Funding > Operational Savings

Many of the suggestions in this guide can reduce operating costs. Improved efficiency means less waste, which often translates into cost savings.

Cost-saving environmental initiatives help garner athletics department and institutional support. A sports greening program that begins with financially sound environmental initiatives—such as upgrading to more efficient lighting fixtures, double-siding paper copies, printing less frequently, or installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances—can help the program gain momentum by cutting costs and can help attract interest for other greening opportunities.

If possible, minimize infrastructure upgrade costs by purchasing new products (such as LED lights) in bulk for multiple facilities. Calculate payback periods for installations of energy-efficient or water-efficient fixtures, including anticipated savings in resource use over time. Create purchasing policies with a preference for environmentally intelligent products to signal your vendors that you are prioritizing those preferences, helping them to anticipate your needs, which can also help keep costs down.

Keep track of any savings resulting from environmental initiatives and publicize them to staff and the administration to encourage lasting behavior change. For example, record decreases in copier paper orders resulting from paper reduction strategies, calculate the money saved, and congratulate staff for their achievement. Quantifying successes can also help to determine where your greening investments are making the most impact and inspire your department to make further investments.

Where possible, encourage athletics and recreation to set aside operational savings on utility bills for further green investments. Consider budgets for purchasing, waste, etc. in tandem with overall use, and apply any savings from waste reduction to the relevant budget. For example, if you save money through paper reduction efforts, apply that savings to purchasing paper with higher recycled content; if you save money from reducing the overall amount of waste disposed, apply that savings to expanding your recycling/composting program.


>> In 2010, University of Minnesota Athletics staff partnered with UM’s energy management department to complete an energy recommissioning study of eight existing athletic facilities. The study revealed so much energy-saving potential that energy conservation measures were implemented in all eight athletic facilities, yielding more than $412,000 in avoided utility costs annually for Minnesota Athletics.

“Energy conservation opportunities have become a priority in our annual budget process and we have worked well with our campus constituents to achieve significant results,” notes Jeff Seifriz, director of athletic facilities. Many of the upgrades had payback periods of less than one year. For example, though TCF Bank Stadium was the newest building on campus in 2010, it still benefited from recommissioning. “Some of the original controls’ programming and design used more outside air on non-event days, thus increasing our steam consumption. We took a detailed look at our sequencing and partnered with the energy management’s team to identify those variations and modify mechanical automation controls accordingly, resulting in savings for the facility of $131,000 in energy costs each year,” says Derek Hillestad, director of operations at TCF Bank Stadium.

To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> In 2007, San Diego State University and UC San Diego collaborated to install 5,000 square feet of thermal solar panels atop their co-owned Mission Bay Aquatic Center to heat the facility’s 50-meter pool. The panels cost approximately $100,000 and paid for themselves in energy savings in two years. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> The University of Connecticut’s Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center became the NCAA’s first LEED-certified building when it was completed in the summer of 2006. UConn Athletics achieved LEED Silver certification for the football complex by incorporating a variety of environmentally preferable features into the venue design. These include low-flow fixtures, native landscaping, locally manufactured building products, building materials made with recycled content, rain gardens, and highly reflective windows. The energy-efficient features have helped the facility cut energy use by 35 percent below 1999 ASHRAE standards, saving $35,000 to $40,000 per year. The water-efficient features have reduced the building’s water use to a level 35 percent below EPA standards.To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> The University of North Texas’ Apogee Stadium was the first sports venue in the United States to be awarded LEED Platinum certification. The stadium is powered by wind energy and designed to optimize resource efficiency while minimizing environmental impact. As one of the first, largest, and most visible LEED Platinum venues in the state, the stadium is a model green building in Texas. The university spent $594,750 on more efficient infrastructure upgrades, which will result in $402,000 in annual recoverable operational savings. The wind turbine energy generation is also expected to provide energy savings of $40,000 to $50,000 each year.

“Our staff originally thought that building more sustainably would be very expensive,” says Athletics Director Rick Villarreal. “We were pleased to find that in practice that wasn’t the case. It was contrary to what the public expectation is around building green.”

To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> In 2008, University of California, Berkeley upgraded the Recreational Sports Facility Field House lighting system to reduce energy use, lower maintenance costs, and provide better lighting in the gyms. Throughout the Field House, existing light fixtures were replaced with high-efficiency, high-output fluorescent lamps and transformers, which were equipped with occupancy sensors that switch off lights automatically when an area has been unoccupied for 20 minutes. Energy use was cut by 252,000 kilowatt-hours per year for a savings of $25,000 annually. The total cost for the lighting improvement project was approximately $114,000, 80 percent of which was covered by a grant from Pacific Gas and Electric. Thus, the net cost was $23,000, which was recouped in less than a year. The reduction in energy use also removes the equivalent of 132,000 pounds of CO2 per year from the air. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> In June 2012, Harvard University Athletics completed construction of a 2,275-panel solar photovoltaic system, the university’s largest solar energy project to date, spanning 1.5 acres of roof space atop the Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis building. The solar project cost approximately $2.1 million, with the majority of up-front installation costs covered by a university grant for green infrastructure upgrades. The $80,000 to $85,000 in projected annual savings will pay back the investment within approximately eight years.

“Harvard Athletics is showing that sports and sustainability go hand in hand,” says Heather Henriksen, director of the Harvard Office for Sustainability. “By building Harvard’s largest solar project, the athletics staff are not only producing clean, renewable energy that will help us get one step closer to our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also demonstrating a pragmatic approach to operations that will ultimately reduce costs.”

To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> All Penn State University sports facilities have used environmentally preferable cleaning products and processes since 2008, contributing to better air and water quality. Recycling bag dispensers in tailgating areas and a growing in-stadium recycling program have helped the 111,000-seat Beaver Stadium reach a 35 percent waste diversion rate and save Penn State $12,500 in litter cleanup costs after every home football game. The Lions divert 85 tons of materials to recycling at each game and donate all proceeds to the United Way, with such proceeds topping $85,000 since 1995. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> “Going green requires more tangible commitments and achievable goals. One reason the University of Arizona supports sustainability is because it makes business sense. Implementing new technologies and greening programs into our sports facilities helps reduce our energy and water use. It helps lower the UA’s bottom line.” says Joe Abraham, former director of the UA Office of Sustainability. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.