Clean Power

Published on February 7th, 2016 | by Adam Johnston


Super Bowl 50 An Environmental Sustainability Champion

February 7th, 2016 by  

While AFC champion Denver Broncos and NFC Champion Carolina Panthers will play for all the marbles this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, Super Bowl 50 is an environmental sustainability champion of its own.

While earlier Super Bowls, including Super Bowl XLVIII  in East Rutherford New Jersey in 2014, and Super Bowl XLIX last year in Glendale, Arizona, charted progress, this year’s edition is leading the way. Since opening up in 2014, the home of the San Francisco 49ers garnered a lot of buzz for its high-tech initiatives, including stadium-wide Wi-Fi. Yet, its green initiatives really put this stadium on the map.

Final_Infographic Superbowl_0

It’s the first NFL stadium to have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. LEED acknowledges the best practices in making buildings environmentally efficient, while helping to endorse renewable energy and being more cost-effective.

San Francisco 49ers Vice President of Stadium Operations Jim Mercurio told Sports Illustrated earlier this week that waste reduction planning in developing Levi’s Stadium was key in achieving the LEED Gold standard. Mercurio said 64% of all consumer waste is recycled, and 87% of durable goods in the stadium is also recycled. Mercurio said fans have developed a better understanding of waste reduction in delivering environmental sustainability in the past two decades:

“What we asked people, is if you aren’t going to walk the distance to where we’ve placed these bins, put it in those bags,” Mercurio says. Sure, it cost more for the 49ers, but they saw it as part of an education as well. And while there’s always room for learning to be more environmentally friendly, he says, it is almost comical to see how far along folks have come. “Twenty years ago if [trash] even made it into the container that was one thing,” Mercurio says. Now they separate. “Fans are sophisticated and looking to educate.”

Solar energy is also a key player within the Levi’s Stadium green team. NRG installed 375 kW of peak solar power capacity, using over 1,150 panels. What’s even more impressive is the current solar energy system can produce enough clean energy for every 49ers home game at Levi’s Stadium. NRG’s solar installations are along the NRG bridges, which point towards the stadium from the red parking lot. The other section of solar panels are on the terrace, overshadowing the stadium and Silicon Valley.

SunPower Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said the company is very happy to support its business partners in championing sound environmental and economic decisions by going solar.

“This year’s big game is making environmental history as fans root for their favorite team, playing in the NFL’s first LEED Gold certified stadium featuring SunPower high efficiency solar panels,” Werner said.

Sustainability in the NFL is continuing to grow. 10 NFL venues have a joint 8.5 MW in solar power capacity. The Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons are also building solar systems. With solar energy continuing its strong growth, the NFL is capitalizing on the greening of professional sports movement. No longer can pro sports leagues ignore climate change, due to extreme weather. NFL and Super Bowl 50 are showing what is possible in developing an environmental sustainability plan. It’s the wave of the future for pro sports. A wave which everyone needs to catch for our combined future.

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About the Author

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business

  • GCO

    70’000+ people who drove/flew there or nearby, but wait, the stadium has as much solar as a few dozens homes!
    Sure, it’s better than nothing, but really, calling the event “sustainable”? Please.

  • Genevieve Abedon

    The stadium might be sustainable, but the event certainly was not! It trashed the city and pushed homeless people out of their encampments. Fireworks trash made it as far as the beaches, and I can only imagine the amount of single-use everything consumed. SF should be ashamed.

  • Omega Centauri

    Its a good highly visible and symbolic start. But, covering the quantity of energy used by the stadium during a handful of home games won’t come close to balancing the energy books. Annual consumption of the organization is going to be dominated by the day to day usage and transportation. There is a very very long way to go is they want to become carbon neutral.

  • neroden

    Well, originally they were planning to shut down the streetcar lines and tear down the wires, and only relented under extreme political pressure… I can’t call them champions of sustainability when they considered stuff like that.

    • Riely Rumfort

      Think about how many SUVs are traveling today(cross country to the game or to a party), how many Ovens, Microwaves, TV sets, how many trucks of food/drinks. How much money is spent by all involved in advertising(4 million for 30secs), viewing, paying players, plane tickets, consuming fans.
      If it were cancelled and all funds involved spent on renewables we could probably power a state 100%.

    • Benjamin Nead

      Yes, and then there was the way the homeless were pushed around to make way for the game, which from what I’m reading, is 35 miles away from downtown San Francisco . . .

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