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The people of San Francisco weren't going to settle for yet another concrete smog-factory.

It was 2012, and it was time for a new football stadium. Legendary Candlestick Park had been home to the 49ers for decades, but the stadium was over 50 years old and falling apart.

Replacing Candlestick — site of " The Catch" — in the hearts and minds of fans would be hard enough, but 49ers Project Executive Jack Hill, who would oversee design and construction of the new stadium, told me there was added pressure to build something that was good for the environment, too.


This Niners fan isn't interested in your jive-turkey new stadium. GIF from the NFL.

"It was important to our ownership, the York family, that we incorporate a lot of green features," he said. "Because of where we are in the country, a lot of the community is very ... environmentally active."

Translation: San Franciscans wanted a stadium they could be as proud of as they are of their team.

So Hill and the gang got to work, and what they came up with was nearly unprecedented in American professional sports venues.

Levi's Stadium was the first NFL stadium to open with LEED Gold certification, one of the top sustainability achievements.

Photo by Jim G/Flickr.

On July 17, 2014, after about two years of construction, Levi's Stadium officially opened its doors. From day one, it's had a stamp of approval from the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit that champions buildings "that complement our environment and enhance our communities."

The structure became the first stadium to earn the elite Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status, a certification based on a 69-point scorecard. The 49ers' new home currently meets 41 of the requirements...

...which is just a long-winded way of saying, "This stadium rocks."

How? Let us count the ways:

Photo by Travis Wise/Flickr.

  • 1,186 solar panels that create about half a megawatt of energy each year — enough to power the stadium's 10 regularly scheduled home NFL games.
  • Charging stations for electric vehicles. 'Nuff said.
  • An incredible water reclamation system. Jack Hill told me, "About 85% of the water we use on site comes from a reclaimed water source, including for irrigation and all of our toilets. It's huge during drought season."
  • A lush rooftop garden. Not only is it nice to look at — these low-water-usage plants sure beat the black tar most buildings use on the roof.

The rooftop garden gives fans a relaxing place to stroll and keeps the roof cool. Photo by Jim G/Flickr.

  • Bicycle valet and lockers to encourage locals to bike to the stadium via a nearby bike path instead of driving.
  • Proximity to public transit. Hill said about 10-15% of Levi's Stadium patrons arrive on mass transit, such as Caltrain, which is a big point of emphasis in getting LEED certified. (He also said they're still working out some of the kinks here that have caused backups leaving the stadium.)

Plus lots of other odds and ends, like using high-efficiency LED lights in over 40% of the stadium's fixtures, sourcing construction materials from sustainable wood forests, and the venue's robust recycling program.

But it's fair to ask: Is this real impact? Or is this greenwashing?

Jack Hill told me that LEED certification has been common for commercial buildings for a long time, but it's really just starting to gain traction in sports stadiums. And it looks like he's right.

But the trend sure is growing fast. And it's raising a lot of questions.

A massive wall of solar panels and wind turbines helps power the Philadelphia Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field, which received silver certification in 2013. GIF from NRG/YouTube.

In 2011, Apogee Stadium at the University of North Texas received LEED Platinum certification, its main claim to fame being three towering wind turbines that feed the stadium with renewable energy.


Wind turbines churn outside Apogee Stadium. GIF from O3 Energy Solutions/YouTube.

In 2008, D.C.'s Nationals Park became the first Major League Baseball stadium to receive the Silver certification. A few years later, AT&T Park in San Francisco made enough updates to earn the same honor.

And there are many more examples in both college and pro venues.

Nationals Park earned its Silver in 2008. Photo by Rudi Riet/Flickr.

But some have argued that things like solar panels and using recycled materials in construction are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the massive amounts of energy and waste involved in hosting large-scale sporting events.

I'm honestly not sure you can ever make stadium sports a positive or even neutral thing for the environment. But as the demand grows for new stadiums filled to the brim with the latest technology and amenities, you have to applaud the people like Jack Hill who are working hard to reduce the overall impact.

And maybe, just maybe, their efforts will have an unseen effect on the fans. Jeff Koseff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, told the Mercury News:

"When 68,000 people go to a stadium and see the 49ers trying to make a difference, there is evidence, I think, that they will start thinking about sustainability and the environment also."

If he's right, then the 49ers just struck gold.

Pop Culture

She bought the perfect wedding dress that went viral on TikTok. It was only $3.75

Lynch is part of a growing line of newlyweds going against the regular wedding tradition of spending loads of money.

Making a priceless memory

Upon first glance, one might think that Jillian Lynch wore a traditional (read: expensive) dress to her wedding. After all, it did look glamorous on her. But this 32-year-old bride has a secret superpower: thrifting.

Lynch posted her bargain hunt on TikTok, sharing that she had been perusing thrift shops in Ohio for four days in a row, with the actual ceremony being only a month away. Lynch then displays an elegant ivory-colored Camila Coelho dress. Fitting perfectly, still brand new and with the tags on it, no less.

You can find that exact same dress on Revolve for $220. Lynch bought it for only $3.75.
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This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


Addie Rodriguez was supposed to take the field with her dad during a high school football game, where he, along with other dads, would lift her onto his shoulders for a routine. But Addie's dad was halfway across the country, unable to make the event.

Her father is Abel Rodriguez, a veteran airman who, after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was training at Travis Air Force Base in California, 1,700 miles from his family in San Antonio at the time.

"Mom missed the memo it was parent day, and the reason her mom missed the memo was her dad left Wednesday," said Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, Addie's mom. She continued, "It was really heartbreaking to see your daughter standing out there being the only one without their father, knowing why he's away. It's not just an absentee parent. He's serving our country."

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Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.