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:


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, 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. 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., 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!

  •, 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:

The timing is right for 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:

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

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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 ( 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’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.

Update on Ohio State Buckeyes’ Zero-Waste Efforts

Back in October, GreenSportsBlog’s Elyssa Emrich detailed the work Ohio State has done to move towards a Zero-Waste home football season.  As Elyssa’s post was written in the middle of the season, full season stats were not available.  Well, the results are in–and they are impressive:  At 6 of the 7 Ohio State home games, composting and recycling efforts led to diversion-from-landfill rates of 96.5% or better.  The season finale vs. Indiana saw an incredible 98.1% diversion rate.  Since a 90% diversion rate constitutes Zero-Waste, per standards set by Zero Waste International, Ohio State is well on its way to being a season-long Zero-Waste operation.  With home game attendance averaging north of 104,000, that’s certainly impressive.

Ohio State Zero Waste

Ohio State football had an impressive 2013:  12-1 on the field and great Zero-Waste statistics for home games at the Horseshoe


The only reason Ohio State can’t say they were Zero-Waste for 2013 was the Iowa game on October 19.  That day, diversion rates dropped to 56%.  Composting continued as usual but recycling dropped precipitously because all materials were not able to be captured and sent to the recycling facility for recovery due to the Columbus Marathon, taking place that same weekend.  Otherwise, there’s no doubt that diversion rates would’ve been in the 96-98% range, assuring a Zero-Waste season at the Horseshoe.

Next season, the Buckeyes will again be home during Columbus Marathon weekend (I should be there as their opponents will be my alma mater, Rutgers!).  Perhaps Ohio State, their recyclers and the City of Columbus will figure out a work-around so recycling rates can go back up to the normal range.  That way, after Rutgers shocks Ohio State, Buckeyes fans will be able to take solace in their Zero-Waste season.

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2014 Green Sports Calendar: Mega Sports Events Trying To Be Green(er)

2014 promises to be the biggest year in the green sports world to date.   Sustainability (and greenwashing) figured prominently in the run-up to two global, mega events taking place next year; the Winter Olympics in Russia, and the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.  Weather will be a hot topic at the first cold weather Super Bowl.  GreenSportsBlog takes a look at the 2014 sports calendar from a green perspective.


The NFL has been greening the Super Bowl for years, through aggressive recycling efforts and renewable energy certificate (RECs) purchases and the 2014 Super Bowl is no different.  As reported in an earlier GSB post, the NFL is working with PSE&G to purchase RECs to offset all of the carbon associated with the game.  And the league is encouraging fans take mass transit (light rail and shuttle vans) to the game instead of driving.  Even the High Rollers will have to think hard about taking the train to the game as car service drop-off and pick-up will be banned.  Tailgating is also prohibited (the idea!).  While traffic flow and security were no doubt the main reasons behind this move, more folks using mass transit will reduce transportation-related emissions.  Finally, the weather at the first Northeast, outdoor Super Bowl will be front page, above-the-fold type news.  Hopefully, the weather-related stories in the 6 hours of pre-game programming will mention climate change.  Then again, (Climate Change Denying) Fox is televising the game so expect someone to say “it’s 28°, brrrrr!!  So much for global warming!”.


The Russian government promised the Sochi Olympics would be first Zero Waste Olympics but that promise has been broken by dumping waste from Olympics-related construction projects. While much of the political coverage from Sochi will rightly focus on Russia’s harsh anti-gay laws (President Obama announced today that openly gay tennis legend Billie Jean King will be a part of the US delegation to Sochi), I hope NBC devotes some of its 8 gazillion hours of coverage to Russia’s Olympic greenwashing.


Atlanta made recycling and e-recycling the centerpiece of its 2013 Final Four sustainability efforts, with 33 tons of recycling  and 14,000+ electronics collected.  The 2014 Final Four, to be played at the massive AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) in Arlington, is expected to do more in the way of recycling/e-cycling than did Atlanta.  That’s all well and good but what does it say that the NCAA is playing its crown jewel event in the largest city (pop. 380,000) in the country WITHOUT MASS TRANSIT? That lack of mass transit is due, in large part, because funds that could’ve gone in that direction instead went to help pay for AT&T Stadium and the Ballpark at Arlington, home of MLB’s Texas Rangers.

at&t stadium

Aerial view of AT&T Stadium, home of the 2014 Men’s Final Four and the Dallas Cowboys.  There is no way to get to the stadium via mass transit.


For the first time since 1950, the FIFA World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event, will be hosted by 5-time champion Brazil, perhaps the world’s most soccer (futbol)-mad nation.  Brazil is the 5th largest country by area in the world and, largely due to increased air travel miles during the event, this World Cup’s carbon footprint will almost double vs. that of World Cup 2010 in South Africa (25th largest country by area, roughly 1/7th the size of Brazil).  FIFA has pledged to offset all of the carbon emissions generated by the World Cup, with the cost estimated at $USD2.5 million.  Will FIFA follow through on its promise?  Per a December 10 story by Joanna Foster on, “none of the offsetting projects will be announced until next year, however, and it remains to be seen if FIFA will carry through on its pre-game commitments after the World Cup spotlight has moved on from Brazil.”

The news is much more clearly positive on the stadium construction front.  An innovative green financing mechanism offered by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) helped developers achieve sustainability (i.e. LEED) goals through low interest rates and longer repayment periods.

Copa Verdethe ambitious plan in which 10 of the 12 stadiums are pursuing LEED certification, and the largest coordinated green building effort ever, is the result.  The brand new Estadio Nacional de Brasilia is the first stadium to be awarded LEED Platinum status. Iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio, host of the 1950 and 2014 World Cup Final , has been renovated to include a 390 kw solar panel system on its roof.  And Coca-Cola plastic bottles are being repurposed for use in 6,000+ seats.

estadio nacional do braisilia

Estadio Nacional do Brasilia, opened this year in advance of the 2014 World Cup.  Solar panels line the roof of the state-of-the-art stadium.

In addition to these Mega Sports Events, there are two Green-Sports related summits that are calendar-worthy:


GreenSportsBlog, as evidenced by our “Greening The Big 10″ series, is a big believer in the power of college sports to be a leader in the Green-Sports Movement.  The 4th annual Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit will demonstrate how athletic and sports programs can be high profile leaders of overall campus greening movements.  Registration opens in January.


Staying with the summit theme, the Green Sports Alliance will host its 4th annual confab in July near the set-to-open Levi’s Stadium, new home of the San Francisco 49′ers.  I attended this year’s summit in Brooklyn and was impressed by its breadth and substance.  For the 2014 summit, I’d like to see a greater emphasis on how to involve fans (both in stadium and remotely) in greening activities.  Early-bird registration is now open.

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Greening The Big 10: University of Minnesota, Taking The LEED

By Elyssa Emrich

When you think of Minnesota, you might think of hockey or cold winters, but most likely, you don’t think of Green Champions.  Well, think again because the first LEED certified football stadium, college or pro, belongs to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers paved the way for green football stadium design when they decided to make the move from the Metrodome, which they shared with the NFL’s Vikings and MLB’s Twins, for 27 years, to the state of the art, on campus TCF Bank Stadium, which opened in 2009.  The stadium seats almost 51,000 fans for football.

TCF Bank Stadium

View from the student section at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, the first LEED Certified football stadium (Photo Credit: Gopher Hole)


Garnering LEED certification for the stadium was a part of the university’s 2003 strategic plan to integrate sustainability into their core values.  In fact,  LEED certification is now considered for every new construction project on campus. Sports architect Populous, and Minneapolis-based general contractor Mortenson teamed with the university to design and build a LEED Silver stadium.  LEED guidelines have been updated since TCF Bank was designed and constructed.  The Minnesota athletic department is working towards LEED re-certification based on the new requirements.

While the LEED re-certification process is ongoing, what can be said is that TCF Bank Stadium excels at many of the operational features needed to maintain that status; these include energy, transportation, cleaning, water conservation, and waste reduction.


A year after TCF Bank opened its doors to fans, the Minnesota athletic department conducted an energy recommissioning (i.e. audit) of all of their athletic facilities that yielded $412,000 worth of potential energy-savings. Since the athletic department pays 100% of athletic facility energy costs, they see significant benefit to using smart grid technology to closely monitor their energy use and to help them reduce it. Currently, they are working on a project to install LED foot-candle lighting in the stairwells of TCF Bank Stadium. The new system will use sensors to adjust the light levels based on the activity level:  The steps will be lit minimally when the stadium is not in use and brightly when crowds arrive for an event.


The university made public and two-wheel transit a priority for the new stadium.  Following its opening, construction of a second light rail line in Minneapolis began called the Green Line.  Scheduled to open in the spring of 2014, the energy efficient trains will pull up next to the stadium. The Green Line will connect campus to both downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis and the airport. One thousand bike racks were also set-up in front of the stadium to encourage fans to bike to the game.

Mpls Green Line

Minneapolis Light Rail Green Line stop at TCF Bank Stadium, scheduled to open in time for the 2014 season (Photo Credit:  Elyssa Emrich)



Teaming with Tennant, another Minneapolis-based company, U of M is also leading the way with innovative cleaning techniques. Electricity-charged cleaning (blue-cleaning) only uses one chemical (Orbio) for all surfaces. This simplified solution not only reduces the number and use of toxic chemicals, it also has become easier to train the cleaning staff which experiences high turnover since many are student employees. The result is a cleaner, safer working environment.

Water Conservation

TCF Bank Stadium is busy—it hosts 300 special events per year (concerts, conferences, weddings, etc.),–and so it uses a lot of water.   The university thus aimed to create a stadium that is aesthetically pleasing and comfortable while also being very efficient in terms of water use and irrigation. This led Populous to include rain gardens in its landscaping plan. In fact, TCF Bank Stadium won the 2009 “Public Rain Gardens” Award!

The system starts with a rainwater roof. Porous pavement captures the water and filters it to the garden of native plants such as wildflowers and grasses.  Any additional water is stored in a large vortex that is filtered via Minneapolis’ storm water treatment facility.  Eventually the water flows back into the Mississippi River.

Waste Reduction

From a modest beginning in 2009 (composting bathroom paper towels), Minnesota has consistently grown its waste reduction efforts at TCF Bank Stadium.  In fact, they got close to zero-waste status this year and expect to get there in 2014.  From there, it’s on to making the entire Minneapolis campus zero-waste.

As I’ve mentioned in each one of my posts, it is very interesting to analyze the sustainability approaches of each Big 10 athletic department. While Minnesota and Ohio State are both working towards zero-waste, the schools are taking different approaches. Per my Ohio Sate post, part of the food waste sorting process at the Horseshoe (aka Ohio Stadium) is “front of house” at student-patrolled waste stations. The Gophers, on the other hand, are keeping all sorting at the back of the house and relying on a single waste stream to lead them to zero-waste. The reasons behind back-end sorting are 1) it’s lower cost and 2) facilities management wants to keep things clean and less cluttered in the concourse areas where the fans are.  So they eliminated the need for two times as many containers.

Food services provider Aramark, well known for its waste-management-based sustainability program, has been been a big help in the quest to make TCF Bank Stadium zero-waste.  Before there’s food waste, food must be eaten.  Aramark has made a point of offering fair trade, organic and local food choices to Gopher fans. All Aramark concession stands use compostable products and they guide their subcontractors to consider compostable alternatives as well. Hopefully, strong waste reduction guidelines will be written into future contracts with Aramark subcontractors, so that compostables will be a must rather than merely a consideration.

Currently, the zero-waste program ends at the stadium perimeter and does not include the tailgating area. The university’s/athletic department’s long-term vision is to make the tailgating areas zero-waste and eventually to extend zero-waste to the entire campus. Preliminary actions have been taken in tailgating areas: staff members have implemented a system in which they canvass a portion of the tailgate area with trash bag and recycling bags in hand.  Results from the big Wisconsin/Minnesota rivalry game showed Gopher fans were winning off the field, as 78% of waste collected was recycled, 9% was compostable, and 13% was trash.  [On a side note, while the Gophers fans won off the field, MY Wisconsin Badgers won the battle on the field!  That makes it 10 straight years that the Badgers have held on to Paul Bunyan’s Axe!]

Elyssa & Paul Bunyan's Axe

GreenSportsBlog’s Elyssa Emrich (l) proudly wields Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which goes to the winner of the Minnesota/Wisconsin game.  Wisconsin won this year’s Border War to retain the Axe for the 10th straight year.  Minnesota can take some consolation from their strong greening performance at TCF Bank Stadium. (Photo Credit: Elyssa Emrich)


Next season, frequent attendees, such as season ticket holders, will be encouraged to reduce waste and recycle in the tailgating areas. The idea is to establish a small number of influencers who will spread good environmental behavior virally to their friends.  My two cents:  Great idea, but to maximize its effectiveness, the athletic department should provide incentives to those season ticket holders to recycle (i.e. Meet/Greet with players/coaches, free parking, etc).

Finally, I’m happy to confirm that Minnesota-Nice does exist during my interviews with sustainability coordinators Shane Stennes and Dana Donatucci and TCF Bank Stadium Operations Coordinator, Jeff Seifriz. They were generous with their time and opinions on investing in zero-waste and more generally in green initiatives. While it is true, in the short-term, zero-waste is not saving athletic departments money, the athletic department and university do value the environmental benefits of reducing waste and keeping their waste stream clean and simplified. Green jobs are also created in the process (i.e. sorters). As time goes on and they move along the learning curve they will be able to determine the best and most efficient practices.

The long-term vision is, as these best practices are put in place the procedures will become really clean and simplified. We will get to a point where it isn’t more costly because it is so seamless and as the industry scales composting costs will go down,” says Shane Stennes. And Dana Donatucci added to the conversation, “It is best to make the investment early so you can learn early and you can ride out the cost curve. This way you can analyze from the backend and be able to set goals with measurements and find out what is really the best way. It does pay off because you can make the necessary changes after analyzing results.”

I thought Shane put the Gophers’ approach to greening perfectly when he said, “you have two options; #1) you can start small and grow, or #2) you can start [big and] complex and [hope] everything gets easier. We chose the first option.” For Ohio State and Minnesota, Option 1 is a winning strategy. I will be on the lookout for an example of an Option 2 that proves successful.

Finally, the Gophers will be facing a challenge/opportunity that the Buckeyes will not (nor anyone else in the Big 10 for that matter):  The Minnesota Vikings will be renting TCF Bank Stadium in 2014 and 2015 while their incredible new (and hopefully green–GreenSportsBlog will let you know!) home is under construction and the Metrodome is demolished (the Vikings stadium will open on the Metrodome site in July 2016). This will more than double the amount of games at TCF Bank thus more than doubling the amount of waste the stadium generates.  As of right now, there are no set plans as to how operations at the stadium will address zero-waste and other green initiatives during Vikings games. Folks from TCF Stadium, U of Minnesota Athletics Department and the Vikings are talking so there are prospects for zero-waste NFL games at TCF next fall.


The GSB Interview: Aileen McManamon, Bringing Minor League Baseball To The Intersection of Green & Sports

While several major league sports teams have made significant investments at the intersection of Green & Sports, the conventional wisdom is that “Going Green” costs too much green.  Aileen McManamon, Senior Partner at Vancouver and Seattle-based 5T Sports, doesn’t buy it. 5T Sports is a pioneer in making the case that going green makes strong business sense for smaller sports entities–i.e. Minor League Baseball and Junior Hockey–as well as the major leagues.  GSB spoke with McManamon about how the conventional wisdom is all wet.

GreenSportsBlog:  How did you come to start 5T Sports?

Aileen McManamon:  My dream while growing up in the Cleveland area was to work for the Indians.  Baseball’s always been my first love.  After getting my MBA in International Business at the University of South Carolina, I went to work for Fiat in marketing in Germany–working with dealers on experiential marketing, among other things. Sports played a key role–we sponsored cycling; motor sports, of course; and hockey. Eventually I came back to the States and, after working in Business Strategy in the technology sector, then moved to Vancouver with my husband.  Working as a consultant, I landed an assignment with the Vancouver minor league baseball club, becoming COO.  While running a baseball team was incredible and we did a great job building the fan base, I had a different vision than ownership and we parted ways.  5T Sports grew out of that experience and fuses my sports marketing and business strategy background.  An early client was the Province of British Columbia, who hired us to manage events at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games that promoted the BC lifestyle, as well as jobs in the technology and clean tech sectors in the province in the run-up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Aileen McManamon

Aileen McManamon, Senior Partner at Vancouver, BC-based 5T Sports

GSB:  How does sustainability come into play at 5T Sports?

AM:  Well, green is in my DNA–and living in Vancouver, nature is basically in everyone’s backyard.  You can’t help but appreciate it.  And with the Green Sports Alliance being based in the Pacific Northwest (Portland), we’re at the epicenter of Green and Sports.  And, working in the baseball business, I noticed that some big league clubs were greening in  significant ways–on-site solar, LEED construction, recycling–but the minor leagues were not.  Lack of band-width is a big reason why–most minor league clubs have a lack of staff and resources to tackle greening projects.  But, if you could show a minor league team that going green would end up saving them money, that would get their attention.

GSB:  How does 5T Sports help green minor league teams?

AM:  Well, we are bringing our  3-tier greening approach to minor league clubs right now.  The first tier is an in-depth Sustainability Audit.  It’s a 2 day assessment, a deep dive.  We walk through the ballpark and look at a every aspect of a club’s operations from a sustainability point of view.  Lights, water use, on-site energy generation and more.  Next, we come back to the club with a report that suggests what can be done a) immediately, at no/low cost, b) in the medium term, with an investment in the $25,000-$50,000 range, and c) in the long term, with a multi-year investment.  The third tier is project management–we work with the club to determine which greening elements to pursue.  5T Sports will implement all aspects of the greening while instructing team staff on how to manage the greening program after our term ends.  The thing is, no matter which level of investment a club makes, they will realize a positive ROI.  And even if the investment is small, even relatively modest savings can be significant to a minor league club.

GSB:  Where do things stand now?

AM:  Well, we’re working with a minor league club in the midwest.  We’ve completed the first step–the Sustainability Audit–and now we’re waiting to see what level of greening the club wants to explore.  That decision should be finalized after the Baseball Winter Meetings next week.

GSB:  We will be sure to circle back soon to see the next steps!

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A Cold Yet Green Super Bowl In Jersey

The Jersey Super Bowl,  #XLVIII , announced it will be offsetting all energy usage surrounding the Big Game with a Jersey-based energy partner, PSE&G.

The Super Bowl, America’s biggest sporting event by far (108 million Americans watched SB XLVII a year ago, despite the half hour power outage), has proclaimed itself carbon neutral since the carbon emissions associated with 2005 game in Jacksonville were offset by the planting of 1,000 trees.  Since then, the NFL’s Super Bowl greening efforts have grown as the game and the events surrounding it have somehow gotten even bigger.

At the 2012 Super Bowl (XLVI) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Green Mountain Energy (GME) offset the emissions of not only the game itself, but also those of the Indiana Convention Center, site of the NFL Experience Football Theme Park, and of all four of the major NFL hotels.  Check out this infographic to get a sense of the impact of the NFL’s/GME’s greening efforts at SB XLVI. (Editor’s Note:  I have done consulting and sales work for GME).

While the upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands is gaining mega-attention because it 1. is the first cold weather Super Bowl ever, and 2. takes place on my birthday (GroundHog Day, February 2nd), the NFL’s greening efforts are also noteworthy.


All roads lead to Super Bowl XLVIII in the Meadowlands, Greened By PSE&G (Photo Credit: NY Sports Geeks)

This time around, the carbon generated by a Jersey Super Bowl is being offset by a Jersey company with renewable energy credits (RECs) that support Jersey wind-power and solar projects (hey, you got a problem with that?!?!).  According to a story, the NFL is partnering with PSE&G to “offset all energy that will be used in the three weeks leading up to the Super Bowl and the week after at MetLife Stadium, as well as at the two Jersey City hotels that will be used by the Super Bowl teams. The NFL’s Super Bowl headquarters hotel in mid-Manhattan is also included in the agreement.”

PSE&G will buy the RECs to offset the carbon and, instead of being reimbursed by the NFL, will be compensated with outdoor advertising.  The company will use the incredible Super Bowl platform to highlight the success of the solar power industry in New Jersey–as of July, 2013, New Jersey ranked #4 in installed solar per capita, trailing only Arizona, Nevada and Hawai’i and ahead of sun splashed states New Mexico and California.  A strong rebate and tax credit regimen over many years has allowed New Jersey to take a leadership stake in US solar despite its less-than-optimal solar profile.

Solar Panels @ MetLife

Solar panels ring the roof of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, home of the first cold weather Super Bowl (Photo Credit:

My hope/bet is that Fox, which is televising Super Bowl XLVIII, will not only highlight PSEG’s role in greening the game, but will also mention and/or show, the solar panels, installed by NRG (parent company of GME), that ring the roof of MetLife Stadium.  If that happens, despite the 99.99999% certainty that the Jets will not be playing in the Super Bowl for the XLVth straight year, I will have a very happy birthday indeed.

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The GSB Interview: Harry Groome, Fans Without Footprints

Harry Groome, a Boston-based marketing executive with deep experience in the consumer rewards business, had the idea 5 years ago that pro and college sports could do a significantly better job of engaging fans in their greening efforts.  So he and his New York City-based opposite number, Walter Ife, founded FansWithoutFootprints (FWF), to move the Green-Sports movement in the fans’ direction.  GSB and Harry recently chatted about FWF and the challenges of turning it from concept to reality:

GreenSportsBlog:  How did Fans Without Footprints come to be?

Harry Groome:  Walter Ife and I have worked together on a variety of marketing disciplines over the last 15 years or so, from consumer strategy to sports marketing; from publishing to luxury.  Interested in green marketing, I went to the 2008 Sustainable Brands conference in Miami and realized that “Big Boys” (i.e. Coke and IBM) were playing in sustainability, not just the Birkenstocks of the world.  On the plane ride back to Boston, I realized that, with Big Corporates involved, that there is an opportunity for real change to happen by activating the masses (i.e. fans ).  We connected the dots which led to the creation of FansWithoutFootprints, which started by working with teams help teams offset their fans’ travel to and from games.

Harry Groome

Harry Groome, Co-Founder, Fans Without Footprints

GSB:  What was the business model?

HG:  Initially we looked at getting teams to buy carbon credits to offset fans’ travel, and having sponsors underwrite it.  But the carbon credit model is a load of crap, in part because much of the money goes to offshore projects, so Walter and I pivoted in 2010 to focus on the fan and rewarding their green activities by supporting green-themed charitable programs in their local communities.  Teams, leagues and fans all liked this concept.

GSB: What’s not to like?  How does it work?

HG:  Fans of participating teams sign up for an FWF app and get points for green actions (recycling, composting, buying renewable energy).  They redeem those points for special, exclusive access with their teams–including meet & greets with players, discounts on tickets, etc.

GSB:  How much does it cost the fan?

HG:  It’s free–team sponsors pay for it.

GSB:  That’s FANtastic! Where can I sign up?

HG: It’s still in the concept stage in that teams have not sold it yet to sponsors.  A couple of pro football and hockey teams in the northeast have offered the FWF program to prospective sponsors but, when we started in 2010, we were still in the shadow of the financial collapse and teams had an excess of basic sponsorship inventory they needed to sell before they could take on something new like FWF.

GSB:  I get that but now that we’re a couple years beyond the worst of the “Econo-pocalypse”, how come sponsors aren’t jumping on it?

HG:  One of the reasons is that the teams don’t know how to position FWF.  Meaning that, while we see it as a classic marketing rewards opportunity, potential sponsors almost reflexively place anything with the word “green” in it in the philanthropy bucket.  And teams have been unable to shift FWF to where it belongs, in marketing.  So much of our work has been and continues to be getting teams to position us properly.

GSB:  While you are working on getting this incarnation of FWF sold to a sponsor, what else have you got in the pipeline?

HG:  A couple of exciting things.  One is, with an international partner, creating a FWF-style app for mega international events, starting with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and going through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  That deal is pending.  Two, we’re working on something called Reverse Vending as a pilot program with Harvard, Boston College and MIT athletics.  It’s a variation on Bottle Return Deposit program in which fans get a 5¢ credit for each bottle they return to kiosks in tailgate areas.  They can take that credit in cash or donate it to selected charities.  And last, but not least is that we’re looking at 2014 as the year in which the basic FWF concept becomes sponsored.

GSB:  2014 promises to be a busy one indeed for FWF.  Best wishes in making it The Year of the Green Sports Fan!

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