Starting tonight, hundreds of thousands of college football fans will trek to a stadium this weekend to watch their favorite team or alma mater kick off a new football season. The energy efficiency of that stadium will, for most of them, be the last thing on their minds.
For two environmental groups, though, increasing the energy efficiency of college football stadiums is the biggest goal for the 2013 season. The U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable construction and development, announced in August a partnership with the Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit that partners with professional and college teams to promote more environmentally-conscious sporting events, that will focus on increasing the number of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified football stadiums on college campuses around the country, Earth Techling reported.
“Sports fans stepping into LEED-certified arenas, stadiums, ballparks and more experience the benefits of green building firsthand with water conservation, energy efficiency and responsible waste management,” Rhiannon Jacobsen, director of strategic accounts at USGBC, said in a release. “It was a natural fit for USGBC to partner with the Green Sports Alliance, which is dedicated to making professional sports healthier and more sustainable.”
There are currently 25 LEED-certified stadiums in American professional sports, led by Nationals Park, the home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals. National Football League teams have attempted to clean up their stadiums by improving waste management and purchasing carbon offsets, and the National Basketball Association has promoted sustainability with its “Green Week” since 2009. Stadiums can have massive carbon footprints thanks to the amount of consumption they require, from electricity to food and waste. That thousands of fans travel to each game by car or transit and thousands more watch on television only increases the carbon footprint of each sporting event. A study of English Premier League soccer, for example, found that one match had a carbon footprint of 5,160 tons, equivalent to the carbon emitted by more than half a million gallons of gas or the electricity used by 772 homes each year.
USGBC and the Green Sports Alliance’s focus on college athletics isn’t just about reducing the carbon footprint of stadiums. Rather, it’s a way to increase the environmental awareness of college campuses as a whole, especially as many focus on sustainability as both an environmental goal and as a recruiting tool for prospective students.
There are big reasons for sports leagues and fans to care about sustainability in sports too. Climate change has already impacted many recreational and professional sports, including fishing, surfing, and hunting. But it has also had an impact on America’s most popular sport — football — as rising temperatures have made practice more dangerous and maintaining grass fields more difficult and costly. If we want our sports to continue on as they are, making them cleaner and more efficient isn’t just desirable, it’s necessary.