D.C. United is going green with Audi Field.

The Major League Soccer franchise has earned LEED Gold certification for the 20,000-seat, $500 million stadium, scheduled to host its first game on Saturday, and has partnered with Recycle Track Systems and New Columbia Solar in an effort to create a more sustainable facility.

Recycle Track Systems, which holds a three-year contract with United and a five-year deal with the Washington Nationals, is implementing a set of initiatives at Audi Field including recycling, food waste composting, educational materials and staff training.

Food waste is often the biggest issue in a stadium venue, said Recycle Track Systems CEO Greg Lettieri. He said 5,000 pounds of food on average can be diverted from landfills per game at Nationals Park and an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 pounds at Audi Field through the company’s services. Food that can be salvaged, like the uneaten meals, is often donated.

Another key aspect, Lettieri said, is “giving their fans a better experience when it comes to recycling materials.” This will include a short educational pregame video meant to teach fans about the appropriate bins to dispose of waste.

Recycle Track Systems optimizes its waste management by offering real time tracking to ensure waste is being distributed appropriately. It also tracks the amount and type of waste created, so that services can be customized to the venue.

Lettieri declined to disclose any costs that are associated with the waste management initiatives.

Also in the green category, D.C. United in 2017 closed on a $25 million clean energy funding package through the District government’s Property Assessed Clean Energy program, or PACE. The PACE funding will finance energy and water efficiency measures and an 884 kilowatt solar array installed by D.C.-based New Columbia Solar.

The solar panels, in addition to other green initiatives, are expected to offset the stadium’s electrical usage by one third, saving D.C. United $125,000 a year on its utility bills.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, there are currently 30 LEED-certified venues similar to Audi Field that are in use or are being built. They include Nationals Park, certified LEED Silver, and American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat.

-Ellen Schneider | Washington Business Journal