In advance of Super Bowl LII, the Alliance caught up with Bradley Vogel, Sustainability Coordinator at the host venue, U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN.
Alliance: U.S. Bank Stadium is one of the newest venues in the country. Why is sustainability so important to your organization, and what are some things we might not know about your sustainability operations?
BV: Sustainability was a key consideration in the design, construction, and operation phases of the life of the stadium. In the Minneapolis/Saint Paul market, there is a large drive from the state and local government to engage in sustainable operations. The stadium partners also understand that we have a large platform to drive positive environmental change, and with events like the X-games, Super Bowl, and the NCAA Final Four, we realize that we have a large opportunity to engage and encourage fans and staff to think more sustainably in their day-to-day lives. The stadium is exploring all options to mitigate its carbon footprint in the following areas: transportation, energy use, water use, and waste management.
Alliance: One element of your sustainability work that stands out is your pursuit of/classification as a zero waste venue?
BV: Yes. Since July 2016, U.S. Bank Stadium has managed to increase its diversion rate from 20% up to 83% at our most recent event, the NFL Vikings/Saints playoff game on January 14, 2018. It is our goal to achieve the zero-waste mark for the Super Bowl, as well as continue to meet that goal for all major events moving forward.
Alliance: Signage is often a major challenge in getting fans to sort their waste properly. Have you had any successes in getting/using messaging, signage, or other fan education tools to help promote better waste practices and decrease your contamination rates?
BV: We have partnered with a non-profit called Recycle Across America (RAA) for our waste signage in the facility. This organization aims to implement standardized waste signage nationwide, so when people go to different areas of the country, they can see consistent waste signage that will help minimize confusion. For example, the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Airport installed RAA signage, so fans who come to the Super Bowl will see similar signage both at the stadium and at the airport. By partnering with RAA, we hope to continue to educate fans about recycling and composting on a larger scale than just at the stadium. One of our ongoing goals of the operation is to increase and improve the signage and fan communication efforts.
Alliance: Tell us a bit more about your composting program.
BV: Starting in July, with help from our concessionaire Aramark, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Hennepin County, the stadium implemented a compost program aimed at collecting all food waste and compostable materials. As part of the push to go zero-waste, Aramark switched out most of their food vessels that were not compostable or recyclable except for a few items that do not have compostable or recyclable alternatives. On the back end, we perform a post-event waste sort to ensure that compost is contaminant free, and that all recyclables are recycled. Since July 2017, we have collected more than 77 tons of compostable materials.
Alliance: What should we look forward to from the U.S. Bank Stadium sustainability team in the coming year?
BV: In the following year, the stadium aims to expand its fan engagement piece of the sustainability program, with hopes of creating a knowledgeable fan base that cannot only support our sustainability initiatives, but can also incorporate some into their daily lives. In addition, the stadium will continue to develop its zero-waste program, with the final goal of becoming an industry leader that others will look to for guidance and support.
Thanks to Bradley and the entire U.S. Bank Stadium team for being leaders in the sports greening movement and demonstrating best practices across the sports industry.
To learn more about the sustainability elements of U.S. Bank Stadium go to: usbankstadium.com/stadium-info/sustainability