What Does the Super Bowl Have to Do with Sailing?

Last night millions of people across the U.S. sat down to watch the Super Bowl, and while most viewers had their mind on the game, there was a dark side to the festivities, which they did not consider.

The Super Bowl has a huge environmental impact, which can be attributed to two groups: the millions watching the game at home (think higher-than-normal food waste and electrical output) and those attending the game (think the gas and jet fuel used to get spectators and players there, plastic beer cups and foam fingers that will end up in landfills).

The numbers are staggering. Salon published an article on these statistics, showing how they stack up- a hundred million pounds of avocados! Half million slices of pizza delivered by Dominos, with only twenty percent of the boxes they’re delivered in being recycled.

With over half of the last fifty Super Bowl games being in held in coastal cities, we decided to look at how this event, and others like it, affect local waterways for sailors.

This year’s game was held at Levi’s Stadium, a stone’s throw from the San Francisco Bay and a short drive to the Pacific Ocean, an area that’s home to a vibrant and established sailing community.

Thankfully, this year’s venue was the most environmentally friendly yet. Check out this infographic CleanTechnica.com compiled outlining the energy saving features that are in place: plumbing that uses 85 percent recycled water, 1,162 solar panels that generate more electricity annually than is consumed during all the 49ers home games combined, and a 27,000 square-foot green roof that both cools and insulates the building.

On January 18, the Superbowl 50 Host Committee partnered with Bay.org, San Francisco’s largest watershed conservation group, to bring over 300 volunteers together for a coastal cleanup of Candlestick Park and Yosemite Slough, collecting litter from to prevent debris from polluting the bay and beyond.

To their credit, this is not the National Football League’s first rodeo. For the past 24 years the NFL has been taking steps to reduce its environmental impact, planting trees and purchasing renewable energy to offset carbon emissions, employing green energy sources like biofuels to power generators and donating leftover food to local churches and homeless shelters.

Ultimately, the less waste there is, the less carbon emissions there are, and the less impact the Superbowl and other such events have on our waterways and oceans.

“Sustainability is definitely gaining strength,” says David Cooper, president of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering firm behind the design of Levi’s Stadium, in an article published on SI.com. “We are seeing it across multiple sectors…as an attractive selling point.”

The NFL could take a cue from the America’s Cup, who in 2013 in San Francisco implemented energy-saving, sustainable features like runoff reduction and bio degradable signage. Really, though, we should take our cues from each other, and recognize that we are all in this together, whether going for a sail or celebrating a touchdown.


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