The San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee talked the sustainability talk before the Big Game, promising to deliver the most shared, participatory and giving Super Bowl ever delivered in a “Net Positive” way – socially, environmentally and economically. Did they walk the green walk? We have the detailed sustainability scorecard for you, along with a quick, “post-green-game” interview with Neill Duffy, Co-Chair of the Super Bowl 50’s Host Committee’s Sustainability Committee and Sustainbility Advisor to the Host Committee.
Sustainability goals were set high by the Host Committee early on in the planning process as they committed to deliver Super Bowl 50—from Super Bowl City presented by Verizon (the free, public 9-day fan village in San Francisco) to the game itself at LEED Gold Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara— as a Net Positive event—which meant using Super Bowl 50 as a platform to do good for the entire Bay Area in four key areas:
- Reducing its impact on climate change by delivering a low emissions event with a focus on transportation and temporary power
- Responsibly using materials and resources with a focus on waste, food and water
- Inspiring fans to lead more sustainable lives personally and engaging with fans to make it possible for them to personally contribute towards the goal of delivering a Net Positive event
- Leaving a lasting positive legacy for the benefit of the entire Bay Area
So, how did they make out? My apologies for using baseball terminology for a football story, but I’d say the Host Committee knocked it out of the park. Some of the things The Host Committee achieved included:
- Ensured, while working with regional transportation agencies, there was ample service for public transit during Super Bowl week–and the public took note. To point to just one example, total Golden Gate Ferry ridership during Super Bowl Week totaled 133,159, an 81% increase vs. 2015.
- Partnered with the San Francisco Bike Coalition to establish a bike valet at Super Bowl City for the entire 9-day activation. 856 bikes were parked at the Super Bowl City bike valet on game day.
- Sold tickets to a ‘Fan Express’ charter bus system for transport to Levi’s Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday from pick-up points throughout the Bay Area. The buses, from Google’s fleet, ran on Neste NEXBTL renewable diesel. The Fan Express had the environmental benefit of removing approximately 2,000 cars from the road on Super Bowl Sunday.
Super Bowl City in San Francisco, was powered mainly by temporary, clean power. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)
- Worked with PG&E, the Official Clean Energy Partner, to run Super Bowl City on clean, temporary power. 91% of temporary power in Super Bowl City was supplied by Neste NEXBTL renewable diesel generators, which reduced emissions and improved air quality. Neste supplied 36,674 gallons of renewable diesel, which diverted 242.51 metric tonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the atmosphere. TerraPass provided 300 MT of climate reduction emissions to contribute towards the offset of residual emissions connected to the event.
- Engaged master food concessionaire Legends to serve locally-sourced (within 75 miles) and/or organic food in Super Bowl City.
- Gave 860 pounds of unused food to local food banks, with the help of Food Runners.
- In partnership with Klean Kanteen’s #BringYourOwn campaign, donated 10,000 re-useable water bottles to Host Committee volunteers and accredited media and provided fans with two free water stations to help eliminate the use of plastic water bottles in Super Bowl City. Free water stations were provided by U.S. Pure Water and FloWater, FloWater delivered 1,925 gallons of water, which diverted 14,580 single use plastic bottles from landfill.
- Managed, in a collaboration with the 50 Fund, in/PACT and Citizen Group, the Play Your Part campaign, which focused on inspiring fans to get directly involved with the Greenest Super Bowl Ever. The 50 Fund enabled fans to decide how $200,000 from the Sustainable Environments Game Changer Grant would be allocated amongst a short list of Bay Area environmental nonprofits while entering themselves into a sweepstakes with tickets to the Big Game as a Grand Prize. The Play Your Part microsite generated 27,107 pledge actions, which directed all $200,000 to 4 Bay Area nonprofits:
- Education Outside: 38%
- Children’s Discover Museum: 29%
- Hunters Point Family: 18%
- Environmental Volunteers: 15%
Video tells the story of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s Play Your Part fan engagement program, created in collaboration with in/PACT and Citizen Group.
Numbers can tell a lot but they aren’t the whole story. To get the full scope of Super Bowl 50’s sustainability performance, we talked with Neill Duffy.
GreenSportsBlog: When did you and your team start on sustainability planning?
Neill Duffy: Sustainability was actually part of the bid we submitted to the NFL so that was at least 2 1/2 years before the game.
GSB: Your planning certainly bore fruit–the numbers are indeed impressive. When you think of Super Bowl 50 from a sustainability point of view, do you think of the numbers or maybe something else?
ND: You know, more than the numbers, I think the biggest thing we achieved was to redefine how host committees in the future can go about staging major sporting events from a sustainability perspective. They’re all going to be pushed by different stakeholders to at least approach what the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee did.
GSB: I agree—you guys set an impressive sustainability bar. What are the three things of which you’re most proud from the Host Committee’s sustainability efforts?
ND: 1. Giving–the Host Committee directed $20 million to Bay Area non-profits, making it the most giving Super Bowl ever. $13 million+ as grants through the 50 Fund to local Bay Area non-profits serving young people; close to $7 million towards local diverse businesses through the Business Connect program. 2. Play Your Part: This was the first time a major sports event engaged fans around sustainability and made it possible for those fans to direct dollars to environmental charities, making Super Bowl 50 a Net Positive event. 3. Temporary power generation at Super Bowl City: 91% of the power generated at Super Bowl City was through Neste’s clean-burning renewable diesel. A small percentage of Super Bowl City power came from Hydrogen Fuel Cells. We would have used more, but the technology is new and the capacity isn’t there—yet.
ND: Wait, here’s a fourth success, and it’s important: We learned that purpose, as a key strategic driver, is good for business, good for sport, good for the community and good for the environment.
GSB: OK, a top 4! Now, and not to put any pressure on you, if you were to give any counsel to the Host Committees of Super Bowls to come as it relates to sustainability, what would you say?
ND: I’d say you’ve got to start early to get sustainability embedded into the DNA of the organization so that it influences every decision that you take, and get the fan engagement piece in place well ahead of time so that you can integrate into the overall fan experience. You can’t start 3-6 months ahead with a sustainability program and make it meaningful and get it right. In fact, if you don’t start at least a year out, I wouldn’t do it.
GSB: Well, Houston is 9 months out from Super Bowl LI and their sustainability program has yet to take shape, at least not publicly. Houston, we have a (sustainability) problem? That’s for another day. But, Neill, congratulations on Super Bowl 50—which was the Greenest Ever, by the numbers and beyond.
Will the Super Bowl LI Host Committee in Houston match the sustainability achievements of The San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee? Time—and commitment—will tell.
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