The Philadelphia Eagles had a historic year in 2018. The year began with the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl. By June, they became the first professional sports team to receive ISO 20121 certification from the International Organization of Standards for successfully integrating sustainability practices into their management model. In December, the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) upgraded Eagles’ LEED status from Silver to Gold for “achieving high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy eﬃciency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.”
Just as their Super Bowl victory resulted from years of hard work, so too were the Eagles’ sustainability triumphs. When Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003, the team launched its “Go Green” program. What started with recycling bins for employees has continued to encompass green energy, recycling, composting, and water conservation. The team has backed its commitment by dedicating $100 million for its sustainability programs over the years.
Following each game, 75 trash sorters scour Lincoln Field collecting rubbish, going so far as to extract recyclable materials out of garbage bags. Similarly, shrink wrap is saved and sent to a company that transforms it into drywall material. Through a closed-loop recycling program, everything from stadium seats to bread trays are repurposed. An eight-foot-tall replica of the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy was built out of recycled bottle caps, while city park benches were made from plastic cut-outs used to fill seats last season when Covid prevented actual fans from attending games. The Eagles recycled almost 3.5 tons of plastic just during 2020.
Over 25 tons of pre-consumer food waste have been decomposed since 2017. The food waste either goes to a contract composter or gets tossed into one of the stadium’s two on-site biodigesters. After being filtered at the local wastewater treatment facility, the residual slurry ultimately gets turned into energy. Kitchen oil, for example, is converted into biodiesel later utilized to fuel stadium equipment.
Beverages are hugely popular at stadiums’ concession stands. One recent study revealed that over three-quarters of fans buy drinks at games. The Eagles developed a multi-point strategy to make Lincoln Field’s beverage service more sustainable. Stadium concession stands now stock wood, not plastic. A switch to 100% renewable, corn-based straws saves approximately 500,000 plastic straws a year from being used. Cups are now made out of corn instead of plastic, resulting in nearly 40,000 pounds of plastic being kept out of landfills. Water filtration fountains were installed at Lincoln Field in 2015. With the NFL’s permission, beer can be served in aluminum cans rather than poured into cups. Since the Eagles can bail its own aluminum, they can earn $800-$1,200 per ton (instead of $45-$75 per ton if they went through a recycling company) recycling beer cans.
The team consumes only around 10 megawatts of energy annually, while it has been reported that their arch-rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, have consumed that much in a game. Standard lighting was swapped out for LED and fluorescent light alternatives. The installation of sensors and timers for its lighting and HVAC saves the team an estimated $50,000 per year, while changing from electric to gas heat can save $150,000 a month during winter.
Lincoln Field’s micro-grid of approximately 10,500 solar panels made it the largest solar-power system in the NFL as well as in the Philadelphia area. By generating over 24 million kilowatt-hours, it creates around 40% of the energy the stadium requires.
Lincoln Field’s eye-catching wind turbines were removed in 2019 to be either replaced or repaired; however, they produced only 1% of the stadium’s green energy. The remaining percentage of renewable energy comes from selling renewable energy credits linked to other solar or wind farms throughout the region.
The Eagles have devised several out-of-the-box initiatives for its “Go Zero” energy program. To offset the team’s travel carbon footprint, they recently partnered with Ocean Conservancy and the Ocean Foundation for a seagrass and mangrove restoration project in Puerto Rico.
In 2007, the team joined with assistance from The Conservation Fund and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, to start “Eagles Forest.” Nearly 6,000 trees were planted in this 6.5 acre forest, which represents an offset of 7,500 tons of CO2e.
Additionally, the Eagles also save approximately 170 trees annual through its paper recycling program.
To further decrease Lincoln Field’s carbon footprint, the team recently installed a hydrogen refueling unit and had the stadium vehicles and other equipment operate with clean hydrogen fuel.
Green has been the Philadelphia Eagles’ prime color since the team was founded in 1993; however, in the 21st century, the Eagles have been associated with green in recognition of its sustainability efforts. Lincoln Field frequently tops lists of the NFL’s greenest stadiums.
When the stadium earned its Gold LEED, USGBC President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam raved: “The work of innovative building projects such as Lincoln Financial Field is a fundamental driving force in transforming the way buildings are built, designed, and operated.”
Being a leader in the sustainability movement is a role the team embraces. “Since opening Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, we have been steadfast in our commitment to sustainable business practices, ” Philadelphia Eagles President Don Smolenski stated in 2018. “We hope that our continued efforts in this space inspire other organizations to adopt and embrace sustainable management practices, including green energy production, water, and energy conservation, recycling, and composting.” And what he said then continues to be true today.