How can we rally the passion and dedication that people feel towards sports into a passion for climate change? Working for climate change can seem pretty boring compared to a deflated football scandal or game between rival universities, but what if we we able to combine the passions for sports and sustainability? Can we harness the power and dedication of sports fans to make a positive change for climate action?
No doubt sports evoke passion, inspiring powerful emotions before, during, and after games, and can bring people of all backgrounds together, acting as a universal language. Collegiate athletic events include millions of students and fans, the Olympic Games reach over two-thirds of the planet, and the FIFA World Cup was estimated to have had over seven hundred million people watching the 2006 championship game. Seen in this way, sports are a great way to leverage collective passion to inspire change and elevate environmental awareness.
Despite this power, many sports do not coexist sustainably with the environment: thousands of gallons of water is needed to maintain fields, tremendous amounts of energy is used to power stadiums, and millions of pounds of fuel is used to transport teams around the world. When I played collegiate soccer just a year ago, there were few environmental actions associated with our athletics department. We were provided with unrecyclable gear, plastic waterbottles and unhealthy food, and frequently traveled in airplanes and busses that were far from fuel-efficient.
However, many teams and groups have started to take huge steps to green their sport. For example, environmental factors are now a key component when selecting Olympic host cities, and Games are to be held in ways that “promote sustainable development in sports.” Additionally, the Seattle Mariners introduced “sustainable Saturdays” by creating an environment-related trivia contest requiring fans to check out various recycling points around the stadium. The National Hockey League recently made headlines for their environmental initiatives too. The most recent Superbowl was played under LED lights, reducing energy by 75%, and dozens of other stadiums are being powered by solar. And it’s not just at the professional levels. At Yale, student athletes created the nation’s first Green Athletics Team Certification program for teams.
Despite these examples of professional and college sports teams going green, there is still much need to recognize the dynamic relationship between sports and the environment. Coaches, players and fans need to leverage the power that sports events and team affiliates have to create a more sustainable world. Groups like Sustainability in Sport and Green Sport Alliance are connecting the passion of fans with their favorite teams.
You can also help bring sustainability to the sport events and teams that you are passionate about! Something as simple as taking public transportation to sporting events or bringing your own waterbottle can make a difference. You can create or become a part of a Green Team at sporting events, or lobby for the implementation of recycling bins in stadiums and arenas. Bringing petitions to your own teams, schools and community to encourage universities and team affiliates to adopt sustainability plans can make a huge statement. Learn more using the links above to inspire your local and university level teams to bridge the gap between sports and sustainability. Together, we can share knowledge about the tangible relationship between sports and the environment, and take steps to ensure a win for us all.
Stadium image from Flickr Creative Commons
About the Author: Maddie Weiner is a writer and activist based in San Francisco. She is a recent Brown graduate with studies in International Development, Environmental Studies, Social Entrepreneurship and Spanish.