NFL Plans to Offset Super Bowl's Carbon Footprint

Jack Groh, environmental program director for the National Football League, talks with Melissa Block about the league's plan to offset the carbon footprint of the next Super Bowl.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

When Super Bowl XLII was played on February 3rd in Arizona, Jack Groh will be the guy trying to make it the greenest Super Bowl yet. No, he's not in charge of the stadium turf. He's director of the NFL's environmental program trying to reduce the carbon footprint of the big game.

And Mr. Groh, I gather that you asked scientists to actually calculate the carbon footprint for the Super Bowl. What did they come up with?

Mr. JACK GROH (Director, NFL Environmental Program): A couple of years ago when we decided to try and address this, we talked to folks at Princeton, we talked to folks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and to a few other places, and we did an inventory at that time that came up with about 500 tons of greenhouse gas.

BLOCK: Five hundred tons. And what contributes to that? What's the biggest factor?

Mr. GROH: Well, two main sources are utility usage to power the stadium and some of the other large events, and then of course, transportation emissions. And what we incorporated into that was just our ground fleet of about 3,000 vehicles, you know, buses, vans, limos and staff cars that move people all around the Super Bowl host community that week that leads up to Super Bowl.

BLOCK: So just those two things. You're leaving out, you know, flights coming in for anybody who's going to the Super Bowl, the teams, or hotels where people are staying. None of that's included is included and you still had 500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions?

Mr. GROH: That's right. Although in the big scheme of global warming and greenhouse gases, it's relatively small. But you know, it's our production, so we feel that it's our responsibility to address it.

BLOCK: So what do you think the main ways are that you can reduce that number?

Mr. GROH: Well, we've been experimenting on this for a couple of years now, and we've come up with four different strategies. One, of course, is to use renewable energy to power the stadium and also to power the NFL Experience football theme park, which is built next to the stadium. So we've worked out a deal with Salt River Project - the utility out there - and they're providing wind power, thermal, geothermal, solar power, and even some landfill gas electricity that's going to power those two events.

In addition to the renewable energy, we've got reforestation projects up in what's called the Rodeo-Chediski area of Arizona. And we're doing about 84 acres of reforestation up there, plus a couple of smaller urban forestry projects within the metropolitan area of Phoenix.

And then we're also measuring the recycling offsets because there's a certain amount of greenhouse gas reduction involved in recycling solid waste. And then the last thing is the local host committee makes a list of women and minority-owned businesses in the local community. And everybody involved with Super Bowl is required to purchase their goods and services from that list. Now, a couple of years ago, we realized that because all the goods and services were being purchased locally, we were cutting transportation emissions and also cutting greenhouse gas.

BLOCK: I've read that part of what you do also is to salvage a lot of things that go unused during the Super Bowl. And these have to be just huge quantities of stuff. What kinds of things and how much of them do you end up not using and you can pass along?

Mr. GROH: Oh, boy, we fill tractor trailers…

BLOCK: Really?

Mr. GROH: …with - yeah, with stuff. And we're talking about the decor for Super Bowl, which decorates the stadium, the hotels, the downtown streets. And then of course, you have the building materials for things like the NFL Experience theme park and all the other build-outs that have to be done at the stadium. And our only criteria is it has to be reused somehow for community benefit.

BLOCK: You know, is there any way around the fact that the Super Bowl is just going to be a huge energy (unintelligible) and there's just no way around that, is there?

Mr. GROH: Well, yeah, it does use a lot of resources and a lot of energy. And I think the big question for us is what are you going to do about it? I mean, you know that the impact is there, are you going to look for ways to reduce it and also look for ways to mitigate it, whatever you can't reduce. So that's sort of what we're look at - how do you cut ways and run businesses more efficiently and run events more efficiently?

BLOCK: Do you ever feel like the odd guy out, when everything about the Super Bowl is, you know, making it the most commercial, the most splashy, fancy event ever, and then this is your corner, to try to make it more environmentally friendly?

Mr. GROH: And here I am hauling garbage and digging holes in the ground, yeah. It's not exactly the glamorous part of Super Bowl. But you know, it's a good way to catch people's attention and to talk about these initiatives and to get them to respond positively to them. So yeah, there's an advantage, I think, to being a little bit out of the mainstream of what people think.

BLOCK: Well, Jack Groh, good to talk to you. Thanks very much.

Mr. GROH: Oh, Melissa, it's great to chat with you and thank you.

BLOCK: Jack Groh, the director of the environmental program for the National Football League.

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