The Super Bowl, and all the hoopla that surrounds it, is going super green.
From powering the stadium on renewable energy to donating leftover food to the hungry, the NFL is sponsoring initiatives to offset the environmental impact of the big game.
"We have a sense of responsibility to leave the host community better than we found it,'' said Jack Groh, director of the NFL's environmental program.
The program began 16 years ago with basic recycling and has expanded to include food donations, green energy and tree plantings. New this year: measuring tree growth to calculate the greenhouse gas impact of planting new trees. While the NFL admits the efforts don't completely negate the Super Bowl — and all the beer cans, plastic forks and car trips it generates — the initiatives do make a difference. Here are some of them.
For the first time in Tampa, biomass from plant waste and, to a lesser degree, solar energy will power the stadium on game day and during the NFL Experience, which runs for five days.
Tampa Electric Co. will buy biomass energy from a South Florida provider, which will ship it through transmission lines into the TECO system. Solar energy will come from TECO and other providers. In all, the stadium and NFL Experience will consume an estimated 187,000 kilowatt hours. By comparison, a typical house uses 15,000 kilowatt hours per year.
TECO officials estimate that powering the Super Bowl with renewable energy will prevent more than 313,500 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, or the equivalent of taking 19 cars off the road for a year. It will increase the stadium's cost by about $5,000, which the NFL and its sponsors will pay.
The NFL, with help from the U.S. Forest Service and the Florida Division of Forestry, is planting 2,700 trees at a dozen sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to help offset the game's carbon impact.
Scientists will measure the trees annually to calculate their long-term environmental benefits using software developed by the Forest Service. The new program will track the amount of air pollution, carbon dioxide and stormwater the trees absorb and quantify the trees' effects of cooling, said Charlie Marcus, urban forestry coordinator for the state. Generally, it takes five to 10 years for a tree to start reducing greenhouse gases.
Leftover food donation
Prepared party food that doesn't make it to buffet tables will be donated to America's Second Harvest of Tampa Bay, which partners with 350 charities and churches to provide food to the needy.
Food will come from various Super Bowl parties, including some private events not connected to the NFL or the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee. During the last Super Bowl, 90,000 pounds of food were donated.
All building materials, decorations, office equipment and supplies used in the preparation of the Super Bowl will be given to nonprofit groups to use or sell for cash.
Items range from rolls of carpeting to signs to plants. Estimated value: more than $300,000.
Used book and sports equipment donations
About 90 local schools are collecting books and sports equipment to give to local children. The donation drive continues through Jan. 22.
For information on where to drop off items, call (813) 242-5346.