It’s not every day an NFL organization takes on the daunting task of creating a sustainable stadium. Actually, it’s so uncommon that the San Francisco 49ers are the first NFL organization to be awarded two LEED Gold certifications, two years in a row, for their superb work. Their Levi’s Stadium, one of the first stadiums built with sustainability in mind, was awarded for its improved environmental and human health impact. Further, instead of boasting about their new stadium, the 49ers have extended a hand of solidarity to other football programs, in an attempt to share their vision of a clean, sustainable future.
Originally, the 49ers’ home was Candlestick Park, which was not built with sustainability in mind. Even so, the 49ers worked around the park’s architectural and building aspects that were not so environmentally friendly. For example, they started a recycling program in the original stadium to reduce waste during games. As you can imagine, waste management is an issue all sports venues deal with, and with the move from Candlestick Park to Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers had an opportunity build a sustainability program from the ground up.

Levi’s Stadium has gone as far as growing its own rooftop farm and creating organic dishes for its customers. In the end, according to Jim Mercurio, 49ers Vice President,  “We were able to design sustainability into our building and operational plans…Not only are we able to divert 63% of our waste to recycling or composting facilities, we also partner with organizations to help our unused prepared food [to be] donated to help people in need.”

Unlike sustainability programs where there may be some hesitation, or misunderstanding, in prioritizing environmental stability, the 49ers did not initially have to skirt around the issue. Those who wanted to participate in the Levi’s Stadium project were committed and understood the importance of being an environmentally friendly stadium. In doing so, the stadium has been able to improve other areas of sustainability outside of waste management. The efficient use of electricity and water has also been a huge focus, with solar panels installed for green energy use, and water fixtures updated to reduce consumption by 4%, according to Mercurio. Even the air-quality has been improved, with state-of-the-art air filters working hard to remove air pollutants. Further, a rooftop farm has been growing at Levi’s Stadium, with over 150 pounds of produce being organically grown and distributed for use in the stadium kitchens.

Jim Mercurio says that the organization was initially inspired by the state of California being the national leader in sustainability. Influenced by the state’s’ innovations in sustainability, Mercurio said, “Levi’s Stadium has set out to be a conservation leader in among sports facilities through the use of clean energy, recycled water, reclaimed wood, sustainable maintenance, and whatever else we can do. We want to show other facilities around the world that it’s worthwhile to be environmentally responsible and that it’s not always cost-prohibitive to do so.”

Photo courtesy of the 49ers.