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With the number of athletes and fans traveling to a gigantic stadium filled with bright lights, epic half-time shows, and enough confetti to carpet a billion hamster cages, the Super Bowl is not what one would first think of as a “green event.” However, one of our nation’s biggest cultural events may have an environmentally-friendly side after all. In addition to efforts made by the promoters to offset carbon emissions through various eco-friendly projects, the behavior of the fans themselves could be working towards reducing the overall amount of energy used during the big game. Research by the consulting firm, Opower comparing the electricity use of 145,000 households during last year’s Super Bowl with other winter Sundays found that power use was reduced by as much as 7.7 percent, depending on location.
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While exact reasons for the drop in energy usage are harder to pin down, the researchers believe that running large appliances such as big-screen TVs and refrigerators are balanced out by the lack of other activity during the game. In other words, people are so glued to the couch that they are not operating cleaning or cooking equipment that would otherwise suck up electricity. They are also “TV pooling,” opting to watch the action together instead of sitting alone on the sidelines. Taking advantage of smart meter technology, Opower measured 91,355 households in the West and 54,574 in the East. The lower usage rates were at halftime, where the average drop was around 5 percent. The total decrease of US home electricity was greater than 3 times the amount of energy consumed by all of the TVs watching the Super Bowl.
Opower estimates that savings from a three-and-a-half-hour broadcast could be up to $3.1 million. While that figure looks like a win for the environment, the company points out that energy usage could be shifted to another time, like doing laundry after a barbeque sauce spill or vacuuming up a carpet of chip crumbs the next day. The study also does not attempt to calculate the cost of gasoline burned during travel time, or the overall amount of energy needed to produce and cook all of those Super Bowl snacks. Still, it goes to show that being social and sharing resources is not just good for communities and sports fans, but also for the planet.