Author Archives: Gabriel Silverman

Environmental Impact of the NHL

As the NHL playoffs continue on into their third week, I figured it would be relevant to discuss the environmental aspect of the game of hockey.  With 30 different arenas that all hold around 17,000 people, it would make sense that there would be a noticeable level of emissions coming from hockey arenas.  While the level of emissions coming from each arena are relatively sizable, the league is taking various steps to try and improve the ‘greenness’ of their facilities.  Fortunately, as opposed to the NFL- which as I mentioned in my last post has very few if any statistics involving their emission levels- the NHL has a comprehensive report detailing the environmental impact of their arenas.

According to the NHL, there are about 406 metric tons of CO2 emissions per game played.  Multiplied by the total number of games played in one NHL season- 1,230 combined- and you get about 499,380 metric tons of CO2 emissions per season.  That is an absolutely large number, however when you think about the number of people that the league serves in just attendance at the arena itself, it makes a bit of sense.  However, there are still plenty of ways that the league can improve their ways.  In the report, the NHL describes the many ways that energy is demanded at a game.  These include: refrigeration, humidification systems, concessions, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, lighting, and media displays throughout the venues.  When you really take a look at what the NHL does every night, it is clear that they are not the most environmentally friendly sport around.

There is, however, definitely something to be said about the level of transparency that the NHL has with it’s fans regarding their sustainability efforts.  Not many organizations in anything have the level of in depth statistics that they do, and in many ways it is beneficial for this information to be available for the betterment of our society.

While there are definitely some problems, it is clear that the league is taking various strides in creating more environmentally friendly facilities.  Since 2011, the league has worked with various outside groups to save over 20 million gallons of water.  Considering the amount of water that is needed to freeze the ice alone, as well as provide proper plumbing and cooling, it is very impressive that they have been able to succeed to this level.  In addition, the league also has a LEED certified arena in Pittsburgh, and will add two more when the Islanders move to the Barclays Center next season and the Oilers move into their newly built arena in 2016.

Above: Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh

While there are absolutely a lot of problems in the overall energy usage that the NHL puts out, it is clear that they are making strides and setting an example for other sports leagues.  In my next blog post, I will discuss the environmental impact of sports teams’ travel.



Environmentally Friendly Stadiums

Just last year, Santa Clara, California’s, Levi’s Stadium became the first LEED Certified pro football stadium in the United States.  Joining just a handful of other arenas and baseball parks, the building is another edition to the increasing trend of building large sustainable structures in the United States.

The stadium’s design encourages the usage of public transportation in many different ways.  First, the stadium is within walking distance to both bus stops and train stations.  Second, the stadium offers a bike valet service, with availability to over 700 bicycles.  The 49ers estimate that over 25% of fans will take public transportation to get to the stadium, compared to the merely 10-12% that used to take it to Candlestick Park.

In addition to the encouragement of public transportation, Levi’s Stadium also has what the 49ers call their ‘green roof.’  The roof of on the stadium above the luxury suites contains herbs and greens that the stadium will then use for it’s food.  This would not only save the organization money, but also cuts down on the number of truck shipments coming into the stadium- therefore cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions.  The roof also contains a 375kW solar canopy that in just one year will hope to offset the power consumed at all eight 49er home games.

While all of these are very helpful and encouraging signs of what is to come, there is still the problem that every NFL stadium faces, and that is waste.  The stadium is proud to show off it’s environmentally friendly structure, yet there is no indication of waste management protocol other than a mention of on-site waste management.  With that, it is nearly impossible to find any statistics on any NFL stadium’s waste management.  One would think that with the amount of people at each game, the numbers would be through the roof in terms of overall weight of solid trash.  Only one stadium- Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium- provides any quantity for recycled trash.  They state that they generate 120 tons of recycled trash a year.  If one were to assume that all 32 stadiums matched this number (it is highly improbably that this is the case), there would be a total of 3,840 tons across the NFL.

It is encouraging that professional sports teams are striving towards more green-friendly infrastructure, and it will be amazing to see the structures built in the coming decades.  With that, however, the NFL should continue to increase it’s recycling numbers, as well as strive towards reducing overall trash consumption.

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Solar Cells in America Today

As the need for renewable energy continues to grow in the world today, solar power is on the rise as one way that humans can cut out the burning of fossil fuels.  In 2012 alone, there was a 41% increase in solar panel installations in residential areas, with the price of installation actually falling by 15% throughout the year.  In 2013, the United States installed 4,751 MW of Solar PV- 15 times the amount that was installed just 5 years earlier in 2008.  Today, there are over 445,000 solar systems operating in the United States today, including setups in both residential homes and large solar plants.  Further, US solar output is equal to 15.9 gigawatts- enough to power 3.2 million homes.

However, the obvious problem with solar energy lies in the fact that cells can only truly be effective when it is sunny.  On a given day, you could assume that it would really only be maximally bright for panels when the sun is about directly in the sky or angled properly towards the panels.   Additionally, the technology we have today does not allow for the most efficient storage of power.  This makes them much less efficient, however they are not useless when there is no sun.  When your home does not use all of the power the panels produce throughout the day, the leftover energy will be sent to the power-grid that the entire area uses.  Further, the power company will often pay the owners back for some of the ‘shared’ power.

If one solar panel can produce 70 Milliwatts per Sq. Inch and you assume that the sun is optimal for about six hours, you can calculate that the panels are producing about 420 milliwatt hours per day (70 * 6 = 420)- or 153,300 per year (420 * 365).  On the contrary, it takes approximately 1.09 pounds of burned coal to produce 1 kwh.  Therefore, one could calculate exactly how much coal must be burned to produce the same amount of energy as a solar panel in a year:

153,300 kwh/1 year * 1.09 lbs of coal/1 kwh = 167,097 lbs. of coal/year per home

Obviously solar energy is not perfect, however as storage technology grows and price becomes cheaper, it will continue to become a more popular source of energy in the US and around the world.

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China’s Air Pollution Resembles “Nuclear Winter”

According to scientists in China, the air pollution of the country is starting to slow down photosynthesis in plants, in addition to covering it’s most populated cities in a blanket of thick smog.  With a population of 1.35 Billion people, it is not hard to imagine that something like this occurring.  However, it is also something that can be at the very least slowed down if the population were to work together and try to make a positive impact.

According to the Wall Street Journal, China is set to (probably does now) have as many people driving cars as the United States has people- about 300 million.  If one assumes that 411 grams of CO2 are emitted traveling one mile in a car that travels at about 22 MPG, and you also assume that only half of China’s driving population travel 20 miles a day, you could calculate how many grams of CO2 are emitted into China’s air in one day: (411 grams/1 mile) x (25 miles/1 Person) x (150 million people) = 1.54 x 10^12 grams of CO2/day.  

Obviously there is much more to the problem than simply people driving cars around, but if more people decided to bike or take public transit it could very well have a larger effect on the environment or at least slow down the amount of CO2 being emitted into the air.

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My name is Gabe Silverman and I am currently a sophomore majoring in Economics with a minor in Business.  I am from a suburb right outside of Pittsburgh, Mt. Lebanon.  In my free time, I love listening to and reading about music, playing guitar, and also going to as many concerts as I can.  I have a radio show once a week with one of my good friends, which I enjoy doing a lot. After college, I would love to go into the business end of the live music industry.

I wanted to take this class not just to finish my GQ requirements, but to take a course that is very applicable and important to my future and the future of others.  Further, the issue of sustainability- the ability to maintain and efficiently use the dwindling number of resources this planet has left- is one that is extremely important and will remain so for generations to come.  The idea of resilience is that if something is injured or broken, it can recover and spring back to normal.  Us as humans will have to assist in this in regards to our environment, and I think it is very important to learn how to take care of our planet.