We are delighted to publish a post by our guest editor, Kristen Fulmer, Founder of Recipric. Kristen is an alumnus of Paladino and Company and she has dedicated her professional career to environmental and social sustainability. After years of practicing sustainability in the international real estate industry, Kristen identified the vastly impactful potential to fuse sport and sustainability.   In founding Recipric, her mission is to enable sports organizations to ‘redefine home field advantage’.

The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year, and it got us thinking about sustainability in the sport. Kristen connected with leaders in the sports sustainability field, and shares their thoughts about climate action in football below: 

Here are 5 examples of climate action in football

1. Sustainability-Led Sports Organizations


“At the founding meeting of the Green Sports Alliance back in 2010, someone said ‘we are in the first year of the final decade in which we can make a major impact on climate.’ Now we’re at the end of that decade. Sustainable, to which many aspire, is not enough. Even restoring the planet is not enough. We need to get to a regenerative economy.” Jason Twill, Founding Green Sports Alliance Director

GSA’s current Executive Director, Roger McLendon

Among other involvement, the Green Sports Alliance facilitates a network of sustainability-minded sports organizations, spanning a variety of types of sports and levels of sports. The Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Seattle Seahawks are among the NFL team members in addition to a slew of Universities and even includes the PAC-12 Conference. This growing community is a critical component to implementing impactful climate action strategies. 

The Green Sports Alliance isn’t the only organization that works at the intersection of sport and sustainability. SandSI, Sport Positive Summit, and BeyondSport are among organizations that convene professionals to develop and promote strategies for sustainable development in sports. 


2. Athlete-Driven Sustainability Organizations


“The best thing for athletes to do is to talk about climate change. When you talk about the bushfires, when you talk about hurricane relief, when you talk about refugee crises. You don’t have to be an expert on the science. If high profile athletes talk about climate change, it will resonate.” – Lew Blaustein, GreenSportsBlog

Blaustein’s critical point is that climate action must be a topic of conversation with athletes, in addition to sustainability professionals. 

Gridiron Gre
Ovie Mughelli, promoting Gridiron Green at San Diego Comicon

Ovie Mughelli is one example of an NFL star, who is taking climate action in his own way. Ovie often speaks about how climate change has affected him personally, hoping that his story allows others to consider the personal implications of this global crisis. Ovie integrates his hobbies into this work, writing Gridiron Green, a graphic novel about ‘The New Environmental Defender of the Earth.’ The Ovie Mughelli Foundation is ‘on a global mission to empower the next generation of environmental leaders,’ a mission that has now engaged with more than 1,000,000 youth through programs and media. 


3. College Football


“The point of “green sports” is not just to reduce the footprint of operations. That’s merely step one. College sports are an integral part of a larger community and perfectly set up to utilize their platform to encourage fans and partners to make net positive decisions and take sustainable actions at home, work, and play. That’s step two. This opens the door for impactful, efficient marketing partnerships, allowing a sports organization to benefit from what we refer to as “Phase 3”: value-creation and monetization of sustainability.”  – Monica Rowand, COO Phase 3 Sports

Recently, the College Football National Championship featured the Playoff Green initiative, which heavily focused on waste reduction initiatives, including recycling, food recovery, and material reuse. During this effort, a Green Team was deployed to manage this multi-pronged waste reduction process. The initiative implemented positive impacts in Rowand’s descriptions of Steps 1 and 2, reducing the event’s footprint and utilizing their platform to educate spectators on strategies to reduce waste in their lives outside of the event. The Playoff Green initiative also partnered with Plastic Bank, an organization to help monetize sustainability. Rowand continues to describe sustainability in college sports: 

“… It is possibly the only arena where teams publicly compete on things like waste diversion rates (i.e. Gameday Recycling Challenge, Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge). Conferences and teams are tapping into the competition factor intrinsic to sports, and those who are competitive truly use their platforms to amplify messages about both their accomplishments and purpose.”


Pac12 Sustainability efforts
PAC-12 Zero Waste Challenge waste separation efforts

4. NFL Teams

“We’re not here to educate fans – we make sustainability fun,” – Norman Vossschulte, Philadelphia Eagles director of fan experience to Matthew Campelli of The Sustainability Report

Philadelphia Eagles Sustainability
Solar Panel array at Lincoln Financial Field, as seen from Interstate 95

Though not the only example of an NFL team taking on climate action, the Philadelphia Eagles have achieved some impressive accomplishments. In a recent interview with The Sustainability Report, Vossschulte speaks to some of the sustainability efforts at Lincoln Financial Field, which started more than 17 years ago. Now, the stadium is home to an 11,000-panel solar system that generates 40% of the venue’s energy for the entire year. 

“Energy prices fluctuate in America so much that you have to build a quarter of a million dollar annual buffer into your budget that you may or may not be using, but either way the money can’t be touched. When we formed our partnership with NRG it allowed us a fixed price for the next 30 years, so we’re able to reallocate that money, which is huge. Over 30 years that’s $7.5m we can reallocate to our sustainability efforts.” 

The Eagles, in collaboration with a local plastics-maker, has also created engaging waste diversion initiatives, including building a large replica of the Lombardi Trophy out of bottle caps used in the stadium during the season. 


5. Super Bowl LIV and Miami’s Ocean to Everglades Initiatives 


“Super Bowl LIV provides a platform and an opportunity to connect and engage our community and all sports fans around a critical global priority – the preservation of our environment. With the launch of our very own O2E initiative, we aim to do our part to reduce the environmental impact around Super Bowl events and promote sustainability around the unique confluence of ocean and land-based issues found in South Florida,” – Rodney Barreto, Chairman, Miami Super Bowl Host Committee

Oceans to Everglades
First Lady of Florida Casey DeSantis, Rodney Barreto, Miami Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman, Governor Ron DeSantis, Tom Garfinkel, Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium Vice Chair, President and CEO, Emily Woglom, Ocean Conservancy Executive Vice President, Eric Eikenberg, The Everglades Foundation CEO

When the 2020 Super Bowl location was confirmed, a new initiative came together to mitigate the environmental impact of the Super Bowl in Miami. The Oceans to Everglades (O2E) initiative will run through February 2020 and will feature beach cleanups, mangrove planting, and coral restoration. Organizers also plan to use the Super Bowl to shine a light on the environmental risks faced by Miami. The initiative’s partners include the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, Everglades Foundation, Ocean Conservancy, and NFL Green.

The CEO of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, Tom Garfinkel, has made his personal commitment to the environment part of the operations of the stadium. After watching a devastating story about plastic pollution on 60 Minutes, Garfinkel created an internal committee to devise a strategy to reduce single-use plastics at the stadium. The venue is targeting the elimination of 99.4%of its single-use plastics by 2020, including the Super Bowl event. Achieving the 99.4% goal requires several strategies, including addressing cups, bottles, cutlery, stirrers, and spoons, as well as all disposable plastic packaging accompanying these items. They are working to tackle the 678,000 plastic bottles and 525,000 plastic cups typically used by the stadium each year. All stadium employees have been given reusable water bottles, and bottled water is now sold in aluminum cans. Souvenir soda cups, ice cream cups, and collectible football helmets present the final frontier of the plastics initiative.

Note: Paladino is not associated with the NFL, the Super Bowl, or any of the organizations referenced in this post. If you are interested in climate action in football, sports, and sustainability, read our past stories here: 


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