The Eco-Playbook: Unveiling the Environmental Impact of the Super Bowl and NFL Stadiums
The Super Bowl is HERE. Whether you’re a Niners die hard, Kansas City (or Swiftie) devotee, Seahawks lover, Bills aficionado, an Eagles fanatic (like me), or a fan of one of the other teams, it’s one of the most-watched sporting events globally, captivating millions of viewers every year. While the game itself is the peak celebration of athleticism and entertainment, the environmental impact often goes unnoticed. From energy consumption to waste generation, the Super Bowl leaves a significant footprint on and off the field.
Hosting the Super Bowl involves an enormous amount of energy consumption, primarily driven by the need for electricity to power the event. Stadiums, surrounding facilities, and the city itself require substantial energy resources, and the extensive use of lighting, sound systems, and electronic displays contribute to increased demand during the big day game.
In fact, watching the Super Bowl results in the consumption of over 11 million kilowatt-hours of energy. This amount is comparable to the energy needed to power three entire cities just from the TVs tuned in to watch the game.
Organizers have taken steps to offset this impact, with some stadiums incorporating renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies. Each year, the NFL evaluates the electricity consumption at event facilities and then purchases Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) equal to the total energy used. This practice not only funds the expansion of “green” electricity capacity nationwide, but also serves as a scientifically endorsed approach to offset the greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of energy usage.
Did you know that these 10 NFL stadiums are solar powered?
1. Lincoln Financial Field – Home of the Philadelphia Eagles
- System size: 3 MW (3,000 kW) – 11,108 total solar panels
- In their green energy initiative, the stadium incorporates 14 wind turbines, contributing about 33 percent of its annual energy consumption.
- The stadium’s energy system holds a prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification.
2. FedEx Field – Home of the Washington Commanders
- System size: 2 MW (2,000 kW) – 8,000 total solar panels
- Able to meet 20 percent of the stadium’s energy needs during games and the full demand on non-game days.
- The solar panel setup results in a 15 percent reduction in the stadium’s annual energy consumption.
- Recognized as the largest solar power installation in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
3. Mercedez-Benz – Home of the Atlanta Falcons
- System size: 1.3 MW (1,300 kW) – 4,000+ total solar panels
- Generates roughly 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy annually.
- The stadium’s innovative design prioritizes high energy efficiency and incorporates renewable energy sources.
4. Gillette Stadium – Home of the New England Patriots
- System size: 1 MW (1,300 kW) – 3,000+ total solar panels
- Provides roughly 60 percent of the complex’s energy needs.
- Solar layout spans seven building rooftops and contributes about 30 percent of the stadium’s power.
- Gillette’s system aims to generate 12 million kWh over 20 years, preventing the release of over 8,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
5. CenturyLink Field – Home of the Seattle Seahawks
- System size: 800 kW – 3,750 total solar panels
- Spanning 80 percent of the event center roof across 2.5 acres, the solar project includes 3,750 thin-film solar panels, producing 830,000 kWh of electricity each year.
- This energy output is sufficient to power 95 Seattle-area homes for a year, contributing to a 21 percent reduction in annual utility costs.
- The combined energy initiatives resulted in cutting the facility’s carbon footprint by approximately 1,350 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.
6. MetLife – Home of the New York Jets & Giants
- System size: 350 kW – 1,350 total solar panels
- Created their own solar system, “The Solar Ring,” which powers the stadium’s integrated LED lighting, display system, and daily electricity requirements.
- Sole sports facility in the U.S. with a roof adorned with solar panels.
7. M&T Bank – Home of the Baltimore Ravens
- System size: 400 kW – 1,210 total solar panels
- Produces about 460,000 kWh of electricity, meeting 15 percent of the team headquarters’ power requirements.
- Generated electricity offsets of approximately 317 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from non-renewable sources.
8. Levi – Home of the San Francisco 49ers
- System size: 375 kW – 1,162 total solar panels
- Levi Stadium’s solar panels are expected to annually generate enough energy to offset the power used during 49ers’ regular season home games, working towards the long-term goal of “net zero” carbon released through energy use.
- Have a panel array and three distinctive solar bridges that serve as the main entry and exit points.
9. NRG – Home of the Houston Texans
- System size: 180 kW – 600 total solar panels
- Solar arrangement comprises of canopy structures and mounted arrays.
- NRG was the first inaugural professional football stadium in the nation with LED lights.
10. Arrowhead Stadium/Truman Sports Complex – Home of the KC Chiefs
- System size: 25 kW – 308 total solar panels
- Solar structure consists of three arrays, which generate roughly 29,000 kWh of electricity a year.
While many stadiums have made advancements in energy efficiency by incorporating LED lighting, fine-tuning HVAC systems, and integrating renewable energy sources like solar panels, there’s still room for improvement.
Carbon Emissions and Travel
With 32 teams situated nationwide, NFL players, coaches, and staff regularly travel the country for games, practices, and promotional events, leading to considerable carbon emissions. Fortunately, the NFL has actively worked towards minimizing its environmental footprint, committing to evolving into a “net zero” emissions league. This entails offsetting all GHG emissions by implementing measures to reduce its own emissions and backing projects that reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).
The Super Bowl generates an immense amount of waste, ranging from single-use plastics to discarded event materials. Concession stands, promotional activities, and post-game cleanup also contribute to the accumulation of non-biodegradable waste.
To combat this issue, stadiums have started adopting eco-friendly practices, such as recycling programs and composting initiatives. NFL Green collaborates closely with stadiums and event facilities to optimize and enhance recycling and waste diversion rates. Sponsors actively participate in Zero Waste and fan engagement initiatives. Each host community provides unique chances to divert waste from landfills, and tailored annual programs capitalize on venue practices and community infrastructure for recycling and composting.
Every year the NFL, in collaboration with NFL Sponsor Verizon and a local zoo, hosts the Super Bowl E-Waste Event to showcase how to responsibly recycle E-Waste. This initiative aims to recover valuable minerals from electronic items that are no longer in use. By recycling these materials, the event contributes to the preservation of animal habitats, where many of these materials are originally sourced and mined.
Hosting an event of this magnitude requires significant water usage for various purposes, including maintaining the playing field, restroom facilities, sanitation, and catering. In regions facing water scarcity or drought conditions, the Super Bowl’s water consumption raises concerns about resource allocation.
To address this, organizers are exploring water-efficient technologies, implementing conservation measures, and supporting local water stewardship initiatives. Simultaneously, the NFL educates fans on water conservation through its sustainability outreach program.
NFL Green focuses on mitigating the environmental impact of major league events, leaving a lasting green legacy in each community hosting the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, and the NFL Draft. To achieve these objectives, NFL Green actively collaborates with league sponsors, local host committees, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations (i.e., the Environmental Defense Fund).
NFL Green projects are hands-on and aim to create a sustainable impact in every host community that lasts after games are played or events have ended. Since its inception in 1993, NFL Green has become recognized for helping transform the Super Bowl into the greenest professional sports event in America.
NFL Green collaborates closely with local community organizations and parks and recreation departments to integrate community greening projects into the management of major events. These initiatives include tree planting, creating green spaces for children, establishing community gardens in areas with limited access to fresh produce, restoring habitats, and participating in reforestation projects involving tens of thousands of seedlings. Funding comes from NFL, sponsors, local event host committees, and grant recipients, providing a dollar-for-dollar match for each greening project grant.
While the Super Bowl is a celebration of sports and entertainment, its environmental footprint is substantial, impacting energy consumption, waste generation, carbon emissions from travel, water usage, and more. Efforts to mitigate this impact are underway, with many NFL stadiums adopting eco-friendly practices, integrating renewable energy sources, and actively participating in waste diversion and recycling programs.
The NFL’s commitment to becoming a “net zero” emissions league and initiatives like NFL Green highlight the league’s dedication to creating a sustainable legacy in each host community. As we celebrate the excitement of the big game, it’s crucial to recognize and support ongoing environmental efforts, ensuring that the Super Bowl not only captivates millions but also champions a greener future.