to spare. While being able to deliver a low-emissions event and use resources efficiently are big accomplishments, how is the host committee going to deliver on "inspiring fans to embrace sustainability personally" and leave a real lasting legacy?

Neill Duffy: Thank you for the congratulations, Lew, but while we’ve delivered what we’ve promised with the four pillars, there’s still work to be done between now and game day to maximize fan awareness, involvement and, yes, to inspire fans to personally contribute towards our goal of delivering a Net Positive event.

Blaustein: What does Net Positive mean for the Super Bowl?

Neill Duffy, Super Bowl 50 Host Committee sustainability director.

Duffy: For us, being Net Positive is about actively looking for ways to use Super Bowl 50 as a platform to do good — socially, environmentally and economically — for the benefit of the entire Bay Area. Which will go a long way to leaving that positive legacy.

Blaustein: How is the host committee going about being getting fans involved with being Net Positive?

Duffy: We are doing it through a new initiative called "Play Your Part." We’re very excited about it — it’s a novel program that’s come together in the last two months which provides fans with simple ways to become greener personally and to contribute to the overall environmental health of the Bay Area.

Blaustein: How will that work, exactly?

Duffy: Starting on Jan. 25, fans will be invited to make a pledge to take at least one new Net Positive action.

Blaustein: Like recycling?

Duffy: Exactly. Or by riding your bike to Super Bowl City Presented by Verizon (the Fan Fest at the Moscone Center in San Francisco that will run for nine days, from Jan. 30 until Game Day on Feb. 7, which is expected to draw 1 million people).

So the fans take action by make a pledge at the "Play Your Part" website, or by actually doing something Net Positive in person at Super Bowl City. By taking action, the fan gets 50 "GoodCoins" to distribute to one of four environmentally focused charities in the Bay Area, as chosen by the "50 Fund" the charitable arm of the host committee. 

Blaustein: So the fan chooses which charity gets the "GoodCoins," which, I take it, is converted into real money. By whom?

Duffy: That’s right. Fans direct GoodCoins to the non-profit of their choice and the 50 Fund effectively converts those GoodCoins into cash

GSB: How much money are we talking about?

Duffy: The 50 Fund will donate a total of $1 million to the four charities. Each will get $200,000, and the remaining $200,000 will be earmarked by the ways the fans direct their GoodCoins.

And by pledging to take a Net Positive action, fans will be automatically entered into a sweepstakes (open to California residents). The Grand Prize is two tickets to Super Bowl 50.

Blaustein: What else is going on during Super Bowl Week?

Duffy: On Feb. 4, in/PACT is sponsoring a conference, "Purpose and the Power of Sport," that will examine the role of purpose in sports for leagues, teams, brands and fans.

It’s invitation-only, but we will be recording it. We have some great speakers who will explore the connection between purpose and sport including Jim Stengel, who was recently voted one of the top 10 marketing thought leaders in the world, and Chip Bergh, who is the CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. and another thought leader on the topic of purpose.

Super Bowl 50 Host Comittee

Blaustein:  Now, I know there’s still almost two weeks until the Big Game, but it does look like, from a sustainability point of view, Super Bowl 50 has the earmarks being a big success. Are there any disappointments?

Duffy: Well, looking at the big picture, we did what we said we’d do with the four pillars, and by putting on the greenest Super Bowl ever. But yes, there are frustrations — especially with some sustainability sponsor categories we weren’t able to close. 

No. 1 is that we thought we’d get a solar company to become a sustainability sponsor of the host committee. We are such a natural fit for each other.

Blaustein: I didn’t realize you didn’t land one. Surprising for sure. Why?

Duffy: There was a concern among the big players out here that important solar tax credits would expire at the end of 2015. This didn’t happen with the end-of-year budget deal in Congress, but by then it was too late.

And we thought we’d get an electric bus deal done, but it turns out there wasn’t a sufficient number of EV buses available out there. We’re probably a year early on this front.

Blaustein: You did sell some other great, green sponsors.

Duffy: Yes, TerraPass is handling our offsets and helping us to offset the host committee’s scope 1 and 2 emissions. Klean Kanteen will distribute refillable water bottles to all 5,000 volunteers and 5,000 accredited media, as well as promote #BringYourOwn.

Nestee are providing us with renewable and sustainable diesel for Super Bowl City and our Fan Express. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has provided funding for bike valet, public transit for volunteers and funding for one of our legacy projects — GoPlaces, an Uber-like booking system and fund for school teachers to make it easy for them to take kids on science- and nature-based field trips.

Blaustein: How will the host committee report on the results of all of its greening efforts to demonstrate that it indeed did make good on its promises?

Duffy: Good question. We will go live the week after the game with an online reporting platform that will be open to the public. It will report on how we did against our organizational and sustainability goals. TerraPass will provide us with a detailed audit on the offset program. Air District will audit our transportation emissions against targets.

Blaustein: Well, I know what I’ll be reading a week after the Super Bowl.

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