Why Be Green > Good Business

Greening college sports makes good business sense and environmental considerations are increasingly a part of the 21st century marketplace. College sports departments that are adopting greener practices are helping to show that sustainability can work hand in hand with good business practices—including by reducing sports facility operations costs, providing a healthier workout environment (e.g. air quality in indoor tracks, water quality in pools), appealing to new sponsors and donors, and enhancing inter-departmental collaboration.

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 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.

Many of the suggestions in this guide can reduce operating costs. Improved efficiency means less waste, which often translates into cost savings, as well as energy, water, and other resource savings. For example, a typical office disposes of about 350 pounds of wastepaper per employee per year. Switching from single-sided to double-sided printing can cut this figure – and corresponding expenditures and environmental impacts – almost in half. Adding other paper reduction strategies can reduce costs associated with paper use even further.


>> 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 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 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 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.

>> 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.

>> 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.

“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.


>> The Miami HEAT’s energy efficiency initiatives have enabled the AmericanAirlines Arena to consume 53 percent less energy than the average facility of similar size and use, according to Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager. This saves the HEAT $1.6 million each year.

“We spent $1,594,309 during the 2008 calendar year. If we ran the AmericanAirlines Arena at the current national average, we could potentially be spending approximately $3,010,000 annually on energy consumption each year,” explains Jackie Ventura, operations coordinate for the HEAT Group. “So thanks to our greening work and responsible energy consumption, which is 53 percent more efficient than the average arena, we now save approximately $1.6 million on energy costs annually.”

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

>> While the up-front investment in major greening upgrades is significant, the payoff is greater. The Portland Trail Blazers invested $560,000 in operations improvements around the Moda Center. By 2011 the team had recouped $411,000 in energy savings, with a total savings of $836,000.

“As of the end of the 2011 calendar year, we have saved close to $1 million while investing about $500,000, in less than three years,” says Justin Zeulner, former director of sustainability for the Trail Blazers. “We forecast that our savings will reach over $1 million by the end of 2012.”

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

>> Between 2007 and 2012, the St Louis Cardinals have cut Busch Stadium’s energy use by 23 percent—down to 161.2 kBtu per square-foot from 211.8—after normalizing for weather. This saved the team more than $300,000 in energy costs between 2007 and 2010. According to EPA EnergyStar, this puts Busch Stadium at an energy performance level that is 39 percent better than the national average for entertainment buildings (265 kBtu/sq. ft./year).

“When it comes to stadiums and sustainable operations, reducing energy use is the place to start,” says Abernathy. “The cost of energy to run a stadium is typically 15 to 20 percent of our total stadium operations budget. So when we were able to reduce our energy use by 23 percent, it had a significant impact on the bottom line—for us, saving up to $150,000 annually. It all starts with knowing what your energy consumption is.”

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

>> STAPLES Center implemented numerous lighting and equipment upgrades in 2012, replacing more than 3,000 halogen fixtures with LEDs to save approximately $80,000 annually in energy costs.

“Beyond energy savings, rebates from the utility and lowered labor costs also bring down the costs of this investment,” notes Sam Kropp, vice president of building operations for STAPLES Center and Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. “We had our capital outlay and then the utility reimbursed us for a portion of that cost. And, I think most notably, it’s the lack of labor needed to change these incandescent bulbs day in and day out that is most appealing. We have about 160 suites that basically had a minimum of six fixtures each, and now we’ve replaced all that with LEDs. That’s a big savings we realized there.”

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

>> Through numerous energy efficiency efforts between 2006 and 2011, the Seattle Mariners have saved approximately $1.5 million in utilities costs (electricity, natural gas, water and sewer) by reducing natural gas use by 60 percent, electricity use by 30 percent and water use by 25 percent at Safeco Field. The team replaced its old incandescent bulb scoreboard with a new LED scoreboard, which lowered annual electricity consumption by more than 90 percent (from 1.2 million kilowatt-hours to 130,000 kilowatt-hours) and reduced energy costs by $50,000 per year. Energy initiatives have resulted in an average annual energy savings of $298,500 per year, with savings as high as $350,000 per year, compared with expenditures in 2006.

“It was all low-cost, easily achieved things,” says Scott Jenkins, former VP of ballpark operations, “mostly better use of automation, better discipline in turning things off when they’re not being used, really low-cost stuff like aerators on faucets, weather stripping on doors, some upgrades on the controls. And lo and behold, that $100,000 I wanted to save turned into $275,000 in the first year.”

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

>> In October 2010, the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center became the first LEED Gold–certified designed and constructed professional basketball arena in North America. High-efficiency systems at the Amway Center consume approximately 25 percent less energy than a comparable code-compliant design. This saves nearly $750,000 a year. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> In 2008, the United State Tennis Association commissioned an environmental audit of the National Tennis Center that led to the implementation of many changes, including adding energy-efficient systems such as individually-controlled temperature zones and variable frequency drives, which have reduced the amount of energy used by 168,000 kWh per year (representing an annual savings of $34,000 and a reduction of 70 metric tons of CO2 per year). To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.