The ‘Green’ Movement is infecting America’s favorite sport: Football

The Beautiful Game.  The Sport of Kings.  America’s Pastime. 

No matter which sport you like to follow or which team gets you excited, the world of sporting is notoriously wasteful.  Golf courses dump hundreds of millions of gallons of water on their pristine greens every year simply so it looks pretty for its members.  Football stadiums generate millions of pounds of garbage every year from the millions of fans eating hot dogs and drinking beer.  No to mention that the venues that these events take place in can span several city blocks or several acres of land.  While sport is an excellent distraction from source of enjoyment, can it still be as enjoyable while also being better for the environment?

Enter the San Franciso 49ers and stadium sponsor, Levi’s.  They have worked to make Levi’s Stadium the first NFL Stadium to achieve LEED Gold certification.  This means that on the LEED 100 point scale, the new stadium has earned 60-79 points.  Not to mention that being any level of LEED certified means that stadium has at least achieved and agreed to the following prerequisites and minimum program requirements:

1. Comply with environmental laws

2. Commit to sharing whole-building energy and water usage data

3. Control erosion and sediment

4. 20% reduction in water use  (over millions of fans, THAT alone is impressive)

5. Commissioning of all building energy systems

6. Minimum energy performance

7. Fundamental refrigerant management

8. Storing and collecting recyclables (Whooo! now just give all the extra food at a food bank and we’re really making progress)

9. Minimum Indoor Air Quality

10. Tobacco use control (sorry smokers.  I was a member of your tight-knit community for 5 years and I understand the frustration.)


This list of 10 items is truly impressive.  LEED Gold certification for a small 100 person office building is significant but honestly can be offset very quickly by the inefficient office next door.  But these principles applied on an NFL scale of people truly becomes significant.  The 49ers had average 2011 attendance of 69,732 people.  Let’s play with this number for a bit.

Say all those people used the bathroom twice during the game.  For purposes of round numbers we’ll say they all used a gallon of water between flushing and washing their hands.  If we establish this as the baseline, one game uses 69,732 gallons of water.  Based on LEED performance requirements, the new stadium must only use 55,785 gallons of water for the same purposes.  Multiply this over the 8 home games the 49ers have each season and they’ve now saved over 100,000 gallons of water from being wasted down the drain.  Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee reports that the stadium uses 85% recycled water.  This can mean everything from rainwater harvesting to use of cooling tower make up water to flush toilets.

The other major note of the stadium is its use of solar panels.  The panels sit atop the stadium and help alleviate the stadiums draw on our nation’s very old power grid.  As the average NFL stadium occupies nearly 1.8 million square feet of space, it makes you wonder why they haven’t used that roof area for solar panels in the past.  Admittedly, solar panels add additional structural concerns that would not have existed otherwise, but that is an incredible amount of space to have available.  SolarCity engages in regular leasing of roof area and I would imagine 1.8 million square is some valuable energy generating space.

All things considered I applaud Levi’s and the 49ers and I’ll be following their 2014 season very closely.  Not for their win/loss record, but for their energy record.

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