NFL's Greenest Team -- and Not Just the Uniforms

It's only a coincidence that the Philadelphia Eagles wear green jerseys.

The Eagles have quietly become the most environmentally friendly team in the National Football League, and perhaps in all of major league sports.

When the lights come on for an Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field, 30 percent of the power comes from so-called clean sources, such as wind power and methane reclaimed from landfills.

When the Eagles fly to an away game, their organization plants trees in the Philadelphia area to make up for the carbon dioxide emitted by the team's plane.

If you go get a beer at halftime, you'll notice recycling bins every 46 feet on the concourse. Why that distance? Because a study showed people will actually walk that distance to drop off a plastic cup for recycling; any further, and the cups will just be dumped with regular trash.

The team's tickets are printed on recycled paper. So are the programs. Even the machine that vacuums the field after the game runs on biodiesel.

And the list goes on. A team slogan is "Go Green." The double meaning is intentional.

The effort was begun in 2003 by the team's owners, Jeffrey and Christina Weiss Lurie, both former Hollywood producers who bought the Eagles in 1994.

"Game days have a huge environmental impact considering traffic, trash, energy and material consumption, and water use," said Christina Lurie when they made the effort public this year.

"There is a concerted effort, not only to recycle, but to reduce the environmental footprint of a huge sports organization, by implementing green principles in all areas of the business," said Bonnie Grant, the Eagles' director of communications.

The office building in which she and the rest of the team's staff works has solar panels on the roof. They turn to track the sun in the sky during the day, so that they generate a third more electricity than most such arrays.

And team employees are offered reimbursement if they sign up with their local power company for renewable energy. So far, said Grant, 112 of the Eagles' 200 employees have taken the deal.

People who have dealt with the team's management say the "Go Green" campaign is not just grandstanding. A case in point: John Hanger, president of the environmental group PennFuture, tried to give the team an award for its efforts -- and was held at arm's length for three years.

"They've not been eager to trumpet this, because I know for a fact that they wanted to make sure that their nest was clean before talking about it much in public," said Hanger. "They've been really concerned that if they were playing the role model, they were a real role model."

"There are many corporations in America who are eager to do something that demonstrates environmental stewardship," he said. "That 'something' often is very little."

What is the benefit for the Eagles? Some of the energy savings will pay for themselves in the long term, said team executive Grant, but for now, "if we can be an example, that's all the better."

She said the organization has invested "well over seven figures" in the environmental effort, "but it is a critical investment because it is about the future of our children and our planet."

Oh, by the way -- one place the campaign has not paid off, so far, is on the playing field. The Eagles only won their first game of the season this weekend.

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