Across From The Super Bowl Site, An Environmental Disaster Looms

Late night comics have had a field day with the upcoming Jersey Super Bowl, cracking wise at the reputation-challenged Garden State’s expense.  Bridgegate has given Dave, Jay, and The Jimmys (Kimmel & especially Fallon-as-Springsteen) even more Jersey comedic material.  But one thing the comedians cannot yuk about is the Super Bowl’s greenness.  As GSB has documented (here and here), the game at MetLife Stadium will be the greenest Super Bowl yet.  But, sadly, a couple of football fields away sits an aesthetic disaster that plays into negative stereotypes of New Jersey that will also be an environmental nightmare.  I’m talking about XANADU!

If you’ve ever driven by the Meadowlands Sports Complex, either on the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 3 or Paterson Plank Road, you’ve noticed, alongside MetLife Stadium, the Meadowlands Racetrack and the Izod Center Arena, this monstrosity of a building: Huge, blob-like, oddly horizontal, with bizarrely-colored panels along its seemingly zip code-wide wall. It is the long-stalled, not-yet-open, mall-entertainment center, Xanadu (now being rebranded as “American Dream Meadowlands”). Governor Chris Christie has called it the “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey, and maybe America.”  He also wants it finished and open, post-haste.

Xanadu AP Mel Evans

Aerial view of Xanadu, with MetLife Stadium, site of Super Bowl XLVIII, in the background.  An eyesore now, Xanadu will be an environmental catastrophe if/when it opens. (Photo Credit:  Mel Evans, AP)

On Wednesday, USA Today posted a long, detailed piece about Xanadu’s (I refuse to call it “American Dream Meadowlands” out of respect for the American Dream) many problems, focused mainly on its “eyesore” and financial mess aspects. GSB, not surprisingly, is concerned, with its numerous environmental challenges, which include:

  • A 12-story-high indoor ski slope.  You read that right:  an indoor ski slope.  The only thing more wasteful and obscene from a carbon footprint point of view would be a 24-story indoor ski slope.  An indoor wind tunnel to simulate sky diving and a wave machine for indoor surfing, both energy hogs, also will give the middle finger to the environment.
  • Opening an energy-sucking mall/entertainment complex in the suburbs (bucking the energy efficient trend of “return to urbanized retail”), accessible mainly by auto, will add to CO2 emissions.
  • According to The Sierra Club, the project will be the biggest non-industrial greenhouse gas generator in the state, if not the entire Northeast.
  • It will further damage an already important and at risk marsh-land eco-system.  Sierra Club’s New Jersey Director Jeff Tittel told USA Today it’s ironic to be “’building a water park on a wetland.”

Governor Christie, who wants to talk about anything besides Bridgegate, would love to see Xanadu completed yesterday and to preside at the ribbon cutting.  Not for nothin’, he’s a climate change denier (global warming is an “esoteric theory”) and his administration has ignored the subject completely (nowhere on the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding website do the words climate change, global warming, or sea level rise appear, not even under the site’s “resiliency” section.”)  Now, while the governor owns the New Jersey bully pulpit, he is of course dead wrong on climate science–and Xanadu’s highly visible, highly wasteful carbon footprint will, sadly, take his state in the wrong direction.  Here’s something for the Governor’s consideration that’s NOT esoteric:  Xanadu is certainly an eyesore in its current, partially-built state; actually opening it will be American Nightmare Meadowlands.

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Super Bowl To Feature Super Green Dining

Most of the attention surrounding the off-the-field aspects of Super Bowl XLVIII is centered, not surprisingly, on the the weather–specifically, the potential for cold, nasty winter weather.  Whaddya expect when the game is played outdoors in New Jersey on Feb II?!? The greenness of the Exit XVI-W Super Bowl has gotten comparatively little ink.  But there is a positive story here. Last month, GSB highlighted some of the ways the NFL and PSE&G, a local utility and Energy Services Company, are greening the Big Game  (encouraging mass transit use, the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits to offset the carbon generated by the event, etc).   Today we take a look at the greening of the Super Bowl’s food service.

My guess is that the dining options at the Super Bowl inside MetLife Stadium will be expensive but I don’t have to guess about the food service’s greenness.  Delaware North Companies Sportservice, which won the MetLife Stadium concession contract in 2013 from ARAMARK, touts environmental stewardship as a core value through its GreenPath program.  While the description of GreenPath on the Delaware North website is understated, Delaware North’s actual green performance at MetLife Stadium is bold.*

Per the January 10th edition of Environmental Leader, Delaware North and MetLife Stadium “earned the title of first Certified Green Restaurant Stadium (CGR) from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA).”  This is a very big deal since Delaware North is presiding over the largest food service operation ever to receive a CGR–MetLife has 200 restaurants and can serve approximately 100,000 people in a day. That’s not a misprint!

Delaware North

MetLife Stadium, host of Super Bowl XLVIII, and its food concessionaire, Delaware North Sportservice, earned the first-ever Certified Green Restaurant Stadium designation from the Green Restaurant Association.

 

Delaware North and MetLife Stadium took 61 greening steps on the way to CGR status, including:

  • All waste kitchen oil converted to biodiesel fuel
  • Composting all kitchen scraps
  • Donating all leftover food
  • Recycling cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum, and paper
  • Eliminating all polystyrene foam containers (YES!)

MetLife Restaurant

One of the 200 restaurants at MetLife Stadium (Photo Credit: MetLifeStadium.com)

 

That this Super Bowl features Super Green Dining should not be a surprise.  In addition to the other, substantive sustainability-related aspects surrounding the game, MetLife Stadium itself is as state-of-the-green-art as can be without being LEED Certified.

Unless we’ve missed something, the organizers of the Sochi Olympics, which start 4 days after the Super Bowl, are not taking up the Green Dining banner.  GSB will look into the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, Wimbledon, and US Open to see what’s on their Green Dining menus.

* Under-promising while delivering is the anti-greenwash. Very impressive.

Should (Can) Sports Divorce Fossil Fuels?

The divest-from-fossil fuel-investments movement gained great steam in 2013. Activists on campuses across the country, organized by groups like 350.org, pressed university presidents and endowment fund managers to sell their investments in fossil fuel companies.  So far, 9 mostly small colleges and universities have committed to divest or have already divested from Big Oil and Big Coal.  350.org also worked with cities and other municipalities to pull pension fund and other investments from fossil fuels.  Portland (OR), Providence and San Francisco stepped up to the plate last year with divestment commitments. If it’s good for college campuses and it’s good for cities, does it make sense to pressure sports properties to turn down Big Oil sponsorships (Big Coal is not a big player in sports sponsorships in the US)? GSB takes a look at this question.

The Valero Alamo Bowl.  The iconic Citgo Sign in Kenmore Square, Boston, just beyond Fenway Park’s left field wall.  BP’s US Olympic Committee sponsorship.  These are but three examples of the many Big Oil company sponsorships of US pro and college sports.  350.org, aggressively pushing high profile fossil fuel divestment campaigns from college endowment funds and municipal pension funds, has not yet to take on the high-profile sports sponsorship industry.  Should it?

I’d say an unequivocal YES!

  • 350.org, and other like-minded groups, through their university endowments/municipal pension divestment campaigns, have likely played a role in increasing Big Oil’s “negatives”.  Per a 2012 Gallup poll, oil is America’s least popular industry.
    • Let’s put to the side for now whether the divestment campaigns will significantly change Big Oil’s behavior.  Making the owning of an oil company stock a shameful thing, akin to owning a tobacco stock is, on a symbolic level, a big deal.
  • The sports industry, per many GSB posts, is actively moving towards a more sustainable business model, especially on the facilities and operations fronts.  To, at the same time, be in bed with Big Oil companies–which fund climate change denial in shadowy, yet well-funded ways (publicly espousing climate denial has become an albatross so the companies go under cover) and which oppose legislation of any kind that would in any way have the effect of keeping carbon-based assets in the ground and unburned–is a greenwash.
  • Sports is as image conscious a business as there is (maybe 2nd to Hollywood but a close 2nd).
  • There aren’t THAT MANY sports teams and leagues in the US and only a minority have Big Oil sponsors.  Thus, the campaign to get teams and properties to jettison Big Oil sponsors can be targeted and not very resource-intense.
  • The sports sponsorship business is huge and healthy.  Per a PwC report, sports sponsorship is now a $35-$40 billion business worldwide.  Among all types of sponsorships (music, arts, causes, institutions), sports dominates.  And sports sponsorship revenue is expected to grow at 5.5% annually in the US through at least 2015.  While nothing in sales is ever easy, sports properties continue to find sponsors of all types, from naming rights deals to on field signage.  A public move away from a Big Oil sponsor will net great PR at the expense of foregone revenue.  That revenue will likely be gobbled up by a sponsor from a category without the negatives of Big Oil.  In fact, that replacement revenue could/should come from Renewable Energy companies.

Valero Alamo Bowl

Valero Energy Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio.  Oregon defeated Texas, 30-7 in the 2013 version.  Both universities have made significant commitments to fight climate change yet play in a bowl game sponsored by an oil company. (Photo Credit:  DailySA.com)

The timing is right for 350.org and other groups to 1) show teams, leagues, event operators and other properties that they are enabling greenwashing through their relationships with oil companies and 2) urge them to end those relationships:

  • College football teams, representing Big 12 and PAC 12 universities with sustainability departments and sustainability mission statements, should be embarrassed to play in the Valero Energy Alamo Bowl.
  • The PGA Tour, which touts (legitimately) the sustainability and environmental milestones set at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, should not also sanction the Shell Houston Open.
  • The US Olympic Committee, supported in part by tax dollars, should not accept sponsorship money from a greenwashing, post oil-spill BP.
  • The Citgo Sign?  I think we need to leave that one alone for now as it has landmark status in Boston.  Let the Red Sox deal with the stigma of being identified with an oil company–from Venezuela, no less.

Citgo at Fenway

The Citgo sign in Kenmore Square, rising above The Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston.  The sign has iconic status.  If it ever comes down, that’s when you know oil companies have become tobacco companies. (Photo Credit: Boston.com)

GSB will send this post to 350.org to see if they’d like to take on Big Oil and Big Sports and will of course let you know what they say.

We’d love to hear from YOU!

  1. Comment below
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  3. Email us:  lew@greensportsblog.com

 

 

Update: Who Had A Better Season, Gang Green Or The Green Movement

HAPPY NEW YEAR, GSB READERS!!!  Back in July, GSB  tried to predict who would have a better “season”, the Green Movement or Gang Green (aka The New York Jets).  Based on hopeful soundings from President Obama regarding his potential rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the incredibly low expectations for the Jets (ESPN.com had them rated 32nd of the 32 NFL Teams), GSB opined that the Green Movement would end 2013 in better shape.  In October, at just about the halfway point of the NFL season, we posted an update which said that, owing to the Jets surprising 3-3 start, Gang Green’s prospects had drawn even with or perhaps surpassed the largely under-the-radar Green Movement.  With the Jets ending their season on Sunday with an 8-8 record and with 2013 now in the history books, it’s time to answer, for good, the question that’s on everyone’s minds:  Who had the better season, Gang Green or The Green Movement?

Both the Green Movement and Gang Green had challenging 4th quarters but ended the year on a hopeful uptick (what, you expecting a Debbie Downer type of blog post??).  The Jets challenges were well documented (a 3 game losing streak in November, the benching of rookie quarterback Geno Smith–who was playing at an incredibly inept level, the repeated benching of #1 draft pick–cornerback Dee Milliner, the worst group of receivers in the NFL, the expected firing of head coach Rex Ryan).  At 5-7 things looked bad.  But a funny thing happened on the way to ignominy and irrelevance: The Jets went 3-1 down the stretch, largely due to Geno’s and Milliner’s improved play.  In the season finale, the Jets soundly thumped the Miami Dolphins on the road to knock their rivals out of a playoff berth.  And Rex will be back to lead a young club that seems to be on the rise (if Geno/Milliner continue to improve).

Milliner Pick Naples News

Dee Milliner, NY Jets 2013 #1 draft pick, makes diving interception in their season ending win over the Miami Dolphins.  Milliner’s improved play the last month of the season, along with that of rookie QB Geno Smith, gives the Jets some hope going into the offseason. (Photo Credit: Naples FL News)

 

As for the Green Movement, daunting challenges were front and center:

  • While President Obama’s announcement of his approval/rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline will likely come down in 2014, the Canadian government, in a much less ballyhooed December decision, approved the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  NGP, over the objections of First Nations tribes, will transport carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Alberta (the same super dirty oil that would flow through Keystone XL) to British Columbia’s Pacific Coast for export to China and elsewhere in Asia.  Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper will say the right things (“we are deeply concerned about climate change“) (borrowing from the George W. Bush playbook on the subject–you MUST watch this video!) but he and the his Parliamentary allies in Ottawa are smoking from the tar sands crack pipe (yeah, another hit of tar sands oil revenue!) (maybe that’s the pipe Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoked from).  Does this give Obama the cover he needs to say “yes” to Keystone XL?  We shall see.
  • In the US, the conservative party (aka the GOP), continued on its maniacal, nearly unanimous climate denial path.  I’m 100% sure that, in the not so long term, this will be a big loser for the Republicans.  But, in the here and now, it hasn’t had much of an effect as 1) the government shutdown and the difficult rollout of Obamacare have taken all the oxygen in American Politics and 2) Climate change is still seen as a generation-or-two-down the road problem–even by many of those who acknowledge it exists, it’s human caused, and something needs to be done about it.   You would think a conserve-ative party would be interested in conservation!  You’d be WRONG!  None of the GOP elected members of Congress cop to the reality of climate change. Former SC GOP Congressman Bob Inglis “came out of the Climate Closet” this fall…but the operative word here is former.  Let’s see if any current and/or prospective GOP House or Senate candidates borrow a page from the Inglis playbook in 2014.  Color me skeptical.
  • This is not to absolve Democrats in congress or especially President Obama on climate change.  Yes, President Obama, by Executive Order, put in place emissions restrictions on power plants that will severely curtail new coal plant construction (big deal but relatively easy–coal is the new tobacco after all). He may yet reject Keystone XL. But, as 350.org’s Bill McKibben points out in his must-read Rolling Stone op-ed (Dec 13th issue), Obama & Climate Change, “the president has said the right things about climate change – and has taken some positive steps. But we’re drilling for more oil and digging up more carbon than ever.”
  • 2013, by most accounts, will turn out to be one of the hottest years on record–all of the data isn’t in yet so we don’t know for sure.  And that’s the GOOD news!  A study, published in the journal Nature, and reported in The Huffington Post yesterday, “climate change may be far worse than scientists thought, causing global temperatures to rise by at least 4 degrees C by 2100, or about 7.2 degrees F.  Happy New Year!  Sheesh!

More dirty tar sands oil…An obstructionist GOP…The President dragging his feet on Keystone XL…One of the hottest years on record…Climate change worse than we thought…Where is the Jets-like HOPE for the Green Movement?

Right HERE!!

  • Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced on Monday that the city’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 19% since 2005. NYC is 2/3 of the way to the “30% reduction by 2030″ goal that Bloomberg set back in 2009.  I hoped, in vain it turned out, that incoming mayor Bill DeBlasio, in yesterday’s Inaugural Address, would say something like:  ”Mayor Bloomberg has handed us the greenhouse gas emissions reduction baton in first place.  We’re going to widen the lead by upping the 2030 reduction target to 40%!”.  I will do what I can to press the issue.  It won’t be easy as climate change was not one of DeBlasio’s main issues in the campaign but I will be listening–and agitating.
  • Hope also springs from the intersection of Green & Sports as well.  The NFL announced a partnership with Verizon and the Broadway Green Alliance to recycle e-waste in New York and New Jersey in the run up to Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2nd.  A collection will take place on January 8 at Duffy Square in Times Square from 10am to 2pm. Why is e-waste recycling important?  Per the story in the December 27th issue of Environmental Leader, it “uses a fraction of the energy needed to mine new metals and reduces the production of CO2 and sulfur dioxide emissions. E-waste also creates jobs – compared to disposal; computer reuse creates 296 more jobs per for every 10,000 tons of material disposed each year.”
  • Finally, we have the renewable energy we need to power the world right now!  This is not a misprint.  It’s not the hyperbolic rantings of a maniac (Jets fan-dom excluded).  No, it’s a hypothesis that’s been discussed in scientific quarters, most recently by Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. While it is one thing to say we want to stop burning fossil fuels, Jacobson (and a team of researchers) went on Letterman in November and told us how to do it.  His comments were based on a 2009 cover story in Scientific American that has been amplified by others.  The technology is out there.  It’s matter of will, political and otherwise, consistently applied.

Jacobson Stanford Woods

Mark Jacobson, Senior Fellow – Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment; Professor – Civil & Environmental Engineering, discusses how the world can quickly and cost effectively shift to a renewable energy-dominant economy with David Letterman (Photo Credit: Stanford Woods Institute)

 

And that, in part, is where sports fans come in.  Sports fans are willful.  We’re in it for the long haul.  Heck, the Jets haven’t won a Super Bowl in XLV years, the Cubs are 106 years beyond their last World Series win–and their fans are no less ardent.  In fact the long droughts make us, if anything, more passionate.  The Green Movement needs to borrow that passion and that long-game will of sports fans NOW (we have some time to reverse the greenhouse gas emissions problem and thus avoid the worst of the climate change train wreck, but not XLV years).  Sports fans who are green-minded need to lend some of their energy to the Green Movement.  Encourage A-List athletes to become E(co)-List athletes.  Press our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, to take up this issue.  Support corporate sponsors who, like Verizon, are, in some ways, doing the right thing.

Looking to the year ahead, GSB will be reporting on the many aspects of the increasingly busy, always interesting intersection of Green & Sports.   Thanks in advance for continuing to read, comment on and share our blog.  On behalf of my GSB colleague, Elyssa Emrich, Go Jets, Go GREEN Bay Packers (Elyssa’s team), and Go Green in 2014!  Thank you for your support.

Oh yeah–I never answered the question at hand, who won this fall-winter season, Gang Green or the Green Movement.  It’s a tough call.  If President Obama had already rejected Keystone XL, the Green Movement would have earned the nod.  Since that’s still a question mark–and a much bigger one than the albeit big Jets QB question mark, I’m going to say the Jets had a better season.