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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Carbon-Neutral Super Bowl

Air Date: Week of February 4, 2005

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The half-time show isn't the only thing the NFL is keeping a close watch on this year. As Jack Groh, director of environmental programs for the NFL tells us, officials there have tallied the amount of greenhouse gas emissions likely to be generated from the Super Bowl, and plan to offset the emissions by planting trees.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman.

Okay, quick. What comes to mind when you hear the words "Super Bowl" and "green" in the same sentence? All those greenbacks the game generates in ad revenues? The color of the field maybe? Or, perhaps, the Green Bay Packers who lost in the first round of the playoffs?

You probably didn't think of "greenhouse" as in greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. But, that's exactly what NFL officials are thinking. They plan to go "carbon neutral"--offsetting all the greenhouse gases generated at this year's big game in Jacksonville, Fla.

Joining us from Jacksonville is Jack Groh. He's the NFL's director of environmental programs. Hi, Jack.

GROH: Hi Bruce, how are ya?

GELLERMAN: I'm well, thanks. But, I didn't even know the NFL had environmental programs.

GROH: Yeah, we've been doing this for about 12 years. Not the carbon neutral, but we've had environmental initiatives with Super Bowl going back about 12, 13 years now.

GELLERMAN: So, what kind of things do you do?

GROH: Well, originally we just started with solid waste management recycling. We wanted to recycle as much of the waste as we could from our facilities and then we started to add other programs.

GELLERMAN: Tell me about this carbon neutral program.

GROH: We tinkered around with the idea for about a year and we looked at it in Houston last year, but we weren't satisfied that we had the information in place to do it. So, we went and did some research and looked into how we could mitigate all the greenhouse gas produced. As you know, every human activity produces some greenhouse gas and we've got a lot of humans and a lot of activity. So, we figured we'd get involved in that.

GELLERMAN: How much greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, do you actually get out of a Super Bowl?

GROH: Well, the major sources that we measured were somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand tons of CO2. And, I think that's about two million pounds.

GELLERMAN: How did you get those figures? I mean, how do people at a Super Bowl generate all that carbon dioxide?

GROH: Well, the two primary sources we found, Bruce, were transportation and utility usage. Utility usage is obviously the stadium because the stadium wouldn't be up and running if the Super Bowl wasn't here. There wouldn't be another game there. The NFL Experience Football Theme Park, which is about a one million square foot theme park that we build here in each Super Bowl city--it's a temporary theme park. That's the other major source.

So, those are the two big sources of utility usage that wouldn't be here without Super Bowl and then, of course, transportation. There are the normal cars that are in Jacksonville, anyway. We weren't concerned about that. What we were concerned about was all the fleets of vehicles, whether it's buses or limos or vans or staff cars that we bring into the city. So, we identified that as the other big source of carbon dioxide.

GELLERMAN: How do you get rid of it?

GROH: We looked at a couple of different ideas. One was a mission's credit trading. That just didn't seem to fit what we wanted to do with it. And then, it was one of those flat forehead moments, you know when you take your, the palm of your hand and hit it against your forehead and go "why didn't I think of that before?"

GELLERMAN: Duh?

GROH: Right. One of those, a Homer Simpson moment. And we realized planting trees was the way to go. So, we hooked up with all the right people here in Jacksonville and then we went and did the research to get the figures, you know, how many trees, and what we needed to do to actually mitigate all that carbon.

GELLERMAN: How do the trees, you know, neutralize it?

GROH: Well, the trees, a certain percentage, and, again, I'm not one of the scientists. We went to the scientists to get this figured out, you know what we needed, how many trees, this and that. These guys made sure we didn't get led astray as far, you know, what we were doing. We wanted it to be valid. We didn't want it to just be good intentioned; we wanted it to be scientifically valid, as well.

The folks at Princeton University Carbon Mitigation Center told us once we provided them with the figures on carbon dioxide, according to their calculations, it takes about one acre of trees to absorb about, roughly about 70 tons of carbon dioxide. I'm sorry, I said carbon dioxide, it's actually 70 tons of carbon locked up. Because we're not too worried about the oxygen. I mean, like you, I like oxygen. It's the carbon that causes the problem.

GELLERMAN: Keeps me going.

GROH: Yeah.

GELLERMAN: So, have you planted any trees?

GROH: Yeah, two weeks before Super Bowl we did a big planting at University of North Florida. They provided us with about two acres of land on their campus and then volunteers, college students came, people from the community came and we planted, give or take a couple, we planted about a thousand trees on two acres.

GELLERMAN: Did Tom Brady or Andy Reed pitch in?

GROH: No, those guys weren't in town yet. [LAUGHS]. No.

GELLERMAN: Jack, since this is CO2, carbon dioxide, it's seemingly, or scientists tell us, related to global warming. Is this the NFL telling us we're doing our bit to prevent global warming?

GROH: Well, that's part of it, too. That's a message that we like to send out. And since people watch the NFL closely, other event organizers and planners and managers look at what we do in Super Bowl because Super Bowl is the pinnacle of special events. It's the biggest and most comprehensive special event in the world each year. Other people look at it and see how we manage our events. So, it's a good way for us to send that message, too. And, have folks look at us and say "well, the NFL thinks that this is a good way to manage events, maybe we should look into it, too."

GELLERMAN: And I thought it was just another football game.

GROH: [LAUGHS]. Well, we have that, too! There is a football game, by the way. I don't want to lose that.

GELLERMAN: Jack, thank you very much.

GROH: Thank you, Bruce. Pleasure to chat with you.

GELLERMAN: Jack Groh is the NFL's Director of Environmental Programs.

[MUSIC: "Horizon" Music Library Sampler: Summer 1995 (Non &Stop Productions) 1995]

 

 

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