Unfortunately, football isn’t typically an environmentally friendly sport. From pre-season tours in countries all over the world, using floodlights and UVC radiation lights on natural turf, and even serving up poorly sourced meats in a big greasy burger for the fans at half-time. Some teams in England even fly short distances for domestic league games!
However, a Gloucestershire-based League Two club have become the first carbon neutral certified football club in the world. For the upcoming 2018-2019 season, Forest Green Rovers signed up for a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative called Climate Neutral Now. This initiative was launched in 2015 by the UN, aiming to encourage and support all levels of society to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century. The initiative also coincides with the Paris Agreement, an agreement aiming to prevent global temperatures rising by more than 2°C and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The initiative itself invites companies, organisations and governments to work towards climate neutrality by reducing their carbon footprint, as well as what you can do yourself to reduce your own. This can be achieved using three simple methods:
- Measure greenhouse gas emissions;
- Reduce them where possible;
- Compensate the emissions that cannot be avoided using UN certified emission reductions (CERs)
Compensating unavoidable emissions can be achieved by supporting climate friendly projects in developing countries that have been vetted by the UNFCCC. This can help by benefitting communities with improved air quality, water quality, income, health, while also reducing energy consumption and more!
Back to the Football…
Forest Green Rovers have introduced this into their club and have become the world’s first carbon neutral club ready for the start of the season this weekend.
The club has been attracting attention around the world for its part in reducing carbon emissions after it claimed to be the first vegan football club after they received the vegan trademark from the Vegan Society. Not only is this vegan food for the fans on matchdays, they also serve vegan food to the players and staff. The reason they’ve introduced this into their club is due to the ‘huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming’, as well as improving the players performance.
All power used within the club and its facilities is powered by 100% green energy from Ecotricity, the company owned by chairman, Dale Vince – although some of the power is generated from the solar powers on the stadium roof. Most interestingly, in my opinion, is the fact that the organic pitch is cut by a solar powered robot lawnmower and all rainwater that falls on to the stands or the pitch is recycled to minimise the club’s use of mains water, what clubs in Europe’s top leagues can claim something like that!
Around the world
Although no other clubs are going to the greath lengths Forest Green Rovers are to promote carbon neutrality, there are a few clubs around Europe introducing new green initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint on the planet.
One of the best ways they can do this is to transform their stadiums into eco-friendly venues with updated modern renewable energy technologies. Clubs such as Werder Bremen in Germany, Feyenoord Rotterdam and AFC Ajax in the Netherlands, and Aston Villa in England all use green power and renewable energy to power their stadiums.
Going further are Werder Bremen and Ajax. The roof of the Werder Bremen stadium is covered with 200,000 solar cells covering the roof with enough to power 400-500 nearby houses. AFC Ajax has 4,200 solar panels on its stadium roof to help power the stadium and draws in Dutch wind energy to fulfill the requirements. It also has a heating and cooling system that draws heat from a local suburb to warm it, and water from a nearby lake to cool it.
Clubs like VFL Wolfsburg in Germany and Tottenham Hotspur in England are also making strides to becoming more environmentally friendly by reducing the use of plastics within the stadium. Back in 2015, Wolfsburg banned the distribution of plastic bags in its stadium, instead, replacing them with paper bags that are made from 100% recycled paper. They have also banned single-use cups and now supply fans with reusable ones.
As they move into their new stadium ready for the 2018/19 season, Tottenham Hotspur are banning the use of plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and all plastic disposable packaging. They are also going further by committing to phase out single-use plastics in all club operations and requiring new suppliers to stop using single-use plastics.
Sustainability in Sports
Whilst there are very few clubs that are even close to becoming carbon neutral, or even attempting to become more sustainable, there are movements being made by clubs and whole sports to improve their sustainability and play their role in creating a more environmentally-friendly sport. Forest Green Rovers show that it is possible to run a sustainable football club; those who do nothing are dragging their heels. It’s time that a visit to our favourite football team was not only enjoyable to watch, but environmentally-friendly and sustainable too.