The Philadelphia Eagles are no longer green in color only. In addition to their victories on the field, the team has been winning big in another arena — the environment.
Fans have seen glimpses of the team's commitment to conservation in Lincoln Financial Field: the huge signs that advertise "Renewable Energy!" and urge them to "Score! By unplugging unused electronics," and the bottle-shaped recycling receptacles that have popped up amidst the trash cans.
But that's just a small part of the initiative, according to Christina Lurie, co-owner of the team, and Don Smolenski, the team's Chief Financial Officer. In an event co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Project, the Entertainment and Sports Law Society and the Toll Public Interest Center, Lurie and Smolenski visited the Law School in October to explain the full scope of the Philadelphia Eagles's six-year-old "Go Green" environmental campaign. Today, the Eagles use 100 percent renewable energy — mainly wind — to power their training facility and stadium, plant trees to offset the carbon dioxide produced when they travel, conduct curbside recycling programs within Philadelphia and even have their own seven-acre forest in Neshaminy State Park.
Achieving these goals has placed the Eagles in an environmental league of their own — and they didn't come easy, say Lurie and Smolenski. For one thing, they had to contend with the common perception that environmental causes and football don't attract the same fans. Smolenski had to be convinced that the changes wouldn't financially hurt the company.
"Philosophically, I was already there," added Smolenski. "But you've gotta balance the business of what you do with any new initiative."
As it turned out, greening the team was an enormously profitable enterprise. Over the last five years, the Eagles's energy use has decreased by 10 million kilowatt-hours. And they've saved about $4 million by doing so. Along the way, the company has learned how to weave environmental responsibility into the normal experience of a football game. Some changes are almost imperceptible to game-goers, such as the corn-based plastic beer cups that have replaced the conventional, petroleum-based plastic cups, or the collectors who trawl the stands after each game for recyclable waste before the regular trash sweep. Other changes, however, required some, uh, trick plays.
"We noticed that it has to be really easy for people to change their habits," said Lurie. Recycling cans, for instance, can't be more than twenty feet apart from each other, or else people will simply throw their cans and bottles into the nearest trash: "If it's ten extra steps, believe it or not, they won't do it," she laughed.
Penn Law Professor Cary Coglianese asked if environmental law has driven any of the Go Green campaign. Except for a few soil tests they were required to perform on the stadium land, Smolenski replied, there's been no legal impetus to the changes — the whole effort is just an attempt at positive corporate citizenship. "It's largely driven by a fundamental sense of what is good to do," he said.