Environmental sustainability has become more significant in all spheres in recent years due to the increasingly evident impact of human consumption on our environment. As football has developed, stadiums have increased in size and produced more and more waste in a variety of forms. There has been a response from a selection of both big and small level clubs and it is expected that this will spur on a major shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious industry.
Giving plastic the boot
With the construction of new stadiums comes the opportunity to reform waste management systems. The Emirates stadium in north London recycles 75% of matchday waste but their local rivals in Tottenham have bettered this with their pledge to phase out all single-use plastics across all club operations. Their new stadium, due to be ready for the 2018/19 season, will not stock plastic straws, stirrers or cutlery and will replace all plastic bags with biodegradable alternatives. If the still unnamed stadium succeeds in removing all single-use plastics then it will set a precedent, proving that 62,000 people can be provided with the same services and entertainment in a more sustainable format.
Forest Green Rovers
Slightly less well known than Arsenal and Tottenham are Forest Green Rovers, who just about achieved survival in the bear pit that is League 2. Their rise from non-league football has correlated with their rise off the pitch in sustainability terms and they have recently been described by FIFA as the greenest football club in the world. FGR are also currently the only vegan football club in the world, powered by solar panels on the stadium roof and dedicated to further reducing their carbon footprint in any way possible. Their Environmental Policy references a commitment to an irrigation system independent from the water mains, creating an organic pitch (no pesticides or chemicals) and creating an eco-education venue to promote sustainability in sport. The club have not achieved all its goals but the proposed future involves the complete eradication of all carbon emissions. Their plans to build a new stadium in partnership with Ecotricity known as the Eco Park supports their aims. It will be made entirely out of wood and designed by Zaha Hadid, the world-renowned architect. FGR will hopefully rise up the divisions in the coming years, bringing their green movement with them and planting it on the main stage of world football.
Wolfsburg are looking ahead to the second leg of their relegation playoff on Monday, a tie they lead 3-1. They will hope to retain their Bundesliga position in a similar style to last season with the help of the revived Divock Origi, on loan from Liverpool. Despite the club’s poor showings on the pitch, their environmental initiatives off it are certainly worthy of respect. Their stadium, office and youth set up have all been running on 100% green electricity since 2011. The club also uses recycled paper whilst motion detectors are used to end the issue of continuous lighting. The training grounds are even watered from a local muddy canal and old football shirts are reused to produce new products!
It seems the German league can learn a lot from Wolfsburg who have won countless awards for their efforts.
Dartford Football Club
This National League South team are arguably more well-known for their stunning stadium’s grass roof than their agonisingly tight 2017/18 title run that ended in a second-place finish on goal difference. Princes Park is equipped with solar panels that provide hot water and rooftop rainwater collection to replace the main supply. Other features include low energy lighting, underfloor heating, timber construction and many more revolutionary concepts that help to reduce consumption. Dartford’s stadium is a thing to behold and is well worth a visit to watch the Darts fight it out in the non-league division.
Is football turning a corner?
Whilst it is extremely positive that small and big clubs alike have engaged to reduce the environmental impact of material and fuel consumption, travel still remains a major issue for larger clubs. With the long-distance demands of both domestic and European competition it can be difficult to reduce carbon emissions. Nevertheless, initiatives such as the removal of single use plastics, the harvesting of rainwater and the use of renewable energy could have a major impact on the identity of the sport and would no doubt have a direct influence on the environmental consciousness of fans and staff alike.
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