Since opening in 2002, Lumen Field has evolved into such an impressive eco-focused stadium that it is “considered one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable sports and entertainment facilities worldwide.” It has received Stadium Business Summit’s “International Sustainability and Community” award and ranks among the few pro sports stadiums with an EnergyStar Portfolio Manager Partner Certification. The EPA has honored Lumen Field several times with a “Waste Wise” award in 2018, a “Food Recovery” award in 2019, and a “Very Large Business Partner of the Year” award in 2020.
Environmental considerations began with the construction of the stadium (first known as Seahawks Stadium, then Qwest Field and CenturyLink Field before being renamed Lumen Field in 2020). “Our greening started with the building of the facility and recycling the concrete from the Kingdome in order to use as much as we could to build the new stadium,” according to Darryl Benge from First & Goal Inc. (FGI) who operate Lumen Field and Event Center. The overwhelming majority — 97% — of the Kingdome’s concrete was recycled locally with over a third used in the new stadium, currently home to the MSL’s Sounders along with the NFL’s Seahawks.
FGI formed The Green Team (composed of FGI and Seahawks staff members along with vendors and contractors) in 2006 to devise long-term strategies regarding resource consumption and energy reduction.
The stadium launched its first major green initiative in 2006 – a recycling program that included installing 75 recycling bins as well as a system to track the 17 different types of recyclable materials. 200 more recycling bins arrived the next year, along with a cardboard baler, which upped cardboard recycling by 16%. In 2016, Lumen Field reached 97% diversion of waste to recycling instead of landfills – a huge leap from the 2006 3% rate.
Composting represents another key player in the stadium’s recycling success. Since 2010, Lumen Field has used all-compostable service-ware as well as post-consumer paper products (toilet paper, hand towels and office paper) and, since 2017, 100% paper-based, ocean-degradable straws. Concession stands also have switched from serving fountain drinks to beverages in recyclable bottles.
The stadium teamed with the compostable foodservice firm Eco-Products for disposable plates, bowls and utensils that can be thrown away along with uneaten food into a single compost bin instead of two separate bins. Besides making it easier for fans, this system minimizes contamination in the composting process too. Eco-Products Senior Director of Marketing Sarah Martinez says that this partnership “is an exciting way to show that reaching high levels of waste diversion is achievable, even for venues as large as an NFL stadium.”
Hand-in-hand with its trash waste composting programs are the stadium’s food composting and sustainability efforts. Food waste, which can add up to over 16 tonnes per game, gets composted into fertilizer, which in turn is used to grow organic vegetables that are later served at the stadium. Thousands of pounds of potatoes grown in this soil, for instance, have been sold at the Seahawks’ yearly “Sustainability Game” that highlights their composting program. The team also has donated thousands of pounds of unused prepared food each season to local organizations like FareStart, Food Lifeline and Salvation Army to help the community as well as achieving zero food waste.
In 2010, the stadium began working with its food vendors to improve sustainability. As of 2017, 93% of the seafood served at Lumen Field was sustainability harvested, with the pork, chicken, and beef sourced from local farms and ranches that adhere to sustainable, humane farming practices. Similarly, produce comes from organic growers located in Washington and Oregon, while beer and wine sold at the stadium hail from the northwest too.
The stadium’s infrastructure improvements really got kickstarted after FGI hired energy-solution specialists McKinstry in 2008 to do a thorough energy audit of the stadium. Their findings resulted in many energy-conserving upgrades being made to the lighting, plumbing, electricity, and other mechanical systems. Low-flow water fixtures, for example, led to a dramatic 1.3 million gallon reduction in annual water use.
The installation of high-efficiency LED lighting and point-of-use lighting controls in restrooms, concession stands, and storage spaces reduced energy consumption by nearly 25%. A 2.5-acre rooftop solar installation – one of the largest solar arrays in the state of Washington –
generates 830,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, representing 15% of the stadium’s electricity or enough to power over 90 Seattle area homes annually. More energy conservation was accomplished with the addition of a “cool roof,” which serves to reduce heat absorption and decrease A/C usage. The combination of the solar panels, the cool roof, and the energy-efficient improvements lowered the stadium’s annual energy costs by 21% and cut down its yearly carbon footprint by more than 1300 metric tons of carbon emission.
For FGI, energy conservation is a team effort that includes the public. To lower vehicle-created carbon emissions, FGI has spotlighted how conveniently located subways, trains and buses are to the stadium, and aids electric vehicles use by having a number of EV charging stations available. FGI also has focused on engaging and educating fans about recycling and composting. To engage the public’s attention on recycling and composting, the Seahawks partnered with Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light in 2008 to develop a Blue Is Green educational program featuring interactive green tips for fans on the team’s website, and collaborated with the Sounders, a few years later, on a campaign promoting recycling and composting.
In 2019, Seattle Business Magazine bestowed Lumen Field with its “Community Impact Gold Award for Sustainability,” an honor that epitomizes FGI’s continuing commitment to green programs at Lumen Field, and to Seattle, which, after all, is known as “The Emerald City”.