Sports leagues have a unique way of bringing people together. Behind the exhilaration lies a less glamorous truth: the environmental impact of sports is significant. It's estimated that every year, the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL combined generate 35,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from waste alone - equivalent to 89,724,208 miles driven by an average car, according to a Waste Management Report.
From the waste generated during mega-events to the carbon footprint of international tournaments, the sports industry has great opportunities for improvement. With athletes' influence and fans' passion, sports can be a driving force for sustainability. That's why we've created a checklist any sports team can take and adopt to improve their sustainability efforts. Here's a little more about why that's important.
The environmental cost of sports
Sports events, especially large-scale ones, generate a staggering amount of waste. A study conducted during Brazil's 2014 FIFA World Cup estimated that the event produced 2.9 million tons of CO2 equivalent. Similarly, the Super Bowl, one of the biggest sporting events in the U.S., generates around 40 tons of waste each year.
Team practices, often overshadowed by mega sporting events, play a significant role in environmental impact due to their frequency. From maintaining fields and the energy expended in lighting indoor facilities to the waste generated from outdated equipment and the prevalent use of single-use plastics for hydration, the day-to-day routines of sports teams can be improved to be more sustainable.
There's potential for positive change by adopting measures such as efficient LED lighting, promoting equipment reuse, encouraging green transportation, and eliminating single-use plastics in favor of sustainable alternatives like refillable aluminum bottles, teams can drastically reduce their environmental footprint. Such sustainable shifts in team practices benefit the environment and set a commendable precedent for the broader sports community and fans alike.
The power of influence: athletes as role models
Athletes wield significant influence, both on and off the field. When athletes speak, people listen. This influence can be harnessed to promote sustainability.
Several athletes have already taken up the mantle. Figures like Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, and Mohamed Sanu have taken on single-use plastic by supporting fans in reusing their PATH bottles.
The potential for change
The sports industry, with its global reach and influence, is uniquely positioned to drive sustainability. Here's how:
Transitioning to green stadiums, which utilize renewable energy sources and sustainable construction materials, can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of sports events. A testament to the efficacy of LEED is evident in the Twin Cities. Here, sports facilities have adopted LEED as their sustainability benchmark. Notably, Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium have achieved LEED Gold and Platinum certifications, respectively, using the Arc platform. This platform allows for real-time monitoring and improvement, a feature not present in the standard LEED Certification. Such continuous improvement mechanisms ensure that facilities enhance their environmental performance and contribute positively to the broader triple bottom line.
The first practice of better waste management operations is to reduce. Implementing a single-use plastic ban is ideal, and making water accessible for refilling is a great way to do this. Encourage reusable packaging for food and supplements. Implementing effective waste management strategies includes having properly labeled recycling and compost bins so that waste is better managed.
Promotion of sustainable practices
Athletes can use their platforms to promote eco-friendly habits, from reducing meat consumption to minimizing single-use plastics. Athletes have the power to influence via social media, they can share their lifestyle with fans and inspire new, more impactful habits.
Sports teams can engage fans in sustainability efforts. The Seattle Mariners' "Sustainable Saturdays" initiative, where fans are educated about recycling and composting, is a prime example.
Athletes who want to elevate their sport
There are environmental challenges in so many areas of life; sports is one area when action can have great influence. However, the sector's potential to drive positive change is immense. By leveraging the influence of athletes and engaging fans, sports can not only reduce its environmental impact but also inspire millions to adopt sustainable practices.
As fans, we, too, have a role to play. By supporting sustainable sports initiatives and helping our teams adopt better practices, we can ensure that the sports we love are sustainable for future generations.
Are you involved in the sports industry and looking for ways to make a difference? Check out our comprehensive Sustainability Checklist for Sports Teams to get started.
The Ultimate Team Sustainability Checklist for Sports Teams
1. Team Operations & Management
- Implement a waste separation system.
- Partner with local recycling facilities to take recyclables.
- Set up composting stations for organic waste.
- Regularly audit waste management practices.
- Reduce waste by bringing reusable bottles and containers for food and beverages.
- Perform an LED lighting retrofit.
- Install motion sensors for lights in less-frequented areas.
- Use energy-efficient appliances and equipment.
- Have a system to shutdown/unplug unnecessary appliances/equipment.
- Conduct regular energy audits.
- Install low-flow faucets and toilets.
- Use drought-resistant plants in landscaping.
- Regularly check for and repair leaks.
- Educate team members about conserving water.
- Offer incentives for carpooling or using public transport.
- Use electric or hybrid vehicles for team transportation.
- Provide secure bicycle storage for players and staff.
- Use digital communication tools.
- Offer e-tickets for fans.
- Use cloud storage for administrative documents.
2. Facilities & Infrastructure
- Use sustainable construction materials.
- Implement natural ventilation and lighting designs.
- Ensure proper insulation to reduce energy needs.
- Use efficient HVAC system.
- Implement a gray water program to have sink water route to exterior landscaping.
- Set up collection systems on rooftops.
- Use harvested water for landscaping and cleaning.
- Install solar panels on facility rooftops.
- Install a wind mill for additional power.
- Purchase renewable energy from the grid.
- Have a battery storage backup for better energy management.
- Use combined heat and power for energy optimization.
- Opt for organic fertilizers and pesticides.
- Implement efficient irrigation systems.
3. Players & Coaching Staff
- Bring a refillable water bottle or sports drink bottle to refill and reuse.
- Schedule regular workshops and seminars on various sustainability topics.
- Guest lectures from environmental experts.
- Provide resources to the team.
- Provide players with PATH's aluminum refillable water bottles.
- Make sure water refill stations and electrolyte stations are available.
- Use cloth towels instead of disposable ones.
- Encourage the use of sustainable sports gear brands.
- Partner with PATH to promote refilling and share with fans.
Diet & Nutrition
- Source team food from local, organic farms.
- Increase vegetables and fruits, decrease meat and dairy.
- Eliminate single-use plastics in meal packaging.
- Organize monthly community service activities.
- Partner with local environmental organizations.
- Sponsor local sustainability events.
4. Fan Engagement
PATH's Refill Stations
- Strategically place stations throughout the venue.
- Offer discounts or incentives for using refill stations.
Single-use Plastic Ban
- Implement strict policies against plastic.
- Offer alternatives like bamboo cutlery and paper straws.
- Use organic cotton for apparel.
- Offer merchandise made from recycled materials.
- Use biodegradable packaging.
- Set up informational booths during games.
- Distribute pamphlets or brochures on sustainability.
- Host annual sustainability fairs.
Green Fan Clubs
- Offer exclusive perks for members that take action.
- Organize green initiatives like tree planting.
5. Social Media & Online Presence
- Weekly sustainability tips and tricks.
- Share behind-the-scenes of team's green initiatives.
- Partner with eco-bloggers and influencers.
- Host joint campaigns with other sustainable brands.
- Create monthly sustainability challenges for fans.
- Offer prizes like free tickets or merchandise.
- Share stories from players on their personal green journeys.
- Highlight staff members who excel in sustainable practices.
- Share articles and news on global sustainability issues.
- Create video content on the importance of being eco-friendly.
6. Partnerships & Sponsorships
- Prioritize brands with green credentials.
- Collaborate on joint sustainability projects.
- Co-host webinars and workshops.
- Jointly sponsor eco-friendly events or initiatives.
Promote Sustainable Products:
- Offer exclusive discounts for fans on partner products like PATH.
- Co-create branded limited edition sustainable products like refillable aluminum PATH bottles for the team and fans. #PartneringtoSavethePlanet