Think sports teams are just about winning games and selling merchandise? Think again! Today, they're also scoring big for the environment. With their massive fan bases and high-profile platforms, teams have a unique opportunity to drive sustainable practices and inspire communities to follow suit.  


These teams and their state-of-the-art facilities consume vast amounts of energy and generate significant waste. For example, a 70,000-seat stadium uses around 10,000 to 20,000 kWh on game day, compared to less than 1,000 kWh a typical household uses monthly. By integrating green practices, these facilities can significantly reduce their environmental footprint.  


Sports Stadiums – Sustainability For The Built Environment 

From solar panels on stadium roofs to zero-waste initiatives, sports organizations are proving that sustainability and success can go hand in hand. 


Tennessee Titans – Nissan Stadium 

The current Tennessee Titans' Nissan Stadium (in Nashville) boasts high-efficiency LED lighting systems, significantly reducing energy consumption. However, the stadium is aging and set to be decommissioned at the end of the 2026 season. 


In its place, the team has started construction on a new Nissan Stadium that will open in 2027. The new stadium is being built following sustainable design principles and is aiming for LEED Gold certification. The plan incorporates sustainable building materials and an enclosed roof to help maintain stadium temperature and reduce energy requirements for heating and cooling. While more specific design plans are unavailable, the team states the design will minimize waste generation and limit energy and water use. 


Cleveland Browns – FirstEnergy Stadium 

Cleveland's FirstEnergy Stadium has also made significant strides in sustainability. A key initiative at this stadium is the Grind2Energy system, which converts food waste into renewable energy. This system reduces the stadium's carbon footprint by diverting waste from landfills and generates biogas that can be used as a clean energy source.  


The implementation of Grind2Energy has led to an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 28,000 pounds and 35 tons of food waste entering landfills. Additionally, the stadium has adopted other sustainable practices, such as water conservation measures and energy-efficient lighting, further contributing to its sustainability goals. 


(For those of you Browns fans anticipating the home opener this year (2024) against America’s Team, the Cowboys installed a similar machine – the OrcaGreenMachine about six years before the Browns.) 


Other Sustainable Sports Facilities 

Globally, many other sports facilities are adopting innovative, sustainable practices. For instance, some stadiums feature green roofs, which help manage stormwater, reduce the urban heat island effect, and provide insulation, thereby reducing energy consumption. Rainwater harvesting systems are also becoming more common, capturing and reusing water for irrigation and other non-potable uses. Comprehensive recycling programs and onsite renewable energy generation further enhance the environmental performance of these venues.  


Notable examples include the Johan Cruijff ArenA (in Amsterdam), which uses a combination of wind and solar power, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, with its LEED Platinum certification.  


Sports Organizations 

Beyond individual stadiums, professional U.S. sports associations are also starting to focus on sustainability. The public cares about sustainability; whether it’s the PGA, NBA, or MLB, they all have public sustainability-focused mission statements and goals. Here’s a sampling of what some athletic organizations are doing: 


Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA) 

The PGA recently implemented a sustainability working group to identify high-impact sustainability initiatives and released a mission statement: 


We recognize our responsibility to ensure we conduct our business practices without compromising the ability of future generations. Our dedicated Sustainability Working Group is focused on embedding positive impact across all services we provide to our Members and the wider golf industry, whilst ultimately protecting our planet."


Its long-term sustainability targets focus on common environmental metrics like greenhouse gas emissions, reducing resource use, and companies in its supply chain with sustainability goals. Individual PGA tournaments are already meeting sustainability goals, like the Tour Championship, which sourced 100% of its energy from renewable sources and electrified 90% of its golf cart in 2023. 


National Basketball Association (NBA) 

The NBA is following suit through its NBA Green initiative, which focuses on reducing its environmental footprint and promoting sustainability among fans. Furthermore, the NBA is a member of the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, which aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.  


Already, the NBA has reduced team aviation miles by 50,000, plastic bottle use by 80% in its offices, and 100% of teams have joined the league’s NBA Arena Sustainability Task Force. One of the key projects under the Arena Sustainability Task Force is the installation of energy-efficient LED lighting in arenas and water efficiency programs. This helped the Golden State Warriors reach LEED Gold certification for their arena, reducing water use by 31% and energy use by 35%. Additionally, the NBA has partnered with environmental organizations to promote sustainability education and community programs.  


Major League Baseball (MLB) 

MLB is also making substantial efforts to integrate sustainability into its operations. The league’s MLB + Green program implements sustainability initiatives across its operations and events. Furthermore, it recently signed its first sustainability partnership deal with Waste Management as a sustainability advisory for MLB teams.  


Another impactful program is the MLB’s “Green Glove Award,” which recognizes teams that excel in recycling and sustainability efforts to incentivize teams to improve sustainability. In 2022, the San Francisco Giants diverted 100% of waste from landfills, earning them top honors in the league. 


Champions of Sustainability 

Sports teams and organizations are pivotal in driving sustainability by leveraging their influence to promote environmental stewardship. From implementing green technologies in stadiums to adopting comprehensive sustainability programs, these efforts are crucial in achieving broader environmental goals. As sports organizations embrace sustainable practices, they set powerful examples for other industries and communities. 


The sustainability programs that stadiums and teams implement are often directly transferable to other buildings and businesses. These programs take time to develop and require insight into business operations. This is where Emerald Built Environments comes in. We specialize in helping organizations, including sports teams, achieve their sustainability goals. Learn more about our expertise and how we can support your sustainability initiatives. 


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