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The Environmental Impact of Spectator Sports

The Environmental Impact of Spectator Sports

What is the environmental impact of spectator sports?

November 7, 2007 —

A recent article on slate.com confronted the environmental impact of the major American spectator sports.  Though no definitive answer is provided, the article brings up a salient point for eco-conscious sports fans to consider: What is the environmental impact of your favorite sport?

In recent years, sports teams have made some efforts to provide eco-friendly confines.  The Boston Red Sox recently announced plans to ‘green’ Fenway Park and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles have been hailed as the ‘greenest’ team in sports.  Leagues have also shown a growing concern.  The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has provided educational material to the NBA and Major League Baseball.  When the NFL learned that the Super Bowl may expend one million pounds of carbon dioxide, it responded in 2007 by planting 3,000 trees near Miami to reduce the impact.

All the energy used to illuminate, heat—or in the case of hockey, freeze—an arena or stadium is intensified by the energy spent by fans just getting to the game.  Football games attract large crowds and many people drive to the game where tailgating is an important tradition.  But football is played only once a week and no NFL team plays more than 23 games (pre-season, regular season, and playoffs).  Baseball, basketball, and hockey, on the other hand, have longer seasons with far more games.  In particular, baseball attracts the most fans and has the longest season in stadiums just as large as football.

For the indoor sports, basketball is greener than hockey, which expends energy keeping the ice frozen.  The final sport mentioned by slate—motor sports—is inherently an environmentally destructive sport, but NASCAR, Indy, and Formula One are all attempting to become at least a little more eco-friendly.  For the eco-conscious fan, it is at least worth thinking about the impact of a sport the next time someone calls with tickets to the game.

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