Energy Empowerment – October is National Energy Action Month

On September 30, 2013, President Obama proclaimed October 2013 as National Energy Action Month. The keyword is action. We can and must reduce our energy consumption, use energy more efficiently, and move to clean renewable energy sources.

“Years from now, our children may wonder if we did all we could to leave a safe, clean, and stable world for them to inherit. If we keep our eyes on the long arc of our future and commit to doing what this moment demands, the answer will be yes.”
2013 National Energy Action Month Proclamation

If you have been meaning to do something to reduce your energy footprint, empower yourself to take action now. This post will provide readers with energy saving ideas that are either free or low cost to implement and will save money over the long run.

Energy Scavenger Hunt

The words energy scavenger hunt caught my eye while I was scanning search results for National Energy Action Month. I pictured a Halloween scavenger hunt with costumed kids and / or adults searching for and then snapping photos of items like solar panels, ENERGY STAR appliances, and hybrid cars and winning LED light bulbs or locally made treats.

As it turned out, the article in the Central Wisconsin Sustainability Newsletter was for an online energy scavenger hunt for kids which looked educational and fun.

Action: mix it up this Halloween by organizing an energy scavenger hunt for a school, work, or neighborhood group. Contestants will learn about energy use and have fun doing it.

Bring Your Own Bottle

Author's Reusable Water BottleBottled water is an energy intensive product. Energy is used during plastic water bottle manufacturing, bottled water processing, bottling, transportation, and recycling.

Transporting a single 16.9 ounce (1/2 liter) bottle consumes enough energy to run a 100-watt light bulb from 7 to 14 hours.1 Multiply that by the billions of bottles of water consumed in a year and that is a huge amount of energy—wasted.

Action: if you are still buying bottled water, stop. Use a glass at home and take a reusable water bottle when you go out.

Ditch the Car

The benefits of walking and biking on personal health and wellbeing are well known. Reducing car travel, even for one trip a week, decreases energy use, air pollution, and car wear and tear. It also reduces driver and passenger stress caused by traffic jams and trying to find a parking place.

Action: at least once a week, walk or bike when you would normally use your car. Walk or bike to school, work, or to run errands. Leave your car at work and run errands on foot during your lunch hour or park at one store and walk to the others.

Snug Home

Snug House - Scarf Wrapped Around Miniature HouseOn average, 53% of our total home energy is used to heat and cool our homes (45% and 9% respectively).2 A snug exterior keeps warm air in during the winter and cool air in during the summer and defends against excessive energy use and high utility bills.

A 1/8” gap under the front door lets in as much air as a having a 2 ¼” hole in an exterior wall.3

Action: check your home for drafts, air leaks, and cracks then seal them with caulking and weatherstripping. Not so handy? Offer a friend or family member who is a home cooked meal or babysitting in return for their help.

Light with LED’s

About 6% of household energy is dedicated to lighting.2 Incandescent light bulbs are inefficient and add to a home’s heat load. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are more efficient but contain a small amount of mercury. CFLs require special handling if broken and at disposal. LED bulbs use 70%-75% less energy and can last 25 times as long.2

Action: replace incandescent and CFL bulbs as they burn out with LED bulbs. Although more expensive to purchase than their less efficient counterparts, LED bulbs make up for it in energy savings and long life.

Shower Savings

Low Flow Handheld Shower

Showers and baths account for part of the 18% of home energy used to heat water 2 and about 17% of the water used per day.4 A full standard bathtub uses about 50 gallons of water. The average shower lasts 5-10 minutes and uses 12.5 to 25 gallons of water.4

Action: skip baths except for rare occasions or bathing children. Time yourself and take shorter showers or install a low flow showerhead. You won’t miss the excess water.

Use Your Thermostat

Thermostats can have a significant impact on heating and cooling energy use and cost, especially for those who live in areas with cold winters and / or hot summers. You can save 10% a year on heating and cooling your home by using your thermostat.2

Action: adjust your thermostat to 68° or lower in the winter and 78° or higher in the summer. Depending on where you live you might benefit from purchasing a smart thermostat.

There’s an App for That

I saw a post about an energy saving contest at North Carolina State University using a free smartphone app called JouleBug. Students, faculty, and staff collect pins and badges for energy saving actions and can win prizes. Smart—make saving energy a game.

Action: smartphone enthusiasts download one or more free or low cost apps that help you assess, monitor, and reduce your energy use. Start a friendly competition with your family or friends.

During October, take one or more of the actions listed above or come up with your own. The most important aspect of National Energy Action Month is to actually take action.

Related Posts:

References:

  1. What is the Environmental Impact of Bottled Water?
  2. U.S. DOE – Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home
  3. Seal Air Leaks to Reduce Home Energy Use and Cost
  4. Water Saving Shower Ideas – Low Flow Showerhead

Resources:

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 is focused 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 us 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 franchise, owned by Jerry Jones, has an estimated value of $2.1 billion and was 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 cannot 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

References

  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

Resources