Making orange green? A critical carbon footprinting of Tennessee football gameday tourism

Authors: J. A. Cooper*, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cultural Geography, Environment
Keywords: Carbon footprint, sports fandom, place identity, American football
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Director's Row E, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Anthropogenic climate change is an existential threat facing the world. In order to curb the effects of climate change, economic industries must assess their contributions to the overall phenomenon and develop creative solutions. Tourism is one such industry that has been recognized by the United Nations as a contributor to climate change. As greenhouse gas emissions represent a major reason why global tourism is contributing to climate change, carbon footprinting can help identify the contribution of individual tourism events towards the global total and highlight which aspects of the tour are least sustainable (Wicker 2018). The fan journey to the college football spectate represents a tourism experience and therefore can be assessed for its ecological impact. The subject of this case study is the University of Tennessee, an institution sporting one of the largest football stadiums in the United States. Using an extensive geographic sample of ticketing data from recent Tennessee home football games, a carbon footprint was estimated for each game, contributing polluter, and season. This study presents both a methodology for studying spectator sport tourism events and a framework by which tourism can begin to assess its contributions to the global carbon footprint. Furthermore, sports fandom can be a valuable medium of expressing collective, place-based identity (Bale 2003, Nathan 2013), and this is especially true with Southern collegiate football (Morgan and Klimasewski 2015). As gameday tourism is an expression of fandom, this study critically demonstrates some environmental consequences of regional and fan identity.

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