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Game On: How Sports Facilities Can Become Sustainable
As the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, sports facilities are once again opening their doors for sporting events, concerts, expos, and more. Unfortunately, sports facilities generate a lot of carbon emissions, waste and use a whole lot of energy.
For example, Waste Management estimates that the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL generate about 35,000 tons of CO2 each year from their fans. Much of those emissions come from travel, food and beverage, and infrastructure. In terms of waste, the EPA estimates that sporting event attendees alone generate around 39 million pounds of trash per year in the U.S. When it comes to energy, a professional sports stadium can use 5-10 MW of electricity during an event, the equivalent of 5,000 American homes.
So, how can sports facilities become sustainable, i.e., reduce emissions, waste, and energy use? In this article, we’ll explore a number of actions facility owners and managers can take.
First Things First: Calculate Your GHG Emissions and Energy Use
Before you can begin reducing your facility’s energy use and/or greenhouse gas emissions, you’ll need to get a solid grasp on where your facility currently stands with regards to energy use/emissions. You can calculate energy use manually by taking a deep dive into your energy bills. GHG emissions can also be calculated manually using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s GHG Emissions Calculation Tool.
Alternately, you can use an energy and sustainability management platform to calculate your emissions for you. We recommend this method as it provides more accurate results and removes the margin for error in manual calculation. In addition, an energy and sustainability management platform will track your energy use and emissions over time to see how they are impacted by any efficiency projects you implement.
Take Advantage of On-Site Renewable Generation
On-site renewable energy generation (e.g., solar panels on the roof of your facility, biomass, fuel cells, battery storage, or wind power) is a great way to reduce your facility’s emissions. Many sports facilities are already using on-site generation: In 2010, NASCAR’s Pocono Raceway installed 40,000 solar panels in its parking lot. In the NFL, the Washington Commanders installed solar panels in 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles started installing solar arrays and wind power systems in 2010, and the Buffalo Bills ringed their stadium with micro wind turbines in 2011. MLB teams, meanwhile, began adopting solar as early as 2008.
We recommend looking into the different options of on-site renewable generation that would best suit your facility. Refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s On-Site Renewable Energy Generation Guide.
Procure Green Energy
If you are not able to generate renewable energy on-site, you can procure it from outside sources (e.g., renewable energy credits and green tariffs). On top of helping you reduce emissions, green energy procurement can protect your facility against electricity price increases and volatility (this is particularly relevant now, with energy prices skyrocketing).
Reduce Energy Use With Energy Efficiency Projects
Energy efficiency projects take many forms and are a great way to reduce energy use. Examples include:
- Installing energy efficient lighting systems. Sports facilities in particular use a lot of light, from intricate light shows at concerts to high-wattage stadium lighting. If the lighting systems in your facility are old or inefficient, you may be losing a great deal of both energy and money. Some estimates state that lighting accounts for more than 40% of electricity use in facilities. A complete rehaul of your facility’s lighting system can produce significant returns on investment. However, there are more simple fixes you can make, such as installing energy efficient LED and CFL bulbs.
- Using ENERGY STAR certified appliances. Many sports facilities have concessions stands and kitchens that utilize refrigerators, ovens, stoves, dishwashers, and other appliances. Many locker rooms have washers and dryers for cleaning uniforms and other gear. Products that earn the ENERGY STAR label meet strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the U.S. EPA. Click here for a full list of ENERGY STAR products for facilities.
- Upgrading your HVAC system. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is usually one of the biggest areas of energy consumption within a facility. (With so many people in close quarters and COVID-19 still a threat, proper ventilation and cooling is essential to ensure health and prevent overheating). An HVAC system is comprised of ductwork and registers, fans and blowers, and various electrical connections. All of these can be areas where energy is lost. HVAC systems should regularly be inspected and monitored for signs of inefficiency and replaced with more energy efficient models if necessary.
- Inspecting and maintaining electrical motors and generators. Electrical motors and generators use a large amount of the energy budgeted for a facility. Overheating and malfunctioning motors and generators can be indicative of mechanical or electrical inefficiencies that can lead to more energy use (and in worse case scenarios, system failure). The best ways to reduce your motors’ energy use are to keep motors well maintained, size them appropriately and operate at them constant speeds. Generators are essentially reverse motors, so diagnostics are similar.
Wondering exactly what kinds of efficiency projects sports facilities have implemented? Check out these examples:
- The Minnesota Twins use a system that collects rainwater from around the stadium. The water is filtered, disinfected, and used to irrigate the field as well as wash down seating areas between games.
- Efficiency improvements built into New York’s MetLife Stadium include a synthetic turf playing field, waterless urinals, and low flush toilets. These improvements have been estimated to reduce water consumption by 11 million gallons per year or a 25% reduction compared to its predecessor, Meadowlands Stadium. Additionally, despite being nearly over twice the size of Meadowlands, MetLife Stadium was able to reduce energy use by nearly 30%.
- In San Francisco, the 49ers chose to use a specialized concrete with a low- CO2 formula for their new stadium. This is estimated to reduce the carbon footprint of the stadium by 23 million pounds of CO2.
- The Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, took on the challenge of creating innovative transportation solutions that mitigate GHG emissions. The arena’s location provides direct access to nine subway lines with two more located two blocks away, along with nearly 150 trains and 135 buses.
- CenturyLink Field in Seattle is attempting to set the benchmark for stadiums and their material management and sustainability programs. In 2011 the stadium implemented a single-stream recycling program aimed at maximizing material capture and diversion. Through the creation of a recycling center, consistent signage and containers, and training of the stadium staff, the diversion rate jumped to 90%.
Utilize Real-Time Data Monitoring
In large sports facilities, utility bills alone may not tell you everything you need to know about where your facility is underperforming. Interval meters and real-time data monitoring allows you to see specific data from your facility at any moment, allowing you to detect inefficiencies in your lighting, HVAC system, appliances, and more. In addition, real-time monitoring allows you to verify the effectiveness of efficiency projects and energy procurement/generation efforts (more on this below). Click here to discover more about real-time data monitoring.
Use Effective Messaging to Get Fans on Board
Messaging is essential to increasing your facility’s sustainability, since you need the people using your facility to be on board. We recommend creating effective and consistent signage throughout your facility and incorporating aspects of the sustainability plan into all communications. For example, The Philadelphia Eagles implemented a full-scale marketing campaign for their “Go Green” program. The series features scoreboard, print and billboard media featuring statements like “It’s Time for some Serious Trash Talk” and “Trash the [Rivals] Giants, Skins and Cowboys, but Please Recycle the Cups”, and using the tagline that “When We Recycle, Everybody Wins”. In addition, the team produced a “playbook” for fans that includes statistics and other information about the program, along with an interactive website.
Measure and Verify Your Efforts
To ensure your energy and emissions reductions efforts are successful, your next step should be to measure & verify them. This involves:
- Tracking all your invoice and metering data to ensure your projects are performing as expected (this is where real-time data monitoring comes in!).
- Complying with guidelines outlined in the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) and ASHRAE Guideline 14.
Click here to learn more about the process of measurement and verification.
How WatchWire Can Help Your Sports Facility Become Sustainable
WatchWire is an integrated energy and sustainability management platform that can:
- Provide you with peak load monitoring and alerts that let you know when peak load hours are likely to occur, so you can take necessary action to reduce emissions.
- Assist you with green energy procurement, including renewable energy credits and green tariffs.
- Measure and verify all your energy use and emissions reductions efforts.
- Calculate and track your facility’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
To discover more about WatchWire and its capabilities, you can visit our website, blog, or resource library, request a demo, or follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter to keep up-to-date on the latest energy and sustainability insights, news, and resources.
“The Environmental Impact of Professional Sports” – The Environmentor
“Sustainable Stadiums and Arenas” – Waste Management
“Clean Power in Sports: What Fuels Your Game?” – Green Sports Alliance
‘How Barclays Is Reducing Stadiums’ Enormous Waste Challenge” – Green Sports Alliance
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