American football fans across the United States and worldwide will be glued to their television sets on February 11, the date Super Bowl LVIII takes place. The Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will hold over 70,000 supporters of the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, each hoping to see their team lift the famous Vince Lombardi Trophy.
However, amongst the glitz, glam, and likely appearance of Taylor Swift in the crowd, the all too real problem is the sheer amount of waste those fans will produce. What, if anything, are the positive initiatives the National Football League (NFL) is doing for the planet?
Football fans inside the state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium will be mostly fixated on the game’s outcome. At the same time, many of the 113 million global viewers will be more concerned with placing a bet on Super Bowl online than they are about the environmental impact of a football game.
Most supporters attending games are blissfully unaware that they are partly responsible for approximately 35 tons of waste each time they watch their team in action, and this often balloons by 50% during the Super Bowl. That is an obscene amount of waste, especially considering that, until relatively recently, around 80 percent of it found its way to landfill. Thankfully, NFL teams are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and have several initiatives and programs to help reduce waste of food, water, and energy.
Some of NFL Green’s Initiatives
Launched in 1993, NFL Green is the league’s environmental program. It is designed to create a lasting legacy in each community that hosts the NFL’s major events, including the NFL Draft, the Pro Bowl, and the Super Bowl. NFL Green joins forces with local committees, nonprofit organizations, and various government agencies to ensure they leave a city in better condition than when they arrived for a major event.
For example, the local food banks in Las Vegas are set for a significant increase in food donations after Super Bowl LVIII. According to the NFL Green website, Super Bowl events generate up to 140,000 pounds of donatable food and beverages, including unserved and packaged snacks. These are gifted to charitable causes instead of ending up in the trash and, ultimately, landfills.
Before every Super Bowl, Verizon, one of the NFL’s key partners, hosts an E-waste event at the zoo local to the Super Bowl venue. The e-waste recycling event, which lasts one day, sees people from far and wide encouraged to bring their unwanted electronic devices to the zoo, where rare and valuable minerals are removed. Many of these materials are mined in the zoo’s animals’ natural habitat, so recycling them helps reduce the impact of those animals in the wild.
It is not only food that is wasted in abundance during a typical Super Bowl because thousands of pounds of other materials become surplus to requirements once the big game ends. These include building materials for broadcasting booths, thousands of yards of carpets, and other decor fabrics. NFL Green works with the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, schools, and other groups to keep these donatable items from landfills.
Does the Allegiant Stadium Have Sustainability Policies?
The Allegiant Stadium is one of the newest sports arenas in the United States. The state-of-the-art venue cost $1.9 billion to construct, making it the second-most expensive stadium in the world, behind only the SoFi Stadium of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers NFL franchises.
Although the stadium’s developers and management team neglect to say if recycled steel was used during construction – the Met Life Stadium of the New York Giants used 40,000 tons of recycled steel – they take sustainability seriously in other areas.
The Allegiant Stadium is the home of the Las Vegas Raiders, the first-ever NFL franchise to play in a stadium 100% powered by renewable energy sources. All electricity used comes from Nevada-sourced renewable energy. LED lighting throughout the stadium helps lessen the electrical burden placed on the venue.
Like all sports stadiums, the latest Super Bowl venue creates substantial food and water waste, which the Allegiant Stadium works hard to reduce. For example, the stadium’s vast kitchens produce an average of 11,000 pounds of waste, from food scraps to prep cuttings. These are donated to the local Las Vegas livestock farms, where it is used as feed.
High-tech sinks, toilets, and urinals help conserve a staggering volume of water annually. On average, over 530 million gallons of water are saved annually thanks to the high-efficiency fixtures throughout the stadium. Clean wasted water irrigates the plant beds and the 425 trees around the stadium’s exterior.
The stadium’s dedication to reducing landfill waste extends to the grass cuttings from the field of play. The Las Vegas Raiders have donated over 500 tons of grass cuttings since September 2021 to provide animal bedding instead of being incinerated or buried in the ground.
Even items that cannot be recycled, such as paper products and food scraps, are combined with soil by the stadium’s onsite biomass machine to create compost. The stadium produces a lot of waste, but the management team looks to be trying to reduce the waste or recycle as much as possible.
The next time you attend an NFL or college football game, be aware of the massive amounts of waste each game produces. Be mindful of the waste you are personally responsible for, and ensure you make full use of any recycling facilities in and around the stadium. Making others around you aware of their impact on the environment is equally important. See someone throw something on the floor? Please encourage them to pick it up and use the recycling points.
Furthermore, make yourself aware of your local teams’ initiatives and see if you can support them. Contact your teams’ management and ask them about their sustainability policies and projects. If they don’t have them, ask why. The NFL is doing its part, as are many of its teams, but we can all do more; so let’s do it!