How can a sports club go green?

There are lots of ways a sports club can make a positive difference in its efforts to go green. Sounds good but what does that mean in reality?

It’s about being more environmentally-friendly, using sustainable products, reducing your carbon footprint and lessening the negative impact your club has on the planet.

If all of that feels overwhelming or unrealistic, it doesn’t have to be. Whatever steps your club chooses to take today, it wasn’t doing it yesterday – so you’re off to a start!

One approach to take is to consider how your club, members and supporters can: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Here are some ideas, you might be doing a few already or it could spark a conversation and lead to a new initiative.

Recycling sports kit

Sports clubs have all manner of processes that could potentially incorporate recycling and there are lots of organisations that can signpost resources and advice.

Recycling Now has a recycling locator to find your local recycling centre and the website is packed with lots of sound advice on how to get unwanted items for re-use. Recycle UK has a sports club programme with mobile recycling banks and collections days.

One of the significant ways a sports club can recycle is through the sports kit and footwear all of its members and supporters wear out.

Rematch is a sporting goods market place where you can buy, sell and recycle. Lord’s Taverner’s collect useable sports kit in the UK through collection hubs. In recent years, they have sent large amounts of kit to projects in India, Antigua, Brazil, Germany, Romania, Rwanda, Uganda, Mexico and across the UK

It will require some effort in collecting all the clothing (and shoes if relevant) but it prevents unnecessary waste and that sports kit will find a new home in the UK or overseas.

Sal’s Shoes is another phenomenal charity and to date, they have helped recycle 1.5 million pairs of preloved children’s shoes in 44 countries around the world. Why not get involved and work with other clubs in an area or within a league?

Saying No to Plastic

Thanks to documentaries like BBC Blue Planet II and many other pieces of research, the scourge of plastic pollution is more apparent than ever before – and we can all do our bit.

Single-use plastics, says National Geographic, account for 40% of the plastic made every year. Incredibly, half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years.

Items like plastic bags might be used fleetingly but take hundreds of years to degrade. So, how can a sports club do better? Put simply, take an innovative and bold approach to limit or replace plastic wherever you can.

Recycling policies vary, council to council, but a sports club can request the containers needed to start – if they’re not already.

Offer discounts on refills for all those plastic pints in the bar – get your own club pint mugs made! Can you do without bin bags altogether?

Think about not buying plastic bottles of water and install a water fountain. Can you substitute buying plastic for wood or longer-lasting materials you can use again?

Reducing carbon emissions

According to the Committee on Climate Change, the majority of carbon emissions in the UK comes from energy production and consumption. That could be boiling a kettle for a brew or driving a car to a match.

What you might not know is that electricity is often created by burning fossil fuels and still makes up much of the UK’s energy output, although renewables (solar, wind and hydro) are becoming more common.

Reducing how much electricity a sports club uses is one way to save money and means less waste and carbon emissions. Review what you currently do and have the ability to change.

Switching to energy-efficient bulbs and timed lighting/hand driers are the kind of simple steps that all help. Taking less car journeys as a club would be significant so consider a share-a-car scheme for matches.

There will come a time when the cost of electric cars will be cheaper and be more-mass-market so a sports club with its own charging station will be attractive.

Each sporting governing body will have its own financial incentives and support too. In cricket, the England & Wales Cricket Trust (EWCT) offers interest-free loans for energy and water consumption/saving systems.

On the same carbon-reduction theme, planting new trees at a sports ground will be a smart longer-term solution. Trees absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the Woodland Trust is a good place to learn more.

Support local

The distance food and other products have to travel to get to us can be astonishing and all those miles travelled are polluting the planet. A major way to reduce that is by shopping locally and supporting businesses on a sport club’s doorstep.

Understandably, the chief barrier to many of these measures is cost. A supermarket will usually be cheaper than a farm shop because of economies of scale – but has that fruit and veg originated in South America or three miles down the road?

Partnerships with local growers and companies is a way of financially supporting your community too and you never know, you might get a club sponsor as a fringe benefit.

Less meat and considering solar panels

So, there you go, some ideas on going green that clubs can implement.

Other suggestions a club might choose to consider include installing solar panels on a clubhouse roof and eating less meat.

Yes, eating less meat aids the planet in many ways. Flatulent cows and methane production raises a smile but it’s more to do with how land is used. Farmland for cattle means massive de-forestation and is causing the extinction of wildlife across the planet.

With such enormous problems, it can all feel like us as individuals and clubs can’t make a difference – but that’s just not the case.

Whatever you do, it doesn’t all have to happen overnight and it can add up to playing a role in fighting climate change and choosing a more sustainable path for your club.