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Jan 282011

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Super Bowl XLV, being played in the nearly new ginormous 80,000-seat Cowboys Stadium, which expands to a capacity of 110,000 counting standing-room spots, will be the biggest ever in terms of on-site audience.

Cowboys Stadium

This mega event — counting the Feb. 6 game and official hotel and related activities — will suck up enough energy to power 1,500 homes for a year, according to Just Energy.

The Toronto-based energy retailer is helping the National Football League buy green power to offset the energy that will be expended on all the hoopla and bright lights.

The NFL, which has a long history of making Super Bowls successively greener, bought offsets for last year’s match up, too. But this year’s offset purchase has grown to cover the expanding size of the event and more venues for a longer period of time, making this not just the Uber-of-All Super Bowls in terms of on-site audience, but “the greenest ever” as well, according to Just Energy.

“Each year we try to reach further in our effort to address the environmental impact of our activities. Working with Just Energy this year has allowed us to expand the renewable energy project at Super Bowl to more venues for a longer period of time than ever before in the history of Super Bowl,” said Jack Groh, director of the National Football League Environmental Program.

So let us count the ways that Super Bowl XLV is green, and not so green.


1. Offsetting power use with green power purchases will make this Super Bowl “carbon neutral” — no small feat.  The NFL and the North Texas Host Committee (composed of 12 area cities) have bought 15,000 megawatts of Renewable Energy Certificates connected to wind power farms in Sweetwater, Texas.

These Renewable Energy Certificates or RECs will offset:

  • The energy used at Cowboys Stadium for the past month and during the Super Bowl.
  • The electricity used at NFL Super Bowl headquarters and at the Super Bowl media center (imagine the computers recharging there).
  • Energy consumed at the AFC and NFC team hotels.

Here’s how the offsets work. When a company or organization isn’t able to buy

The Sweetwater Wind Farm that will provide green energy equivalent to that used by Super Bowl XLV

green energy directly, it can buy equivalents or offsets, that support green energy where it can be found. In this case, the Super Bowl offsets will support the Sweetwater wind project in West Texas, where a significant portion of U.S. wind power is based.

Texas is the leader among U.S. states in wind power capacity, with turbines capable of generating more than 10,000 Megawatts of power. The cities of Houston, Austin and Dallas all rank among the top 10 cities buying green power, according to the EPA.

Which brings us to the first non-green aspect of the big event….


2. Whoa, there Cowboys Stadium! How come the NFL has to buy green power offsets for the stadium, when it quite possibly could be buying wind power directly?

Cowboys Stadium gets its power from Reliant Energy, according to the stadium’s owner, the city of Arlington. So it could already be on a green energy plan (Reliant offers wind power plans, including a 100 percent wind power plan for residential customers).

We’re waiting to hear back on this matter from the Cowboys organization, which operates the stadium. Maybe they are buying green power. In which case, this Super Bowl offset is a double-gain.


3. The $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium, despite its heft — 3 million square feet with a high-def center video screen that’s the largest in the free world — did incorporate many green features when it was built. The retractable roof, for instance, is translucent,

Cowboys Stadium makes use of day light/

providing natural light that can reduce the need for electric lights.

The architectural marvel also gets day light from giant glass walls (‘course the Super Bowl’s mainly after dark). And massive doors at either end zone can be opened for ventilation, reducing heating and cooling costs.

The debate: Can such a monolith even be green? The defense: Entertainment/sports arenas occupy a rare building category all their own.


4 . Visitors to Super Bowl XLV can take public transportation. Score North Texas green on this one. The Dallas area boasts an extensive light rail network built by the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system that serves 13 area cities. It contains 78 miles of track, with 55 stations.

You can also hop a different train system, the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) to travel between Dallas and Fort Worth or to the DFW Airport.

Or you can ride around Fort Worth on the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T).


5. But there’s a gap in the mass transit picture. You won’t be able to hop a train to Cowboys Stadium. Arlington, where the stadium is located  (between Dallas and Fort Worth) chose not to become a member of the DART network. Oops!

The TRE gets you to the vicinity of the action, kinda.

You can ride the inter-city Trinity Railway Express (TRE), jump off midway between Dallas and Fort Worth at the CentrePoint stop, and then proceed about 7 to 8 miles by bus to Cowboys Stadium. This is better than nothing, mass transit-wise, but a good bit more complicated than in cities that have built their sports edifices closer to train or subway stops.

On the positive side, sports fans can take diversionary trips to museums and malls within the DART system, or on Fort Worth’s T.

In Dallas, hardcore football fans who’ve been shut out of the main event, or cannot afford thousands for a ticket, can ride DART to the downtown Dallas Convention Center, which is featuring a special “NFL Experience” event during Super Bowl week.


6. Each Super Bowl leaves a legacy of trees, thanks to Jack Groh’s vision for a more environmentally friendly annual event. The NFL, working with local partners, has planted thousands of seedlings in past Super Bowl cities for the past six years. North Texas is getting about 6,000 trees that will be planted in the 12-area host cities. The Texas Trees Foundation and Texas Forestry Department are helping fund and execute the project. (Read more.)

Like all big urban areas, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro region needs more trees to help cleanse the air, which is polluted by the carbon emissions from extensive car traffic sprawl, and from buildings and homes.


7. The DFW area has failed to sufficiently lower ground level ozone pollution – created when dirty tailpipe emissions mix with sunlight – over the last several years, making it a “non-attainment” area in the eyes of the EPA. The region suffers from high ozone pollution that warrants several alert days every year, especially during hot summer periods.

Of course, this isn’t the NFL’s fault. And the same or similar problems exist at other Super Bowl locales. But you can see why it might have been important to put Cowboys Stadium near a train stop, or vice-versa.


8.  The Dallas-Fort Worth region does have a strong multi-city coalition, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), that has worked hard on clean air issues.

No Idling is a rule in many North Texas cities.

Thanks to NCTCOG, many “clunker” cars with polluting emissions have been taken off the roads, and plans are underway for North Texas to have a robust electric car network.

More relevant to the Super Bowl, the NCTCOG has championed a “No Idling” rule that limits big trucks and commercial vehicles to 5 minutes of idling. Cities participating in this plan include Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington.

The rule, however, is only enforceable during the height of ozone season, from April 1-Ocober 31. Still, that doesn’t have to stop Super Bowl-bound trucks, delivery vehicles and buses from adhering to this edict voluntarily, and cutting the carbon emissions of Super Bowl XLV.


9. The NFL will be providing recycling bins for fans to use in an effort to divert solid waste from the landfill. Recycling is how Jack Groh started greening NFL events, 17 years ago. This is laudable, but as it becomes the norm, we’re not sure how many points it puts on the board. No word on the targets for waste diversion.


10. It’s become traditional for the NFL to donate prepared leftover food to area food banks, in this case, to the North Texas Food Bank and the Tarrant Area Food Bank.

Hunger in America affects 37 million

This is a no-brainer. We cringe to think how much food waste an event like this generates.

Here are some facts about hunger in America from Feeding America, which links food banks across the nation.

  • 1 in 8 Americans (37 million) rely on Feeding America for food (prepared meals at food pantries) and groceries – an increase of 46 percent over 2006 (25 million), according to a Hunger in America 2010.

In Texas, the North Texas Food Bank reports that:

  • Surveys show nearly 25 percent of children in Texas are living with “food insecurity”. That means about 1.6 million children lack access to the food they need to lead a healthy life.
  • The number of elderly clients using the food bank has risen from 9 percent to 13 percent in the past two years.
  • The number people using the North Texas Food Bank each month would fill Cowboys Stadium to capacity two and a half times.

Copyright © 2011 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network