Oct 15, 2013

Renewable energy keeps sports fields green

5 min
Sometimes the best ideas begin with a simple trip to the bathroom. “That’s how it all started. The work began with toilet pape...

Sometimes the best ideas begin with a simple trip to the bathroom.

“That’s how it all started. The work began with toilet paper,” says Allen Hershkowitz, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council and director of the NRDC Sports Project.

Hershkowitz focused on solid waste management, recycling, and the paper industry for NRDC before Jeffrey Lurie called in 2004 and asked for help in making his team and stadium sustainable. Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, had just opened Lincoln Financial Field, the team’s state-of-the-art stadium. He wanted to “green the team” and contacted Hershkowitz, who was known for his work in sustainable development.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘Where are you getting your toilet paper?’” Hershkowitz says. “They were getting their toilet paper from a place that was also an eagle habitat. They were having eagle habitat cut down so people could wipe their butts at Eagles stadium. That looked like a branding liability to me.”

And so the first battle in the sports greening movement was waged with a paper company about supplying recycled content and to stop producing toilet paper from trees.

Small Ideas Lead to Big Changes

There is no single initiative that will solve climate change. There is no technology that will fix everything with push of a button. Millions of poor decisions over the past 200 years have harmed the environment and it will take millions of more intelligent global-friendly decisions to change that course.

“It's not only that small changes lead to big results, but there is no one big thing we could do to deal with global warming,” Hershkowitz says. “That means carefully choosing what kind of paper you buy, what kind of food you serve, what kind of energy you use. Where are you getting your water? How are you managing your waste? What's the supply chain of your textiles?”

All those issues are in play right now with professional sports, which is a $450 billion industry. Sports brings people together and is ingrained in societies throughout the world – especially in the United States. If the sports industry has embraced renewable energy, recycling, and reducing its carbon footprint, then the majority of society may just follow their lead and adopt environmentally-friendly practices as the new standard operating procedure.

“Who do people trust? They don't trust the government,” Hershkowitz says. “They trust business. They certainly trust sports. Sports unites people and it’s a trusted network. Sports is now changing the culture of how Americans think about the environment.”

Stadiums Carbon Unloading

After getting the Eagles to switch to recycled toilet paper, Hershkowitz became the environmental advisor for Lincoln Financial Field and broadened the program to include carbon emissions, waste, water, and chemicals; and developed the first stadium greening initiative.

The Eagles installed 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines to make Lincoln Financial Field the first professional stadium in the U.S. capable of generating all of its electricity onsite. The team purchases 14 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy credits annually and 100 percent of team operations are powered by clean energy generated on U.S. wind farms. Also, they converted all of their tissue paper products to 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.

“It's a great model nationally, probably the best in the NFL, and of course what the 49ers are planning to do is going to exceed even that – so that's spectacular commitment,” Hershkowitz says.

In Santa Clara, Calif., the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium is under construction and the team is planning for it to become the first professional football venue to open with LEED certification in 2014. Levi’s Stadium, which is scheduled to host Super Bowl L in 2016, is a $1.2 billion project that includes solar arrays and canopies that will produce 400 kilowatts. The stadium’s other green initiatives include public transit access, bicycle parking, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, and recycled materials.

“… the new Santa Clara Stadium [is] an economically and environmentally sustainable showcase for innovation,” said Jed York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers, in a released statement.

“This really is a golden age of energy efficiency at stadiums and arenas in the country,” Hershkowitz says. “This is really is a green building initiative, except that when a big commercial building goes green, you don't get the kind of visibility and messaging that you do when Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park goes green.”

The Boys of Summer

Is there anything better than Fenway Park, bathed in late summer sun, and bustling with energy in the midst of another Pennant race? The 101-year-old ballpark, nestled in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, which has seen its share of renovations, has recently incorporated green initiatives as well. The Red Sox installed 28 solar panels across the roof of the dugout, which will supply 37 percent of the energy needed to heat the stadium’s water. The park also reduced water usage by 30 percent by installing water-efficient fixtures.

In 2005, Hershkowitz met with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig about greening the game. Selig embraced the idea, making the NRDC and MLB the first league-wide greening initiative collaboration. After that, NBA and NHL commissioners David Stern and Gary Bettman, respectively, started working with the NRDC.

“We are seeing existing stadiums and arenas getting energy efficiency audits done and then retrofitting HVAC systems, installing onsite renewable energy sources, and reducing waste,” Hershkowitz says. “These stadiums and arenas are iconic cultural institutions.”

Recently Billy Jean King reached out and wanted the National Tennis Center and U.S. Open to go green. Eventually the NRDC developed comprehensive greening programs for the professional leagues, many pro teams, college stadiums, and signature events such as the World Series, the MLB All-Star game, WTA’s Family Circle Cup, and the NBA Playoffs.

“What does this mean culturally?” Hershkowitz says. “Over the last five to six years the embrace of environmental stewardship by sports has really helped send a signal to society, businesses, and energy companies, that this way of thinking is now a part of the culture. That's never happened before and this change is being instigated by the sports industry.”

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May 13, 2021

All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only UK regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil

Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.

Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.

According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.

Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.

“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."

He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."

North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).

The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.

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