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Where did the electricity come from at the Super Bowl? by Julie Peller, Ph.D.

Green Junction

The Super Bowl in the United States is an over-the-top show mixed in with a championship football game. The show part is flashy, full of sounds, visuals, and performers, requiring enormous amounts of materials and energy. According to Statistica, Super Bowl consumer spending in 2024 was $17.3 billion, compared to $8.71 billion in 2007. An estimated 1000 private jets transported the wealthiest attendees this year, and a 30-second advertisement cost around $7 million. In the midst of this lavish event, energy sustainability was actually implemented as part of NFL Green, the league’s program to reduce negative environmental impacts.

The 621,000-panel solar farm in the Nevada desert provided all the electricity for the Super Bowl game. The Las Vegas football team (Raiders) has a long-term contract with this solar energy company. However, since most of the carbon emissions associated with the Super Bowl are from transportation, advertising, and purchases, solar energy did not reduce the carbon footprint of the game very much. Another goal of NFL Green was to collect and use food waste from the game attendees as farm feed. The expected diversion is estimated at 12,000 pounds of food waste for livestock farms. NFL Green also works on “community greening, material recovery, and waste management.”

The upcoming Olympic Games, Paris 2024, is another major sporting venue aiming to cut its carbon footprint in half. The efforts will be more comprehensive with an “avoid, reduce, offset” model. More organizations that host major activities are recognizing their responsibilities to reduce the environmental damage associated with these high material/ energy events. In 2019, Pope Francis offered this perspective, “Look at Jesus: he built nothing imposing. And when he told us how to live, he did not ask us to build great works or draw attention to ourselves with extraordinary gestures.” Do we find joy in simplicity?

Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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