Climate Pledge Arena will serve up many ways to appreciate how the venue will enhance the game and concert experience while, happily, with very little environmental impact
By Bob Condor
How fans and our planet will benefit from the zero-carbon Climate Pledge Arena is a matter of what you will see and experience attending a game or concert—and what you won’t see but can still appreciate.
For starters, fans walking up to the arena’s doors will spot solar panels on the roof of the 36,000-square foot atrium that fronts the arena. Those panels, plus more on the roof of the 1st Avenue parking structure, are part of powering the arena with 100 percent renewable energy.
As part of the Climate Pledge Arena partnership with Oak View Group and NHL Seattle, Amazon will support this sustainability feat by securing offsite utility-scale solar and wind farms for the balance of the arena’s energy needs. The underground removal of standard arena use of natural gas to an all-electric facility—one of those things fans won’t see–will prevent 780 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, saving the equivalent of more than 1.9 million gallons of gasoline burned each year or, a less obvious CO2 equivalent, nearly 100 million smartphone charges.
“One of the things I am most excited about is we got rid of all fossil fuels in this venue,” says Jason F. McLennan, noted Seattle-area “green” architect and founder of the Living Building Challenge who is OVG and NHL Seattle’s lead sustainability consultant. “It will be a zero-carbon arena. That’s never been done before.”
McLennan adds, “the next level is calculating all of the carbon emissions related to getting fans and workers to the arena for all events and providing offsets for that as well.”
“The largest set of estimated carbon emissions is travel by fans to our events, comprising 40 percent of our arena’s emissions,” says Rob Johnson, NHL Seattle vice president of transportation. “In partnership with Amazon we will fully offset those emissions through the purchase of carbon credits from The Nature Conservancy, which will help preserve farm and forest land.”
Johnson says the Arena’s underground parking garage will include 24 electric charging stations and the entire lot will be EV ready for any future needs. He says fans will understand and appreciate the arena’s planet-friendly measures in “fun and interesting ways,” such as real-time smart meters and displays showing how much water, energy, carbon, food, waste and other trackable resources are being saved or avoided. Another big part of the Climate Pledge work will be encouraging fans to travel to games and concerts by public transportation, motivating attendees by subsidizing transit tickets for many events.
Twenty percent of the arena’s estimated emissions will come from the music business with artists and crew transportation to and from Seattle, says Johnson. Those emissions will be neutralized by carbon offsets and will make Climate Pledge Arena the first live entertainment venue in the world to earn a Zero Carbon Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), the world’s preeminent non-profit organization leading ecological building practices. The certification will no doubt be another reason to persuade many musicians to include concert dates in Seattle.
“This building creates a platform for a discussion,” says Tod Leiweke, NHL Seattle CEO. “Every music artist who plays here, every player who skates here, will feel the inspiration of this arena. This issue matters to so many. Some of greatest and most renown music artists in the world care deeply about the issue of sustainability.”
“The music industry deserves an enormous amount of the credit in this battle against climate change,” says Tim Leiweke, Oak View Group CEO and leader of the arena project. “Artists have led the way. This will be one of the most important buildings in the world. Artists will rally around us on this platform night-after-night, joining us toward The Climate Pledge and agreeing to be carbon-neutral for that concert from how they travel to how they encourage their fans.”
That’s all before a fan gets her first sip of a beverage or bite of food. House wines and craft beers will be sourced from Washington and Oregon. OVG and NHL Seattle have set the aggressive goal of a “unique, regionally appropriate” food service that gets 75 percent of ingredients from sources within a 300-mile radius (including all of Washington, northern Oregon and part of Idaho) based on seasonality. This effort significantly reduces the “food miles” associated with transporting the ingredients.
What’s more, Climate Pledge Arena and NHL Seattle are working with beverage partners to use only aluminum or biodegradable bottles by 2024. All other single-use plastic will be banned from Day 1 of operations, using only compostable products that meet the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certification for straws, stir sticks, dishware, cutlery, to-go packaging and more.
Paper products, such as napkins, paper towels, tissue and office paper will contain at least 30 percent post-consumer content while all cans, bottles and other materials used in operations will be diverted from the landfill by recycling or composting at a rate of 97 percent, which is deemed “zero-waste” by environmental and industry standards. Expect to see only recyclables and compost bins and most decidedly no trash cans. Any leftover food at the end of a show, concert or game will be donated to local food banks to make sure fewer of our community go hungry.
Future plans include using the arena to host an annual sustainability conference. One of the fun interactions Johnson mentions will be an annual rainwater collection event at the Arena every September, during which fans can bring collected rainwater to add to on-site cisterns used to help make the “greenest ice” in the NHL. Even the Zambonis will run on electricity. It’s all part of a grand and unprecedented plan.
“We’re going to have so many great events at the arena,” says Tod Leiweke, “But it always has had a little bit of an asterisk. How much food is tossed away tonight, how much gas would be burned to get to the venue and what was the real carbon footprint of the event? Now every event at this arena will stand for something powerful.”