Greening the NFL – Teams and Stadiums

Besides wondering if the Raiders will ever win another Super Bowl, the start of the NFL season got me thinking, “how green are NFL teams, stadiums, and fans?”

I decided to investigate. This first of two posts focuses on NFL teams and stadiums, and the second on NFL fans.

NFL teams and stadiums are businesses, and like any for profit business, their goal is to make money. The two most likely motivators for NFL teams and stadiums to implement green practices and make green infrastructure improvements are money and good public relations. Let’s talk money.

The National Football League is a Money Making Machine

With the exception of the publicly owned Green Bay Packers, NFL teams are owned by ultra wealthy individuals or small groups. Three stadiums are owned by team owners (Washington, New England, and Miami). Cities, counties, and states own the balance of stadiums and lease them to the teams.

Gillette Stadium Home of the New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium – New England Patriots

NFL revenue sources include media deals (50% or more of total revenue), ticket sales, parking, and concessions, licensing and merchandise (hats, t-shirts, electronic games), sponsorship (think Pepsi, Bud, McDonalds), and stadium naming rights (e.g. Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots).

According to the Sports Business Journal, the NFL raked in $9.5 billion in revenue in 2012.1 Forbes reported that during the 2012 season average operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) was up 7% from 2011 to $44 million.2

The Dallas Cowboys, owned by Jerry Jones, have an estimated value of $2.1 billion and were ranked by Forbes as the 5th most valuable sports team in the world. All but 2 of the NFL’s 32 teams ranked in the top 50 (they were 51 and 52).3

Clearly, the NFL is a money making enterprise.

Greening NFL Teams and Stadiums

Do the billionaire NFL team owners care about saving a few million bucks here and there by greening their own operations? Maybe, maybe not, but I can’t imagine them being opposed to good PR.

NFL stadium owners have a lot to gain both financially and environmentally by implementing green practices and making green infrastructure improvements. Putting on an NFL game for 70,000 fans requires huge amounts of electricity, gas, water, food, drink, paper, and plastic. Those 70,000 people generate a mountain of waste. Even though there are only 8 to 12 NFL games played in home stadiums each year, stadiums host other events and must keep their baseline facility running on off days.

Expertise and money are available to NFL teams and stadiums that want to go green. The Green Sports Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, and United States Green Building Council provide technical advice and best practices. Corporate sponsors and other companies contribute personnel and funding to support green programs and pay for green building improvements.

Greening Teams

Some NFL teams are greening their operations, offices, and training facilities by installing energy efficient light bulbs and motion sensors, purchasing recycled content paper and plastic, using green cleaning products, recycling, and switching from paper to online marketing materials. Some teams are purchasing carbon offsets for travel and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset energy use.

Green Stadium Operations

In 2011, Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, became the first NFL stadium to receive LEED-EB certification.4 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system created by the United States Green Building Council. The EB stands for existing building. LEED-EB certification recognizes existing buildings not only for their green building features but also for maintaining green daily operations. A truly green building is green throughout its lifecycle.

The short video below shows some of Soldier Fields’ green features such as energy efficient lighting, building automation controls, green parking garage roof, electric vehicle plug in stations, dual flush toilets, recycling, and sustainable landscaping.

Stadium Renewable Energy

In a recent interview with GreenSportsBlog, Christina Weiss Lurie, co-owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, talked about the team’s Go Green campaign which was launched when Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003. It began with recycling and expanded from there. The stadium now has 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines that provide 30% of its power needs. The balance is purchased through Renewable Energy Credits.5

Lincoln Financial Field Solar Panels and Wind Turbines - Photo: NRG
Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia Eagles

Renewable energy is the low-hanging fruit for NFL stadiums. Energy companies are willing to pay for solar panel and wind turbine installations to get their name and product in front of the public. The stadium benefits from reduced energy costs, the team saves money and gets good PR, and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is good for the planet.

Two Stadiums in One

In 2009, MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and New York Jets, partnered with the U.S. EPA.6 The teams and stadium owner committed to incorporating environmentally friendly materials and methods into the construction of the new stadium that opened in 2010 and to build green practices into its daily operation.

MetLife Stadium Light Rail
MetLife Stadium – New York Giants and New York Jets

Tons of construction materials and waste were diverted from landfills and reused on site or recycled during construction of the new stadium and demolition of the old one. Native plants, waterless urinals, and low flow plumbing fixtures reduce water use. A solar panel and LED lighting ring around the stadium is energy efficient and changes color depending on which team is playing. Waste is reduced through recycling and composting programs. A light rail line brings fans right to the stadium. 7, 8

The environmental impact of renovating or building a new stadium is significant and must be included when evaluating its “greenness”. MetLife Stadium which houses two teams instead of just one is perhaps the greenest of all NFL stadiums.

Greening NFL teams and stadiums seem to be in the early stages with some teams “getting it” more than others. We’ll explore greening NFL fans in the next post.

Related Posts


  1. The road to $25 billion, by Daniel Kaplan, Sports Business Journal, January 28, 2013
  2. The Most Valuable NFL Teams, by Mike Ozanian, Forbes, 08/14/13
  3. Real Madrid Tops The World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams, by Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes, 07/15/13
  4. Soldier Field – LEED Certification
  5. The GSB Interview: Christina Weiss Lurie, Minority Owner – Philadelphia Eagles, President – Eagles Youth Partnership, Eagles Social Responsibility, by Lew Blaustein, GreenSportsBlog, September 9, 2013
  6. EPA, New York Giants and New York Jets Team Up to Make New Meadowlands Stadium a Beacon of “Green”, U.S. EPA News Release, 06/01/2009
  7. MetLife Stadium – Your Stadium / Sustainable Stadium
  8. NFL Season Opener Under the Solar-Powered Light, by Amy Sinatra Ayres, National Geographic, September 5, 2012


President Obama’s Speech and Climate Action Plan

On June 25, 2013, a sweltering day in Washington D.C., President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan during at speech at Georgetown University. Years from now, will we look back at this event as a key milestone in the fight against climate change? I hope so.

The President’s Climate Action Plan

During his speech, President Obama stated science tells us “…the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it”. He said we need to act now and shared his plan to fight climate change as well as live with the consequences. He gave an overview of the three main focus areas of his Climate Action Plan which are:

  1. Cut Carbon Pollution in America
  2. Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change
  3. Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

At the end of his remarks, the President summed up the challenge that lies ahead,

“I understand the politics will be tough. The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory. There’s no gathering army to defeat. There’s no peace treaty to sign. When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal. Our progress here will be measured differently — in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.”

The Bottom Line

While watching the speech live on the Internet, I felt proud to be an American and to hear the President of the United States go on the record stating climate change is a problem and that we must to do something about it.

Disappointingly, the bar seems to be set low, with drawn out time frames. 2020 and 2030 are a long time from now. Americans often seem to be at our best—our most innovative, collaborative, and competitive selves emerge—when we are told something is impossible or when our abilities are called into question. I believe we can do much, much more and there is no reason we can’t raise the bar ourselves.

Judge for Yourself

If you didn’t have an opportunity to see President Obama’s June 25, 2013, Climate Change speech live, take this opportunity to watch it via video or read the transcript.


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