As fall arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, many people will either be participating in sports or attending sporting events (e.g., football games). Did you know that, globally, sports contribute the same level of emissions as a medium-sized country? From transportation to/from events for athletes and fans alike, to the energy needed to power stadiums, the construction of facilities, and waste generated at games, the carbon footprint is quite extensive. And then there’s the impact that climate change is already having, in the form of extreme weather events that disrupt sporting events. Sports are both contributors and casualties of climate change.
If emissions don’t drop, then by the year 2050, it’s predicted that half of the former winter Olympic host cities will likely not be able to sponsor the games, due to lack of snow. In England, almost a quarter of the soccer stadiums are projected to be partially or totally flooded every year. High temperatures and poor air quality from wildfires have impacted past high-profile sporting events, like the 2018 US Open tennis and the 2020 Australian Open.
Given the sheer numbers of people interested in sports and the broad reach of athletes on social media, there is an opportunity here, to be influential. Not only can athletes raise awareness of climate change, using their platforms, they can also promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles, which benefit people and the planet.
It’s encouraging to see some stadiums and arenas already embracing climate-friendly practices. In 2018, when the Super Bowl was hosted at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 91% of the trash from the tens of thousands of attendees was sent to compost and recycling, rather than a landfill. In Seattle, the Climate Pledge Arena’s goal is “to be the most progressive, responsible and sustainable arena in the world.” Towards this end, this hockey arena makes its ice from recaptured rainwater collected from its roof and all events are “zero waste.” Single-use containers have been eliminated and 75% of the concessions are purchased from local farmers, with any viable unused food donated to community food banks. The arena is all-electric and publicly reveals its emissions for all events. This type of transparency is commendable and should be a model for all future facilities.
Though the news is often times dire when it comes to climate change, there are solutions out there, as the examples above show. Let’s keep this up – collectively, we can make these changes – for the good of our planet and ourselves.
photo by: Ulyana Peña