National College Football Championship Goes Green with “Plant”-Off

Tonight’s Alabama-Clemson College Football national championship game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ is the culmination of the 2nd season of the 4-team College Football Playoff system. Before the game kicks off, the 2nd annual Plant Off will serve as the culmination of the green side (#PlayoffGreen) of the College Football National Championship.


College football’s 4-team championship playoff system arrived* on the sports scene last January at around the same time as the Greening of College Sports was entering the mainstream. It is therefore no surprise that sustainability played a big role at last year’s College Football Playoff, particularly at the national championship game in Dallas. And, while Alabama’s colors are crimson & white and Clemson dons orange, purple and white, you can color this year’s final in Phoenix #PlayoffGreen.

The commitment to greening comes from the top of the College Football Playoff (CFP) hierarchy. “Being environmentally responsible is quite simply the right thing to do, and the citizens of Arizona have been such welcoming hosts, we want to make sure that our game leaves a positive footprint in this community,” said Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director.

CFP, in partnership w/ sustainability sponsor ESPN (the broadcaster of the semis and tonight’s championship game), is offering up a mix of elements geared, in the words of CFP Sustainability Consultant Jack Groh^ “towards reducing climate impact” that have become, happily, standard fare at mega-sports events:

  • Zero Waste: This initiative features the reuse of food waste as animal feed and the conversion into concrete for pool pads (very innovative!)
  • Food Donation: Waste Not of Arizona is handling food recovery, delivering food collected from pre-game events to local shelters and soup kitchens.
  • Renewable Energy: A temporary infusion of renewable energy is being supplied by Salt River Project (SRP) to University of Phoenix Stadium on game day. And TerraPass, in partnership with CFP, is providing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for Playoff Fan Central and offsets for Alabama’s and Clemson’s travel.

But CFP is going beyond GSOP (Green Standard Operating Procedure) with its 2nd annual “Playoff Plant Off”.

Later today, ten-person teams of students and alumni from the four playoff semifinalists (Michigan State and Oklahoma will be represented in addition to Alabama and Clemson) as well local universities, including Arizona State and University of Arizona, will compete to see which can plant ten trees the fastest and most correctly (I’m not sure what the “correct way” to plant trees is–this is why it’s a good thing I will be thousands of miles away from the Plant Off.) Watch this space to see which school succeeds defending Plant Off champ Ohio State. First prize is an urban forestry grant that can be used to plant trees on the winner’s campus or at a neighborhood location of their choice.

Plant Off I

Students from The Ohio State University planting trees at last year’s inaugural College Football Playoff Plant Off in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won the Plant Off and also the small matter of the 2015 National College Football Championship. The 2016 Plant Off and College Football Championship Game will take place later today in Phoenix. (Photo credit: City of Arlington, TX)

Speaking of watching–while you’re enjoying the game (it says here Alabama 24 Clemson 20–GreenSportsBlog not going out on a limb), keep an eye out for a mention of and/or a video snippet of #PlayoffGreen–the Plant Off, or any of the greening going on around the national championship will do. ESPN airs “color and pageantry” scenes of students and fans outside the stadium–some serious, some college hijinks-y–at virtually every game they broadcast. A 15 second vignette of any of the greening activities surrounding the game isn’t too much to ask, right? While the CFP’s commitment to sustainability is fantastic, the full power of Green-Sports will be realized when the masses of fans who watch on TV (an almost infinitely greater number than those who attend games) are engaged.

* The CFP replaced the much-reviled Bowl Championship Series (BCS) largely poll-driven/bowl-driven way of determining a champion–sort of.
^ Mr. Groh has served in a similar role for the NFL for more than a decade. He is responsible for the greening initiatives at the Super Bowl, among other special NFL events.
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