The greening of professional sports is continuing with Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, as fans get the chance to purchase carbon offsets that will (theoretically at least) offset the greenhouse-gas emissions tied to their travel to the game.
The power company Entergy – which does business in Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas, in addition to Louisiana – is at the heart of this effort, working with the game’s host committee and the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).
In a nod to Cajun culture, the effort is called “Geaux Green.” Fans traveling to the Super Bowl can use a calculator on the Geaux Green website to calculate the carbon footprint of their trip. Then they can purchase credits from one of three carbon-saving projects — a landfill gas collection project in Denton, Texas, a forest conservation initiative in California’s North Coast redwood country and a methane-capture project in Michigan.
But will purchasing carbon offsets really help green the planet, or if will it simply make the purchasers of the offsets – in the case, jet-setting Super Bowl attendees – feel better about their greenhouse-gas-causing travels?
This was the question the English writer George Monbiot raised in 2006, when he compared buying carbon offsets to the old church practice of selling absolutions.
“Just as in the 15th and 16th centuries you could sleep with your sister and kill and lie without fear of eternal damnation, today you can live exactly as you please as long as you give your ducats to one of the companies selling indulgences. It is pernicious and destructive nonsense,” Monbiot wrote.
When Monbiot wrote that more than six years ago, however, one of the big questions was whether the projects that were being backed could be counted on to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thankfully, oversight and verification have made that less a concern. For the Super Bowl offsets, for instance, Entergy noted that “all three projects have been certified to deliver the promised greenhouse gas reductions by the Climate Action Reserve,” so there’s little doubt these are solid projects.
Now, it could still be argued that a particular fan interested in shrinking her carbon footprint would do better simply to forego attending the Super Bowl (or, uh, ride a bike there). The problem with that is, this game – c’mon, it’s the Harbowl! – is a sure sellout, so somebody is going to go. Better that person supports a green project than not, right?
It’s all quite affordable, as well: Were I lucky enough to be able to travel to New Orleans to support my beloved Niners, my trip from Portland by plane would have a carbon footprint of 354 pounds of CO2, according to the Geaux Green calculator. At that, the minimum-sized, 1,000-pound carbon offset package, at $5, would more than make me a carbon neutral “Go, Kaepernick” howling fool.
Plus, Entergy is matching the contributions dollar for dollar. The company says that altogether the credits “will neutralize or offset the environmental impact of power needed to operate Super Bowl venues including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and team hotels,” and curtail CO2 emissions by 3.8 million pounds.