Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=214927
Story Retrieval Date: 6/19/2013 10:12:19 PM CST
The Super Bowl is a guilty pleasure for 150,000 fans traveling long distance to the game in New Orleans. And for the first time, through the Host Committee website, they can save their guilty consciences.
The competing teams – the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers – come from opposite coasts, but fans will come from all over the country. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome will fill with about 75,000 fans, and just as many will celebrate the 47th annual National Football League championship game in The Big Easy.
The question is: How will all of these people get to New Orleans? Mark Romig, president of New Orleans Tourism Marketing, says there will likely be an even split between travelers flying and driving.
So 150,000 people will either fly or drive – up to 2,000 miles one direction from San Francisco and 1,000 miles from Baltimore – to New Orleans. That adds up to a lot of carbon emissions, all for a four-hour football game.
But this year, fans for the first time can donate money to offset their travel emissions directly though the New Orleans Host Committee Geaux Green website. That’s geaux as in Go Green – Cajun style.
“The expansion of this opportunity to include the fans is new,” said Patty Riddlebarger, chair of the host city environment committee and director of corporate social responsibility at Entergy Corp., a major energy utility in New Orleans and sponsor of the website.
For the first time, on the website, fans can calculate their carbon emissions by entering the city from which they travel, their destination, their mode of transportation and a couple details about their trip.
For example, a fan flying non-stop from Chicago to New Orleans for the big game would have a footprint of 770 pounds of carbon dioxide during their round-trip travel. Driving alone in a car that gets 30 miles per gallon, the fan’s travel would emit 1,198 pounds of carbon dioxide.
The website will then recommend the fan purchase a carbon offset package. Small packages, which offset emissions up to 1,000 pounds, cost $5; medium, 1,500 pounds, $7.50; and large, 2,000 pounds, $10. Fans can also choose to donate an amount of their choosing to offset emissions.
“Conserve all you can, but at a certain point, we need to move to carbon offsets to reduce our impact,” Riddlebarger said.
Each offset purchase goes toward a project of the fan’s choosing that works to offset carbon emissions: Denton Landfill Gas in Texas, Garcia River Forest in California’s North Coast and Green Meadows Farm in Michigan.
Back to that fan flying from Chicago – a small offset package at $5 would cover the round-trip travel emissions. For the car-trip, a $7.50 medium package would do the trick.
Now let’s just say that each of the 150,000 fans traveling to New Orleans travel an average of the 1,700 miles round-trip from Chicago. Some will travel more, some will travel less, but if this were the average, travel to and from the Super Bowl would emit a total of 115.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide. To offset all of that travel, 57,750 large offset packages would need to be purchased. At $10 a pop, that’s more than half a million dollars.
Entergy, one of the major sponsors of the host committee, has promised to match every offset purchased on a one for one basis. Entergy has been active in using and promoting carbon offsets in order to minimize human impact on the environment, Riddlebarger said.
The host committee has several other programs to green this year’s Super Bowl, including local travel. Once fans are in the city, they will be able to participate in a bike share program by checking out bikes downtown to travel to Super Bowl activities. Local residents can even participate in a free bike valet parking service.
“We’re trying to keep the environmental impact of the Super Bowl as small as possible,” Riddlebarger said. Carbon offsets “are just one of the tools in our kit.”