by J. Brooks Terry
Speaking at the Florida Coastal School of Law’s annual environmental summit Friday, Jack Groh said steps are being taken to make the upcoming Super Bowl a breath of fresh air, literally.
Groh, an environmental programs director for the NFL, said the event will be “carbon-neutral.”
According to recently released figures, the Super Bowl and all of its activities, including heavy traffic congestion and special events, emit anywhere from 170-200 tons of carbon into the atmosphere, which adds to the threat of global warming.
To account for that, Groh said the NFL is making arrangements to plant more than 1,200 trees in Duval County. Neither a specific location nor a tree species has been determined. However, Groh said roughly 150 tons of carbon can be mitigated by adding just 2.3 acres of landscaping.
“This is an entirely new concept and just like every other environmental program we’ve created, we’re jumping the gun to see what happens,” said Groh. “We understand that we’ll get a lot of feedback, mostly negative feedback, when we’re finished. But that is the kind of thing that will be helpful to us as we continue to refine the program in the future.”
Functioning as a partnership between the NFL and local initiatives, Groh said seedlings and adequate research have been accounted for. Putting them into the ground will be the responsibility of the City or Greenscape.
“Jacksonville has been very enthusiastic from a City standpoint, which is wonderful,” said Groh. “Everyone from the mayor’s office to the Parks and Recreation Department has given us the impression that this can be a world class undertaking. They understand that this is a great opportunity for everyone involved.”
Beginning in Anaheim, the NFL has been promoting environmental programs for over a decade in Super Bowl host cities. Since that time, they have worked with local organizations to create initiatives that advocate recycling, sporting equipment donations and food banks.
Many of those programs have proven to be self-sustaining.
“We have one overriding goal when we introduce environmental programs like these into the community,” said Groh. “We want to be the least important entity in the room. We say that because when we’re gone we want the programs to continue and leave a unique legacy after we’re gone.
“Jacksonville has been presented with the opportunity to become a true model for future Super Bowls. One day people can look back at we’re going to be able to do here and understand that it was truly the first undertaking of its kind.”
Groh has been an environmental consultant for more than 15 years, having worked the Department of Energy, the American Solar Energy Society and The United States Consortium for Automotive Research. He has worked on Super Bowls since 1994.