The National Football League, one of the biggest businesses in the United States, also wants to become one of the most environmentally-friendly companies in the world as well.
Twelve of its 32 teams have instituted sustainable practices over the past decade. The trend started with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003, and now the team is aiming to get a third of their stadium’s power from the sun and wind, while also ensuring none of the waste generated there ends up in a landfill.
While the Philadelphia Eagles won’t begin their pre-season games at Lincoln Financial Field Stadium until August, people who work behind the scenes are already scoring big in sustainability.
“Each year, we kept adding and evaluating new opportunities," says Don Smolenski, the team’s chief operation officer, who adds the Eagles are constantly hustling to make the team a lean, green earth-friendly machine.
That includes focusing on everything from light sensors in people’s offices to compostable cutlery and plates, from having on/off motion sensors on snack machines to even composting grass clippings from the field.
The main goal, Smolenski says, is to make sure everything is reused, recycled or turned into energy.
This year, the Eagles began to divert more than 65 percent of the stadium’s trash away from landfills
“We take it to an energy-from-waste plant that actually makes energy from the waste that’s left over, says Dieter Scheel, a development manager for Sustainable Waste Solutions, which is working with the Eagles organization. "So anything that goes in here is turned into energy.”
Eventually, the Eagles plan to recycle 100 percent of the stadium’s waste.
Stadium officials are thinking green elsewhere, as well.
The Eagles challenged Aramark, the company that handles its food services, to use environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and compostable utensils.
Aramark facility manager Kevin Hughes says his company went a step further. “All the oil that’s produced within our kitchens, and our concessions stands, at the fry stands or grill stands is recovered and then taken to a recycler who recycles and refines the oil into a biodiesel blend.”
Some of that oil is sold on the market, while some of it is used for Aramark’s own equipment.
But the stadium’s most ambitious plan is its effort to obtain 30 percent of its energy from renewable resources. Most of that will come from 1,100 solar panels and 14 wind turbines placed around the stadium and on its upper deck.
Sustainable building developer G.C. Bancroft notes that the middle of a city is not the most efficient setup for generating wind power.
You got the mixes and heights of buildings, which causes a mix of wind situations," Bancroft says. "Really for a wind turbine scenario to be effective, you need to be able to predict what kind of [result] you’re going to get in wind.”
Still, according to Don Smolenski, it’s the largest sustainability effort in the National Football League.
“With our recycling efforts, we recognize we have a special platform where we can lead by example," he says. "And that’s been very important to us.”
So, while the Eagles defensive linemen are making tackles on the field, Eagle officials say they’ll continue tackling waste, and scoring points for sustainability.