The Future Of Sustainability In Sport

A blog from Digital Detox:

This might surprise you, but the Sports industry has the potential to make a massive, and positive, difference to environmental sustainability.

Sport is a huge industry with mass participation, investment and support from around the world. As with every industry, it’s also responsible for creating a lot of excess carbon, which is detrimental to the earth’s natural habitats, wildlife and atmosphere.

Consider some of the biggest sporting events each year; the venue’s location, transportation of attendees, television of the event, attendance, food, power, lighting and numerous other factors. There’s a big carbon footprint attached to these, but also a great opportunity to make all sporting events more sustainable.

In this blog, we’ll share a few examples of changes that are improving sustainability in sport already, and the various measures we can expect to see in the future.

Sustainability at a glance

There are a couple of areas to understand when we talk about environmental sustainability in sport, or any other industry for that matter.

Carbon is a by-product of almost every industrial and commercial activity on the planet, from manufacturing and sourcing to consuming and disposing. There will naturally always be a degree of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere, but the issue is the excess carbon generated from outdated approaches, energy heavy processes and environmentally unfriendly practices. These can harm the environment and cause issues like climate change.

In an effort to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, many individuals, businesses and brands are taking action.

There are two key terms that refer to how people and businesses are becoming more sustainable:

Carbon neutral: this is an effort to minimise the amount of carbon created, or offset any carbon with environmental initiatives like reducing the carbon footprint in other areas or supporting environmental projects like forestation.

Net Zero: this refers to people and businesses making active changes to reduce their carbon to the lowest possible amount and only offsetting any carbon created as a last resort. You could think of it as prevention rather than cure.

The world’s first Net Zero football match

Tottenham Hotspur football club partnered with Sky TV to host the world’s first major Net Zero match in September.

Their match against Chelsea FC was dubbed #GameZero and the aim was to raise awareness of climate change risks and provide some actionable steps that can be taken to reduce carbon emissions in sport.

For the match to be net zero, Sky and Tottenham worked to minimise emissions from matchday activity such as:

  • • energy used to power the game
  • • travel to and from the stadium for both fans and clubs
  • • dietary choices at the stadium.

COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma said: “Climate change affects every aspect of our lives, including the sports that we love to watch and play. We can all take steps to help protect the planet for future generations, including in major sporting events. That is why I am delighted COP26 is working with Sky, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and the Premier League to show how football is going One Step Greener by hosting the world’s first major net zero football match.”

Tottenham Hotspur has already been named the Premier League’s Greenest club, in light of multiple sustainable practices that are in effect at the club. According to the club’s website, they embrace initiatives and technologies that reduce their environmental impact whenever possible. They also encourage employees, suppliers and partners to do the same.

“We are offsetting our carbon footprint in a myriad of different ways – to date, we have planted hundreds of new and semi-mature trees and tens of thousands of new plants, hedges and flowers across our Training Centre to establish an ecological habitat.” (Source: Tottenham Hotspur website)

Sustainability in Golf

GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf hosted a special event in November, to showcase how players, organisers and spectators on Golf can play a role in reducing carbon emissions. The event was held during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, to focus on the role of golf in climate action.

Phillip Russell, from event organiser R&A explained the steps that can be taken to make Golf a more sustainable sport, such as:

  • • Including water stations around an event to encourage spectators to use refillable water bottles, and avoid single-use plastic
  • • Solar energy, battery storage and EV charging stations to minimise any carbon created from the event
  • • Tracking the footprint of the Open Championship so there’s a benchmark of carbon emissions to reduce

Starting at grassroots level

When we talk about sustainability in sport, we may think about premiership sports, televised events and celebrity matches.

But we can implement environmental sustainability practices into every aspect of sport, beginning from children’s sports in schools and clubs.

For example, parents of children who take part in regular sports activities can consider the method of transport they take to get to and from their children’s practices and matches. They can source ethically produced sportswear and encourage their children to use refillable water bottles.

Pressure needs to be placed on sports venues and arenas to improve their environmental sustainability in all aspects of the management and operation of their venues. For example, the type of lighting and heating used, reviewing consumption habits and trying to reduce where possible, and even third-party suppliers used for food, maintenance and other aspects of operation.

Children (and indeed adults) can make small changes to their everyday lives to reduce carbon emissions in all aspects. However, it’s big brands and businesses who stand to make the biggest difference to carbon emissions. Every player, coach, organiser and supporter can make a difference.

Sustainability at Digital Detox

As a sustainable digital design and development agency, we’re making great strides to reduce our carbon footprint. We’re also empowering our clients to change their mindsets and actions to become more sustainable.

We incorporate sustainability into everything we do, from our individual actions to our design and development practices for clients.

If you’ve enjoyed learning about sustainability in sport and would like to see us cover any other industries in our blog, do get in touch! Or contact us if you’d like support on your next digital project.

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