Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Green Fields of Chicago

Last week, the Chicago Bears announced that Soldier Field had been certified as LEED Platinum. At the beginning of the baseball season, the Miami Marlins announced that their new Stadium, Marlins Park, had been certified Gold. And the University of North Texas' new stadium was the first newly built stadium to achieve LEED Platinum Certification. So that's three examples, and we've officially got a trend! WAHOO!

That sports organizations are paying any attention to the environment is purely good news, but I'll admit, my first thought when I read these stories was, "Yeah, well, what does that do for me?" LEED certification is, on some level, just a label, and I was afraid this was a marketing ploy, and little more.

And of course, any standard of environmental consciousness in a sports stadium is only going to do so much. Any time you put tens of thousands of people together just to watch something- okay, maybe to watch something and eat some food that you can't find within miles of nature- there's going to be a lot of waste. Indeed, it sometimes startles me to consider all of the resources used just to keep a baseball stadium open for one single game. Given that this is all only for recreation, it's really hard to see how stadiums could ever really be "sustainable".

So, I looked up what LEED certification actually means. (JOURNALISM!) LEED stands for "Leadership in Environmental and Energy Development". There's different levels of certification: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and simple baseline "Certification". The certificates are based on points awarded for a wide variety of different criteria, including sustainable sites, indoor environmental quality, and Energy and Atmosphere. Each of these categories takes in a lot of information, from where the building is situated to the plumbing to the architecture. It even contemplates buying renewable energy certificates to make up for the energy used during a game.

There's a lot of info there, and I encourage you to read through some of it yourself. For my part, I'm satisfied that LEED certification is legitimate, that when a team brags that it's stadium has been so certified, it's justified in doing so. It really has met some quantifiable benchmark, and that benchmark is reasonably environmentally conscious. If you're a green-minded sports fan, LEED certification is at least a good starting point for you. And as such, the Bears, the Marlins, the Mean Green...they done good.

And while sports stadiums may not be fundamentally sustainable...I don't care entirely. At some point, every human activity consumes something, and sports are as good as any other human activity. Hell, better than a lot of 'em. They're worth spending some resources on, though it's great that teams are working to limit the resources needed.

1 comment:

  1. As long as there are quantifiable standards, I am fine with it being a marketing ploy. This is one of those vote with your wallet things. If being green nets you more fans and attendance, then both the team and the greens win, regardless of motivation.