Sustainability Best Practices at Stadiums and Arenas | Sports Destination Management

Sustainability Best Practices at Stadiums and Arenas

May 15, 2023 | By: Brian Grant

Because of the sheer scale of operations at sports venues, implementing green initiatives is not only an imperative, it is an opportunity. Sustainability programs do not just help mitigate the environmental impact of huge crowds and massive events. They also help you prove the effectiveness and increase awareness of sustainable facility operations.  


Venues like L.A. Coliseum, Golden 1 Center, and SoFi Stadium are known for their innovative waste diversion, energy efficiency, and water conservation programs. Here are some of the best practices that enable them to reduce harm to the environment and promote sustainability in their communities.


Take a Multi-Pronged Approach to Waste Management


Sustainability Best Practices at Stadiums and Arenas
All images courtesy of ABM

Although sports venues generate tons of waste per event, much of it can be diverted from landfills. For example, L.A. Coliseum routinely diverts an average 92-94% of its waste through a combination of composting, recycling, and sorting initiatives.


The coliseum has been recognized more than ten times for its sustainable waste management practices, including winning the Pac12 Conference’s Zero Waste Bowl three times. To divert waste in your venue, consider the following initiatives.


  • Use compostable materials for common single-use items. From fiber-, resin- and paper-based options, a multitude of options are available for facilities interested in transitioning to compostable serviceware. As an added benefit, composting programs enable you to divert both food waste and serviceware from landfills.
  • Swap out disposables for recyclable materials. The key to an effective recycling program  starts with the choice of materials. Many venue operators are turning to aluminum as an alternative to plastic because it is infinitely recyclable and much easier to process.
  • Simplify waste disposal to prevent contamination. To maximize the amount of waste diverted from landfills, design a system where waste is easy to identify and put it in the right place. If guests are faced with too many decisions, they’ll be more likely to cross-contaminate or simply put all waste in landfill-bound receptacles.
  • Educate staff on how to properly manage your various waste streams. As cleaning personnel clean the stands and common areas, they can collect and dispose of waste properly. They can also work on sorting teams to separate various waste streams.

Drive Energy Efficiency, Even when Demand is Sky-High


Sustainability Best Practices at Stadiums and ArenasPowering sports venues requires vast amounts of energy and demand is especially high right now. Fans and performers are eager to return to attend live events, so many venues are open more often than they were pre-pandemic. Identifying every possible efficiency, no matter how big or small, allows you to cut consumption and costs.


  • Transition to LEDs wherever possible. LEDs have become commonplace for reducing energy consumption and meeting the lighting demands of large events. The technology continues to evolve, offering options for dynamic lighting. In areas where the grid is already stressed, this can be especially impactful. 
  • Implement solar power solutions. The sizable footprint of sports venues is ideal for installing solar panels. Supplementing with offsite arrays can further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, Golden 1 Center in Sacramento leverages onsite and offsite arrays to achieve 100 percent solar power year-round. The arena even sends some power back to the grid.
  • Don’t forget the simple stuff. While new technologies make it easy to control energy consumption, old-school methods still apply. Simple steps, like training facility personnel and stadium employees to turn off lights, or reducing lighting levels by 50 percent during slow periods, can go a long way to cut energy.

Implement Smarter Water Conservation


With more than a quarter of the United States experiencing drought conditions, sports venues are facing increased pressure to reduce consumption. (Source) At the same time you have to maintain the safety and playability of your turf and meet hygiene concerns. Consider the following practices to meet those needs and conserve water.


  • Reclaim water for irrigation. Instead of using drinking water for turfs and landscaping, venues can reclaim water from a variety of sources. SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles uses an artificial lake that holds recycled water, which is filtered using natural wetlands and mechanical systems.
  • Sustainability Best Practices at Stadiums and ArenasCreate more sustainable cisterns and water storage. Leveraging new technologies like connected sensors, filters, and pumps allow venues to collect, process, and distribute water where it’s needed.
  • Identify the right aerators and low-flow fixtures. Low-flow fixtures and aerators are only effective for conservation when they perform well. Otherwise, guests may end up using more water to clean their hands and flush toilets.
  • Fix problems fast. Facility staff should report leaks as soon as possible. If left unchecked, a single leak can lead to thousands of gallons of water waste. 

Be a Leader in Sustainability


Sports venues are home to some of the most innovative sustainability programs in the world. They have become proving grounds for large- and small-scale initiatives that can be implemented in facilities of all kinds. Whether your facility can host 10,000 fans or 100,000, incorporating sustainability best practices into your facility management program allows you to raise the bar for green buildings.

About the Author