EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include that The Bay Foundation leads the kelp restoration project. (Feb. 11, 2022)
LOS ANGELES — Not only are football fans flocking to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl, but special operations military vets such as Roger Sparks came all the way from Alaska on a special mission with NFL Green to restore kelp forests that have been decimated from an overpopulated sea urchin species.
What You Need To Know
- NFL Green is the the league's environmental program
- It works to mitigate the environmental impact of the NFL's major events and create a "green" legacy in each community that hosts Super Bowl, Pro Bowl and NFL draft
- The Super Bowl and ancillary football events produce a large carbon footprint through the energy consumed, trash generated and transportation
- The NFL buys renewable energy credits to offset their energy use.
Sparks is a member of Force Blue, a group of combat diving veterans who now use their skills for ocean conservation.
"This is fairly new to us, you know, helping restore kelp beds, but we’re excited about it," said Sparks. "I mean, you know, we’re here in sunny LA."
Kelp forests have declined over the last century but are vital in fighting climate change because they absorb huge amounts of carbon. Today’s kelp restoration area is about the size of a football field.
Jack Groh, director of NFL Green, says it’s a symbolic nod to the Super Bowl host city and the environmental footprint when the big game comes to town.
"We’ve got the Super Bowl experience, we’ve got the game, we’ve got some of the parties, we’ve got the media center, we’ve got the team hotels," he said. "When you add up the energy footprint from that, it’s about 1,500 megawatt hours of power."
Tens of thousands of visitors will contribute to this, along with the energy, trash and greenhouse gas emissions.
Knowing this, the NFL buys renewable energy credits and searches for ways to improve its sustainability.
“Every city has different infrastructure, different vendors, different configuration of the stadiums and the facilities," said Groh. "So every year it’s a new challenge to see, how can we lighten that footprint around Super Bowl?"
And unique to LA are its forests of kelp. This restoration project, led by The Bay Foundation, is one way the NFL is offsetting its environmental impact with the help of underwater veterans such as Sparks, who now dives to save the ocean.
"Finding new ways to take those skills and do good in the world," he said.
That will help this ecosystem, the climate and the communities around LA impacted by the Super Bowl.