The Super Bowl- Working with the NFL’s “Carbon Neutral” Initiative

When a Major Event Comes to Your Town- Part 3 of 3
(Jacksonville, FL)- Greenscape of Jacksonville, The Greening of Detroit, and TREEmendous Miami planted hundreds of tree seedlings to offset the greenhouse gas events produced by Super Bowl events in their cities as part of the National Football League’s (NFL) “Carbon Neutral” initiative.

Category: Partnerships
Although you might not associate trees with sports, the arrival of a major sports event to your city can mean an opportunity for significant tree planting. Several organizations that are members of the Alliance for Community Trees have partnered with major league sports and the Olympics to plant trees to beautify the areas surrounding the events or to offset the increased greenhouse emissions resulting from the events. Goals, results and funding differ depending on local and state priorities and the sports organizations involved.
The NFL’s “carbon neutral” initiative, begun at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville in 2005, supports the planting of hundreds of tree seedlings in the areas where the Super Bowl events are held, to offset the greenhouse gas emissions produced by these activities. The NFL, in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a variety of other research partners, has determined the amount of carbon dioxide produced by Super Bowl-related activities and the number and type of trees needed to absorb that amount of carbon dioxide.
Becoming “carbon neutral” is just one piece of the overall NFL environmental program at Super Bowls, which includes recycling/solid waste management tactics, prepared food recovery plans, and materials- and sports-equipment donations projects.
In order to meet the carbon sequestration goals set by the NFL, the trees planted under this initiative must be in a “natural” setting where they can grow and reproduce in perpetuity. One of the main challenges for groups working with this program is finding an appropriate site where a large number of trees can be planted and allowed to grow undisturbed over time.
Greenscape of Jacksonville
Greenscape of Jacksonville partnered with the NFL, the University of North Florida, the City of Jacksonville and the Super Bowl XXXIX Host Committee to plant 1,000 pine seedlings in “The Green Zone” on the University of North Florida campus. The University of North Florida will maintain this grove of seedlings and use it as a living laboratory and will develop educational activities around it.
Greenscape of Jacksonville served as the contact organization for the project, which included finding the site; coordinating materials, volunteers and media coverage; and acting as a pass-through for expenses. The materials were purchased by an arm of the NFL.
After the Super Bowl, the NFL donated leftover fabric from banners to Greenscape of Jacksonville, which they used to wrap around seedlings in their next tree sale, resulting in a small profit.
The Greening of Detroit
The Greening of Detroit coordinated the planting of 2,500 seedlings by more than 100 volunteers at five sites in and around Detroit as part of the Super Bowl’s carbon neutral initiative in 2006. Six native species of trees were planted in riparian areas to minimize the need for watering over the long-term.
TREEmendous Miami
In 2007, TREEmendous Miami teamed with the NFL and local groups to plant 300 pine seedlings on a county pineland preserve and more than 50 pine seedlings at the entrance to the Visitor’s Center of Everglades National Park.
1. Be confident in what you bring to the table. Keep in mind why you are doing this. Stay focused. Don’t be awed by all the momentum and publicity around the event.
2. The NFL has a very specific outcome in mind and has invested significant time and research into developing the scientific backing for how they want to approach achieving a “carbon neutral” event. This is not an opportunity for your organization to advance a different tree planting agenda or method for offsetting greenhouse emissions.
3. Have realistic expectations of what this event will involve. The NFL is an excellent but demanding partner. This will require a significant amount of your time.
4. Know your city and know your organization’s capacity. Work with the NFL to make their model work for your locality. For example, The Greening of Detroit spent considerable time and effort locating five sites that would allow the NFL to reach its goal of planting 1,000 seedlings, although the initial plan was to find only one large site. In addition, The Greening of Detroit encouraged the NFL to plant 2,500 seedlings instead of 1,000 because of survivability issues.
5. The NFL pays for the seedlings, but there is no money for administrative costs associated with the project. All plantings are done by volunteers.
6. There is usually some local publicity for partner organizations, as plantings typically happen away from the week of the Super Bowl, at which time the NFL gives as much credit as possible to local organizations in hopes of enhancing their reputation and leaving that as part of their legacy. However, although there is a lot of media around the Super Bowl, it will not be focused on the tree planting events, which are a very, very small piece of the event.
7. Make your project as visible as possible. Place signage around the planting project.
8. The project is worthwhile and can be a lot of fun. These events capture peoples’ attention and may help you to interest people in tree planting and tree care whom you otherwise would not reach.
Contact Information:
Anna Dooley, Executive Director
Greenscape of Jacksonville
4401 Emerson Street, Suite 3
Jacksonville, Florida 32207
Phone: (904) 398-5757
Fax: (904) 396-6767
Rebecca Witt, President
The Greening of Detroit
1418 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48216
Phone: (313) 237-8733
Fax: (313) 237-8737
Amy Creekmur, Program Coordinator
TREEmendous Miami
P.O. Box 343224
Florida City, Florida 33034
Phone: (305) 378-1863