By Daniel Newhauser
Phoenix, AZ (October 27, 2007)- Super Bowl organizers will leave Arizona with a little extra shade this February in an effort to offset the pollution from the big game in Glendale. The NFL is leading an effort to plant 84 acres of ponderosa pine seedlings this month in the area of northern Arizona that was decimated by the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire, the largest fire in state history.
Jack Groh, director of the NFL’s environmental program, said crews have already started planting the trees and should be finished by November. “We want to have a real, tangible impact in Arizona,” Groh said. At 42 trees per acre, the NFL will leave Arizona with about 3,528 new seedlings.
Scientists at the Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory say that should be plenty to neutralize the pollution brought to Arizona by the NFL championship on Feb 3. The researchers- hired by the NFL to calculate the Super Bowl’s carbon footprint- estimate that league-sponsored events, stadium utilities and league travel will produce about 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide. That does not include vehicle emissions fans will bring to Arizona as they flock to the festivities in jets, motor homes and cars, but Groh said planting only 3 1/2 acres of trees would offset the NFL’s carbon emissions. By planting 84 acres, he said the NFL has gone “way beyond” efforts that started in 2004 to make the entire Super Bowl carbon neutral.
Groh said 42 acres of seedlings will be planted in the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, and another 42 acres will be planted near Cibeque with the help of White Mountain Apache Tribe forestry crews. “It’s nice to see this is a long-term project that will keep giving back,” said Nicole Huttenhoff of RBS Consulting, a corporate sponsor of the project.
Carbon neutrality is achieved by balancing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere with the amount reduced. The practice has gained popularity since former Vice President Al Gore started a high-profile campaign in support of the practice.
Bonny Bentzin, manager of campus sustainability at the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, said reforestation reduces atmospheric greenhouse gases because trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide. “There’s always going to be carbon produced,” Bentzin said. “But we can purchase offsets.” She said the NFL’s efforts will not solve the problem globally, but a carbon neutral Super Bowl could help educate the nation about the need to offset carbon emissions.
Groh said that is the NFL’s goal. “If we come up with something successful, we hope other organizations will emulate it,” he said.
The NFL will purchase additional carbon offsets in the form of renewable energy certificates through Salt River Project’s EarthWise Energy program, available to any business or SRP residential customer. Renewable energy certificates are created when electricity is generated using alternate power sources such as wind or solar energy instead of fossil fuels.
The NFL’s environmental projects in Arizona also are receiving backing from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, Arizona State Land Department Urban Forestry Division, the U.S. Forest Service and private corporate sponsors.
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