In 2003, the Philadelphia Eagles led the way as the first professional sports organization to implement an environmental strategy. Their GO GREEN Campaign continues to impress today. The Eagles have instituted comprehensive recycling programs and renewable energy purchases as well as initiating programs such as tree-planting, using organic and pesticide-free materials on their playing fields, and recycling cooking oil which had been used in the team’s kitchens and concession areas for the production of bio-diesel fuel.
According to Don Smolenski, Eagles Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, “the Philadelphia Eagles first began their GO GREEN Campaign to make a positive impact on the environment. The team has always strived to be a winning organization both on and off the field and the GO GREEN program has allowed us to show our fans and the community how important it is to make eco-friendly decisions”.
In addition to benefiting the environment, their innovative GO GREEN Campaign has enabled the Philadelphia Eagles to realize positive financial results over the last five years. Smolenski says, “Every step we take, no matter how small, is a success. In 2007, we built a 10kwh solar facility at our training complex. In 2008, we increased our clean energy usage from 25% to 100% through the purchase of wind energy.” In addition to harnessing solar and wind power Smolenski adds “over the past four years, we have reduced our electricity usage by 25% resulting in a total savings of more than $1 million. Also, recycling has allowed us to lower our trash hauling costs.”
Smolenski credits the involvement and participation of their players and employees as a big part of their success. Players, such as Joselio Hanson and Winston Justice, have offered their time to make GO GREEN public service announcements and to plant trees at the Eagles Forest in Neshaminy State Park. The Eagles Forest opened in May 2008 and they’re on their way towards achieving their goal of planting 3,900 native trees and shrubs. Smolenski adds that the team also uses “sustainability supply partners from the Philadelphia area or ones that are located within a 100 mile radius.” Food service partner Aramark has been a GO GREEN partner since 2006. Switching to corn-based cups, bowls, plates, and utensils that biodegrade within 45 days has helped to conserve 14 tons of plastic.
The Eagles reimburse employees who purchase 300 kwh of wind energy for their home electric use; the first organization to offer a reimbursement program of this kind. Over 100 employees take advantage of this benefit. In addition, they also promote recycling cardboard, light bulbs and batteries at the Eagles facilities. On Earth Day last April, in order to encourage employees to make more eco-friendly choices, the Eagles gave all employees energy efficient CFL bulbs for their personal use.
Smolenski continues, “Our biggest test is the everyday challenge of consistency and communication. On an event day, we have over 3,000 employees and 70,000 fans. We have built this program slowly in an effort to demonstrate our commitment and to incorporate green practices into the fabric of our organization. Our challenge is to share our accomplishments and continue to engage others in this effort.”
Continuing at current levels, the GO GREEN efforts will have an impressive impact every year. Energy conservation and green power generation will equate to providing electricity for almost 1,900 homes. There will be a reduction in the trash stream by about 260 American households, which will save over 1,200 trees and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 2,600 automobiles off the road.
The Eagles have created partnerships with environmental organizations such as the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resource and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Their pioneering efforts have recently been recognized by the Environmental Media Awards. Eagle’s co-owners, Jeffrey and Christina Lurie, accepted the EMA board of directors’ Ongoing Commitment Award on behalf of the Eagles at the Environmental Media Awards on November 13th.
The Eagles hope their GO GREEN Campaign will educate and inspire other teams to do their very best to improve the environment. They’re confident that if every professional sports team and their stadium service providers were to follow their lead, the overall impact would be dramatic. Game on!
By Brian J. Mellett
Photo credits to the Philadelphia Eagles and Drew Hallowell