Sunday, May 29, 2011

Athletics and the Environment

Athletics and the Environment- long, but worth the read if I do say so myself.  This was the final product of my quarter research project.

The current status of various aspects of the earth’s environment is somewhat grim, and therefore calls for “green” movements to increase the overall sustainability of the earth’s population and their actions.  What does sustainability mean? ­ Sustainability has three components; environment, equity, and economy; that come together to form a sort of lifestyle that ensures the longevity of the earth, its environment, and its resources (Wells).  The earth’s resources; which include forests, water, fossil fuels, minerals, etc.; are currently being used at a rate that cannot be supported over time.  It has become common knowledge that it would take    multiple earths with the same resource capacity in order to maintain current consumption rates into the future.  A sustainable environment and sustainable practices are ones that meet the needs of the present without compromising the availability of resources for future generations.  Because the earth’s resources, despite their seeming abundance, are in fact finite, it is up to the earth’s inhabitants to use what is available in a way that will not harm the earth’s potential to replenish its supply and provide natural resources in the future.
Sustainability is somewhat of a lifestyle change that needs to be taken on as a responsibility by all levels of society.  Sustainable actions and techniques, products and materials should be encompassed in everyday life.  Credit must be given to all of the changes that have already been made, ranging from protection of endangered species to the coming ban of single-use plastic bags in Santa Monica, California, (Groves) but there is still much to be done.  With the longevity of the earth and its environment becoming such a prominent focus of today’s society, it is important to look into how established corporations, especially those not traditionally thought of as being environmental leaders, can do their part to preserve the natural environment.   As sports teams and stadiums include hundreds of possibilities around the globe that are prime candidates for becoming environmental stewards, this paper will examine sustainability and its relationship with athletics, including the impact of athletics on the environment, any current and further possibilities for change, and potential successes and savings that could be made. 

Sports and the Environment
Past and Present Initiatives
            Joining environmental concerns with pop culture, in this case sports, is not a new concept.  Various actions have already been successful worldwide.  A range of sporting events and venues have had sustainable goals in mind starting as early as 1994 with the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway (Furrer).  In addition to trash recycling plans, the 1994 Games had an environmental strategy that included recycled building materials and energy-efficient heating and lighting for the new stadiums (Schmidt) .  In 1995, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) held the World Conference on Sport and the Environment.  It is here that the natural environment joined sport and culture as the third element of the Olympic Games organization (Jagemann). Agenda 21 was adopted by the Olympic Movement in 1999 and stated that all future Games locations must show environmental commitments that include “energy use, water consumption, waste generation, and sustainable building construction” (Schmidt).  The 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney successfully complied with the Agenda’s requirements, set sustainable standards for future events, and encouraged others to follow their lead (Furrer).  Germany implemented a “Green Goal” for their stadium when they hosted the World Cup in 2006, and South Africa followed similar plans in 2010 (Schmidt and Sebake).  According to a 2009 survey performed by ProGreenSports, an organization that helps sports organizations meld business and sustainability, more than eighty percent of professional sports teams in the United States are interested in and plan to improve their sustainability programs (McSherry).
            In addition to events and stadiums making environmentally sustainable efforts, organizations and coalitions have been started that encourage improvement of the relationship between athletics and the environment.  In 1994, UNEP created the Sports and Environment Program meant to promote environmental awareness through sports by, among other things, designing sustainable sporting facilities and equipment.  Equipment and the recycling of materials have inspired multiple movements within athletics.  For example, Nike has a program called Reuse-A-Shoe that recycles athletic shoes to make a substance that is used to resurface rubberized fields and courts.  A second program, works to reduce, reuse, and recycle sporting equipment (Schmidt).

Environmental Impact
Athletic entertainment, whether played or watched, is a material and resource intensive activity that has considerable environmental impacts.  Sports of all kinds have great environmental footprints.  For example, ski slopes are carved out of delicate mountain ecosystems; golf courses consume large amounts of land, pesticides, and water; stadium and arena parking lots create huge paved surfaces that do not promote groundwater infiltration; and high attendance events create greenhouse gasses, use energy, and produce waste all in excessive amounts.  According to UNEP, the construction, management, and operation of athletic facilities harm the environment in the following ways: “development of fragile ecosystems or scarce land for sport, noise and light pollution from sport, consumption of non-renewable resources (fuel, metals, etc.), consumption of natural resources (water, wood, paper, etc.), emission of greenhouse gases by consuming electricity and fuel, ozone layer depletion (from refrigerants), soil and water pollution from pesticide use, soil erosion during construction and from spectators, and waste generation from construction of facilities and from spectators” (United Nations Environment Programme). 
Text Box: Figure 1. The estimated carbon footprint of the 2010 World Cup (Berners-Lee)WorldCup.jpgIn just two weeks, the transportation and utility use of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens produced half a million tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.  Transportation and utilities emitted 500 tons of carbon dioxide during the 2006 Super Bowl, a sporting event that lasts for only one day.  The 2006 World Cup was estimated to generate five to ten tons of trash and use three million kilowatt hours of energy during each match (Schmidt).  The FIFA 2010 World Cup’s plans to be climate neutral by purchasing carbon off-sets sparked a study by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the Norwegian Government to estimate the projected carbon footprint.  The study approximated that the 2010 World Cup would emit 896,661 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) from the games themselves, a number more than eight times greater than what was estimated for the 2006 World Cup.  Another 1,856,589 tCO2e were projected to come from international travel (Poyry).  Figure 1 shows facets of greenhouse gas production from the 2010 World Cup that contribute to the estimated carbon footprint of almost three million tCO2e.  It can be assumed that similar contributions would be made from other international sporting events. 
The environmental impact of sports is not limited to the events themselves.  Athletics require specific clothing and equipment which demand initial manufacturing that will eventually become waste.  For instance, thirty million tennis balls are produced each year, and as anyone who has played tennis knows, many of these balls are lost and simply replaced (Schmidt).  Mobility related to sports is primarily by automobile, which contributes both to traffic and greenhouse gas emissions (Jagemann).
As illustrated above, sporting events are highly taxing to the environment.  Although not all athletic proceedings are on the same scale as international events such as the World Cup, they happen often enough and have enough attendance to justify environmental changes.  Sports organizations in the United States, particularly those of high attendance like professional and college level leagues, need to take on a larger role in environmental stewardship.  Not only are these organizations extremely large, but their prominence in popular culture and ability to make an impact in terms of education are key features that should make the greening of professional athletics a priority. 

Benefits of Sustainable Athletics
Environmental changes within the athletics industry would have dual benefits.  Obviously, the environment would gain from such actions, but the organizations would also see beneficial returns.  According to Mark McSherry of ProGreenSports, green initiatives create an extra connection with sports fans and the communities in which the teams call home.  “Eco-efficiency cost savings, corporate sponsorship, and green advertising” would also increase financial net profits.  In fact, “over seventy percent of team executives say that implementing effective green strategy will increase brand loyalty… (and teams) are six times more likely to expect their green program to increase profit rather than decrease profit” (McSherry).  According to the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) Report, sustainable green initiatives have vast consumer appeal and political backing (Reilly).  Sustainable actions and changes not only benefit the environment, but would also provide marketing benefits to the organizations and educational benefits to fans exposed to the concepts (Vanderweil).  Since a fan is generally pretty comfortable with his or her team and stadium, the display of green techniques and technologies could very well help to remove some skepticisms held toward the subject and all it involves (McIntire). Because the athletic industry would not experience losses, the implementation of sustainable practices within athletics should be adopted without question.

The Study: MLB, NBA, and NFL
The remainder of this study will focus on the three most attended professional athletic organization in the United States: Major League Baseball (the MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Football League (NFL).   According to ProGreenSports’ 2009 survey of more than fifty professional sports teams, “about half the teams have developed or are actively considering developing a sustainability plan with short and long term goals” (McSherry).  This study will examine estimated environmental disturbances caused by the leagues’ stadiums; including water, energy use, emissions, and waste.  It will also look at planned green strategies and those that have already been implemented in some of the stadiums.  The progress made from initiatives already in place will then be used to calculate the potential savings if all of the stadiums and arenas within these leagues were to adopt similar environmental standards. 
Major League Baseball has thirty teams, each with their own stadium.  During each regular season all teams play 162 games, making a total of 2,430 regular season MLB games played each year.  This number does not include the variable number of post-season games; nor does it include pre-season games, which are not as heavily attended but often are played in different facilities all together.  The NBA also has thirty teams, each of which plays eighty-two games during the regular season.  Not including post season games, the NBA plays a total of 1,230 games per year.  The NFL’s thirty-two teams play sixteen regular season games, making a total of 256 games.  This number does not include the sixty-five total pre-season games and eleven post season games.  None of these total league game numbers include specialty games and events such as All-Star Games.  In total, each year there are 3,916 regular season games played in the eighty-six different stadiums used in the MLB, NBA, and NFL. 

Current Progress
Environmental consciousness has had a presence for some years now and a number of the MLB, NBA, and NFL team have already made green decisions and changes within their stadiums.  These professional sports leagues have been around since 1876, 1946, and 1920, respectively, meaning that many of the stadiums have undergone renovations and replacements.  In many cases, stadiums that have been built or retrofitted within the last three years have done so with sustainable standards in mind.  The green building trend gained momentum in 2008 when Nationals Park, now home of MLB’s Washington Nationals, attained LEED silver certification and became the first LEED certified sports arena in the United States.  LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a third party verification system that gives certification to buildings that are built or retrofitted using sustainable strategies.  There are four levels of LEED certification; bronze, silver, gold, and platinum; and buildings can be certified as new or existing structures.  Both the NBA and MLB have multiple stadiums that have received some sort of LEED certification, and the NFL’s first LEED certified stadium is planned to be built in Los Angeles. 
Various forms of green innovations have been used throughout athletic stadiums, both LEED certified and not.  In preparation for the 2003 World Series, Pro Player Stadium in Miami (now Sun Life Stadium) installed 228 waterless urinals into the men’s restrooms.  In a typical commercial installation, each urinal has the potential to save 40,000 gallons of water per year.  Their use at World Series games, where attendance can reach 65,000 fans, would easily conserve up to 100,000 gallons per game.  When installed at an athletic stadium, the waterless urinals conserve millions of gallons of water each season (Business Wire Editors).
New Meadowlands Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants, was a new stadium completed in 2010.  This stadium, although not LEED certified, encompasses a variety of sustainable measures.  A few of the stadiums innovations are as follows: Energy saving techniques are used so that the new stadium uses thirty percent less energy than the previous one, despite being twice the size.  New Meadowlands reports that seventy tons of waste is generated on an average game day, fifty tons in the parking areas and twenty tons in the stadium.  Their recycling and compost plans are meant to reduce waste generation by twenty-five percent.  Water saving tactics used at the stadium reduce demand by a reported 11,000,000 gallons per year, which is a twenty-five percent reduction of the stadiums annual average water demand.  Included in this number is a synthetic turf which saves 3,500,000 gallons per year, waterless urinals which save 2,700,000 gallons per year, and native plants and improved irrigation that save 700,000 gallons of water per year.  The stadium’s easily accessible alternative transportation options will keep about 4,000 cars off of the roads on game days (New Meadowlands Stadium).
The San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park became certified at the silver level of LEED for Existing Buildings in 2010.  The stadium’s solar panels and lighting retrofits have saved large amounts of energy.  Over a two-year time period, solar power avoided the release of 360,000 pounds of greenhouse gasses.  More energy efficient lighting saved 171,000 kilowatt hours of energy over the same period.  These savings would be enough to supply power to more than 5,200 homes per year.  Recycling and compost programs at the park keep forty percent of waste from reaching the landfill.  One of the stadium’s most unique aspects is its sustainable concession stand that cuts gas and electricity consumption, reduces the use of cooking oil, and uses one hundred percent biodegradable and recyclable materials (San Francisco Giants).
The Philadelphia Eagles' stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, uses various energy generating tactics to create most of its own energy.  The stadium has 2,500 solar panels, eighty wind turbines, and both natural gas and biodiesel generators.  Thirty-two percent of the stadium’s waste is recycled and more than twenty-five tons is composted.  Each year, 10,000 gallons of grease and oil are saved and converted to biodiesel.  Lincoln Financial uses waterless urinals, low flush toilets, low flow shower heads and faucets, and synthetic turf; all of which are water saving tactics that are part of the stadium's plan to save nine million gallons of water per year.  In addition to traditional energy, water, and waste savings, the stadium makes sure that their food service and cleaning contractors use non-toxic chemicals, environment-friendly serving products, and one hundred percent recycled toilet paper and towels (Belson).

Potential Savings
These environmental successes are only a few samples of green changes that have been made in the professional athletic industry, but either way there is still much work to be done.  If all eighty-six stadiums were to adopt sustainable practices, fairly substantial numbers of energy, water, and waste could be saved.  It probably would not be very feasible for all stadiums to adopt the near self-sufficient energy standards of Lincoln Financial Field, but more modest changes could be made to make savings similar to AT&T Park.  If all eighty-six stadiums avoided the annual 180,000 pounds of greenhouse gasses and 85,500 kilowatt hours of electricity that AT&T Park does, the three leagues could have a combined annual savings of 15,480,000 pounds of greenhouse gasses and 7,353,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. 
Text Box: Figure 2, United States 2008 CO2 Emissions (US Environmental Protection Agency)According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States emitted 6956.8 teragrams of carbon dioxide equivalent (TgCO2Eq) greenhouse gasses in 2008, nineteen percent of total global emissions.  A majority of these emissions came from the generation of electricity and transportation (figures 2), activities that are necessary for the success of professional athletic industries (US Environmental Protection Agency).   The projected annual savings of pounds of greenhouse gasses calculated above is equivalent to 0.007 TgCO2Eq.  This means that if all stadiums in the MLB, the NBA, and the NFL were to adopt similar sustainable and environmentally conscious techniques, 1.01 x 10-4 percent of the United States’ annual greenhouse gas emissions could be saved each year. 
Assuming that the average stadium sporting event generates the total seventy tons of waste reported by New Meadowlands Stadium, the annual 3,916 regular season games would produce a total of 274,120 tons of waste.  If AT&T Park’s forty percent waste diversion methods (the highest mentioned in this study) were adopted in all stadiums, 109,648 tons of waste could be kept out of land fill each year. 
Text Box: Figure 3, United States 2009 Municipal Solid Waste production by category (US Environmental Protection Agency)

The EPA’s report on municipal solid waste (MSW) generation in 2009 says that 243 million tons of MSW were generated in the United States that year (US Environmental Protection Agency).  Figure 3 shows the distribution of waste materials that make up the total weight.  The three largest contributors; paper and paperboard, food scraps, and yard trimmings; are three common waste products of professional sporting events.  The annual forty percent waste reductions projected for each stadium would total 109,648 tons, making a yearly decrease equal to .045 percent of all MSW.
            In the United States, 408 billion gallons of water was withdrawn each day in the year 2000, meaning that 148,920 billion gallons were used each year.  This number covers all uses, almost half of which (forty-eight percent) was for thermoelectric power (Hutson, Barber and Kenny).  If all stadiums used the same water saving techniques as New Meadowlands Stadium (11,000,000 gallons per year,) the athletics industry could conserve 946,000,000 gallons of water per year.  This would create an annual savings of 6.35 x 10-4 percent of the United States’ typical water use.

Because this study focuses only on the MLB, NBA, and NFL, the reported calculations of potential savings are limited.  Also, calculations only include traditional regular season events relevant to the teams housed at the particular stadiums, despite the fact that large sporting arenas are often multiple use facilities and therefore are in use year-round.  Although there are far more athletic leagues and events that take place both in the U.S. and world-wide, these leagues encompass the most attended sporting events in the U.S. and therefore were the focus of this study.  The limits of the study’s calculations only mean that the numbers reported are low estimates.
 Because stadiums are used for more than the traditional athletic games and because there are additional organizations and events, including Major League Soccer, the National Hockey League, college athletics, and multitudes of international events, actual uses and savings are and would be higher than what is reported here.  Although the potential savings seems small, it is important to remember the limits of this survey.  If sustainable techniques were adopted and applied to stadiums nation and world-wide, including those outside of the focus of this study, savings would be far greater. 

Text Box: Table 1, Professional athletics and the environment, uses and savings (Rowand)            As the environment gains priority in today’s society, athletics need to play their part in its conservation.  Both spectator and participant sports are incredibly taxing to the earth and its resources and the industries need to consider and implement sustainable measures.  If actions that have previously been demonstrated achievable were to be taken in all eighty-six regular season stadiums utilized by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League, significant numbers of environmental disturbances could be reduced.  Calculations show that 15,480,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions could be prevented each year, 1.01 x 10-4% of annual national emissions.  The three leagues could save a combined 946,000,000 gallons of water per year, 6.35 x 10-4% of the nation’s annual water use.  According to calculations, waste could be most significantly affected by sustainable changes to the professional athletics industry.  109,648 tons of waste could be diverted from landfill from the implementation of recycling and compost programs and product replacement.  These savings would equal .045% of the nation’s annual municipal solid waste production.  See table 1 for projected environmental savings.

                Although the projected percent savings may seem small, any sustainable contributions are beneficial; and both the environment and the corporations profit from such changes.  First, the calculated savings represent only a small portion of the world of athletic stadiums and arenas.  If applied to current and future facilities world-wide, the environmental impacts, or lack thereof, would be significantly higher.  Second, sustainable initiatives taken in such public scenes have a great impact on participating societies.  Seeing such large and loved entities care for the environment should encourage changes at the individual level.  The demonstrated advantages of the adoption of environment-friendly initiatives by athletic facilities and corporations should inspire industry wide adoption of sustainable practices. 

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