For Eagles, a Winning Mix of Wind, Biodiesel and Solar

Sports arenas and stadiums are all about getting the most number of people to spend the maximum amount of money in the shortest amount of time possible.

But a growing number of sports buildings from Boston to Los Angeles are becoming efficient in other ways, by saving energy and reducing waste with solar panels, low-flush toilets and composting.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles announced perhaps the most ambitious green initiative yet: the installation of about 2,500 solar panels, 80 20-foot-high wind turbines and a generator that runs on natural gas and biodiesel so that Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ home, will be the first stadium capable of generating all its own electricity.

Becoming self-sufficient in energy is the latest in a string of environmentally friendly measures the Eagles have taken since they opened their stadium in 2003. (Coincidentally, the team’s primary color is green.) Since then, many teams have introduced similar efficiency programs, and the four major sports leagues have set up programs to help their teams share information about how to use less energy, reduce waste and save money.

As large as they are, sports stadiums consume just a sliver of the nation’s energy and produce a fraction of its waste. But they are seen and used by millions of Americans every day, which has helped leagues counter the perception that sports teams are wasteful enterprises and in fact can convey socially responsible messages to fans of all political and economic stripes.

The Eagles’ green efforts “underscore the position that we are all very visible and can make a significant effort in our communities,” said Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the N.F.L. “We think it’s smart business and the right thing to do.”

To become self-sufficient, the Eagles have hired Solar Blue, a Florida-based company that will spend more than $30 million to install the solar panels, wind turbines and dual-fuel co-generation plant by the start of next season. Solar Blue chose vertical wind turbines because they produce less noise than bladed ones. They will also capture energy at night. The panels and turbines will meet about 25 percent of the stadium’s energy needs, with the generator covering the remainder, and will be visible to fans in the stadium, on television and to drivers passing by.

The Eagles will pay Solar Blue fixed amounts for their energy with increases of 3 percent a year over 20 years, which gives Solar Blue a guaranteed buyer and the Eagles a predictable source of renewable energy without worrying about erratic spikes in prices. The Eagles expect that their alliance with Solar Blue will help reduce their energy costs by almost 25 percent in the first year. Solar Blue can sell any excess energy it creates to the local utility, PECO.

“This is an opportunity to not be the stereotypical sports franchise that is not on the cutting edge,” said Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Eagles, who, with his wife, Christina, created a Go Green sustainability program in 2003. “We’ve read a lot that excellent environmental practices are too expensive or not wise for a company. We challenged that.”

In some ways, stadiums and arenas are ideal for green initiatives because they typically have large roofs for solar panels and ample space for other equipment. Teams and their fans also consume vast amounts of energy, food and beverages, metals and paper goods that can be reduced or recycled.

Sports facilities are also where Main Street and Wall Street collide. Every day, hundreds of thousands of Americans watch sports live at arenas where companies from caterers to chemical makers have their goods on display. Teams are increasingly using their leverage to force these suppliers to go green with them.

“When sports say we’re going to go solar or waterless, that sends an enormous message to the supply chain,” said Allen Hershkowitz, who leads the Natural Resources Defense Council’s sports greening initiative.

For example, the Eagles asked Aramark, the food service and cleaning contractor at Lincoln Financial Field, to use nontoxic cleaning supplies and to switch to more environmentally friendly cups and dinnerware. All toilet paper, tissues and towels at the team’s facilities are made from 100 percent recycled fibers, which has helped the team recycle nearly 32 percent of its waste, twice as much as in 2008.

The team composts more than 25 tons of organic waste, and more than 10,000 gallons of grease and used kitchen oil last year were sent to processors that converted it into biodiesel. These and other measures, including halving the amount of water used by urinals, have helped the team save more than $3 million since 2005. The Eagles, like other teams, have been able to generate new revenue by selling sponsorships to companies interested in being linked to their green initiatives.

The Eagles are not alone in setting lofty goals. AEG, which operates the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Rose Garden Arena in Portland and more than 100 other buildings, said Monday that by 2020, it plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, use renewable energy to meet 15 percent of its electricity need and cut waste sent to landfills by 25 percent.

At New Meadowlands Stadium, which opened this summer, 83 percent of the construction waste was recycled and 92 percent of the materials from the demolished Giants Stadium were recycled.

On the energy side, the stadium’s heating, cooling and ventilation systems use up to 50 percent less energy than older equipment. The installation of low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads and faucets, as well as the stadium’s synthetic turf, are part of a plan to use 9 million fewer gallons of water per year.

In St. Louis, the Cardinals have shaved 30 percent off their $100,000 annual trash hauling bill by composting their organic waste and selling their glass, aluminum and paper to recyclers. By installing motion sensors, better insulation and other measures, much of it subsidized by the local utility, the team has reduced its $2 million utility bill by 10 percent since 2008.

“The pressure to cut budgets is always there,” said Joe Abernathy, vice president for stadium operations for the Cardinals.

In Seattle, the Mariners have cut their electric, gas, water and sewer bills by more than $1.2 million since 2006 by, among other things, adding new controls to the hot water heaters, air conditioners and water faucets, weatherstripping windows and simply persuading employees to shut garage doors and turn off lights.

“Imagine what it’s like for mom and dad with three kids running around telling them to turn off the lights,” said Scott Jenkins, the vice president for ballpark operations for the Mariners. “Now imagine what it’s like with 1,800 employees and 40,000 guests.”

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