Seahawks, Patriots and a desert: Sustainability at Super Bowl XLIX

University of Phoenix Stadium
FlickrSeth Page2009
The Arizona Cardinals battle the New York Giants at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Nov. 23, 2008. The stadium will host the 2015 Super Bowl, the first to be played under LED stadium lighting.

This article originally appeared at Green Sports Blog.

“Green 22! … One! … Omaha! … 10! … Zero! … Omaha! … Two! … 120!”

I know what you’re thinking: Why am I reprising how Peyton Manning calls out signals for a play when the Denver Broncos fell two steps short of making it to Sunday’s Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.?

I'm not. The numbers and words listed above reflect key milestones in the greening of Super Bowl XLIX. Here’s what I mean:

Green 22

This is the 22nd year the National Football League has run some sort of greening program around the premier event on the U.S. sports calendar. The league’s Super Bowl greening efforts — started back in the 1990s — are continuing in Arizona this week. The initiatives include:

  • Generating electricity used by the stadium during the game by wind and/or solar power. Sunday’s game will be powered by wind generated by the Salt River Project.
  • Neutralizing the carbon emissions generated by the game and its ancillary programs by the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits.
  • Donation of tons of uneaten food to non-profits that feed the hungry.
  • Recycling at the game and at the Media Center.


This year's Super Bowl marks the first time the game will be played under energy efficient LED lights from Ephesus Lighting. The Arizona Cardinals, host of Sunday’s game, got their LED lights running during the regular season and realized a 75 percent reduction in lighting energy consumption. The adoption of LED lighting at sports arenas and stadiums is poised to explode as concerns about light quality by broadcasters largely have been overcome.


OK, Omaha does come from Peyton Manning’s signal calling routine and has nothing to do with greening. I just wanted to make the string of numbers sound “football-y.”


For the last 10 years, the NFL has run an Urban Forestry program that plants trees in and around the host city. This is particularly important for a city such as Phoenix, which is in a (very) water-challenged, arid, hot (and getting hotter) environment. The NFL and local government officials have focused on the planting of indigenous trees.

Phoenix City Council member Bill Gates (not that Bill Gates) put it this way, in a December interview with Andrew Bernier, science correspondent for KJZZ-FM in Phoenix: “We’re doing everything we can to conserve water. That’s why going with the indigenous trees is a real plus.”


The Super Bowl itself will not be Zero-Waste. Why not? Sports stadiums across the country, as well as the Waste Management Phoenix Open — also taking place this weekend a few zip codes away — have proven able to divert over 90 percent of food waste from landfill.

The Phoenix Super Bowl Host Committee does deserve some credit: It committed to a Zero-Waste Super Bowl Central, the 12-block array of beer gardens, concerts and other activities in downtown Phoenix in the weeks leading up to the game. Recycling and composting will do the trick. I bet that the next time the Super Bowl comes to Glendale (the soonest would be 2020), the game will be Zero-Waste.


This is the second Super Bowl E-waste recycling program, sponsored by Verizon. The Super Bowl XLIX “E-Waste” Recycling Rally took place Jan. 20. The public discarded tons of old computers, televisions, cell phones, batteries and chargers (Why is there not a universal standard for phone chargers? That would eliminate untold tons of waste).

While I applaud Verizon for doing the right thing on E-Waste, a massive environmental and human rights problem at the Super Bowl and beyond, I’d be more bullish if the company wasn’t a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the powerful lobbying group that advocates, among other things, climate change denial. C’mon, Verizon, you’re better than that, aren’t you?


As in 120 million — the estimated number of Americans who will watch the Seahawks defeat the Patriots on NBC Sunday evening, by far the biggest TV audience of any program. Many millions also will watch six hours of pregame coverage. Will NBC devote any of its 10 hours of air time to the greening of Super Bowl XLIX? It would be deflating to this reporter if they don’t.

OK, one lame “Deflategate” pun isn’t so bad, is it?