The National Hockey League will become the first professional sports league to offset its entire operating carbon footprint.
The NHL announced yesterday it has hired Constellation, an energy and services company, as its energy provider to reduce the league's impact on the planet. The move will result in the NHL's annual 550,000 metric ton carbon footprint to be matched through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) and carbon offsets.
The total carbon footprint includes the electricity used to power all 30 teams' arenas, and the air transportation that teams use throughout the season. It doesn'tt include the impact that fans' transportation may have.
"Major environmental challenges, such as climate change and freshwater scarcity, affect opportunities for hockey players of all ages to learn and play the game outdoors," said Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, in a report released in July outlining the league's environmental impact.
Carbon offsets work by funding renewable energy projects, like wind and solar, that will reduce carbon emissions on a global scale. REC's are sold by renewable energy producers, with one renewably produced megawatt-hour (MWh) equalling one REC, and the money is used to fund new and existing renewable energy facilities. In 2012 and 2013, the NHL matched only 17,326 metric tons of carbon.
In addition to purchasing offsets, the NHL will also work to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency at all 30 of the team arenas. Currently, the Colorado Avalanche's arena gets 12 MWh of its electricity through rooftop solar panels, although this is a mere 0.1 per cent of its total 11,000 MWh used.
While this is the first major sports league to announce such an endeavour, FIFA, soccer's governing body, announced Wednesday that all direct operating carbon emissions from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, totalling 331,000 metric tons, have been offset.
While the NHL's carbon footprint is relatively small on the global scale, the league has a large fan base and can influence many people.
"Hopefully this partnership will influence other businesses and fans alike to embrace renewable energy options which are so desperately needed to protect our planet," said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council who assisted the NHL with their report.
If a fraction of the passion one sees at hockey games could be steered towards issues of energy consumption, eliminating atmospheric carbon emissions could be much easier.
Nich Johansen is completing a practicum at The Tyee.