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Sports Management Handbook - Sustainability in sport

Analysis and Trends

Sustainability in sport

Investing in environmentally friendly practices not only reduces energy costs in the long term, it will also offer venues an additional selling point when trying to attract increasingly environmentally-savvy fans. We look at some examples of sustainable sports design and operations.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was the greenest tournament in World Cup history
The Metlife Stadium in New Jersey uses 25 per cent less water each year than its predecessor, the former Giants Stadium
The Thyagraj Sports Complex in New Delhi

"Our courts may be blue, but we're thinking green." That's the environmental pledge of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the national governing body for tennis, which hosts the US Open at The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. A grand venue for a Grand Slam, the complex has been home for the US Open every September since 1978 and houses a total of 22 tennis courts inside its 46.5 acres.

The green thinking pledge was formulated in 2008 as part of USTA's efforts to implement more environmentally-sound practices at the US Open. There were two key issues behind the push for sustainability – the need to match spectators' increasing expectations to see green initiatives in practice and cutting the burgeoning energy costs.

Since its launch, the Green Initiative has resulted in more than 850 tons of waste being diverted through recycling and composting; saved more than 1,100 tons of greenhouse gas emissions; offset enough electricity to power 600 homes for one year; recycled almost 1.5 million plastic bottles; and delivered a campaign to reduce private transport so that most of the fans now arrive using public transport.

As well as the partnership with the US' Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), USTA has teamed up with other organisations as part of its green strategy. In 2012, it joined the Green Sports Alliance, an organization of sports teams, venues and leagues aimed at enhancing environmental evolution of professional and collegiate sports.

Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and chief operating officer, said: "Our commitment to reducing the environmental impact is an important endeavor and we are continually seeking ways to enhance our greening efforts. With comprehensive ecological programme that we've established at the US Open, we hope to foster environmental progress and inspire fans to create a positive change.” 

The tennis legend whose name the stadium carries is an enthusiastic supporter of the Green Initiative. "To solve the serious environmental problems facing our planet, we need to shift our culture toward more sustainable practices," Billie Jean King says. "Sports are hugely influental and can play a significant role in causing a 'green' ripple effect of enormous proportions, encouraging industries and consumers alike to improve the choices they make every day."

The organising committee of the Brazil 2014 World Cup (LOC) and FIFA created a strategy to make this year’s competition the greenest ever. The sustainability strategy developed by FIFA and the LOC aimed not only to mitigate the negative impact but also to maximise the positive effects of hosting the FIFA World Cup. Green stadia, waste management, community sport, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions, renewable energy, climate change and capacity development were some of the key issues addressed.

A total of US$20m (15m euro, £13m) has been be invested by FIFA in the implementation of the strategy. Further support for the sustainability effort has been provided by FIFA’s commercial affiliates and other stakeholders. The strategy builds on the experience gained from environmental and social development programmes at FIFA tournaments since 2005, on international standards such as ISO 26000 and the Global Reporting Initiative and on the development policies of the government of Brazil. The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil was the first FIFA World Cup to have a comprehensive sustainability strategy. One of the newly-built stadiums – Estádio Nacional in Brasilia – is now rated as one of the world's most sustainable stadia. The 72,800-capacity venue, designed by Castro Mello, is carbon neutral and was the first in history to be awarded the highest sustainability certificate, the LEED Platinum.

Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s head of corporate social responsibility, said: “The goal was to stage an event which used resources wisely, striking a balance between economic aspects, social development and environmental protection. We wanted the 2014 World Cup to be remembered not only as a fantastic football tournament, but also for its lasting social and environmental legacy."

Methods included
Green Buildings: Many of the stadiums achieved LEED certifications and were fitted with solar panels . In addition, FIFA and LOC organised certified training courses on sustainable management for all stadium managers
Waste management: The objective of a new waste law in Brazil is to better control the handling and the destination of waste. FIFA and LOC promoted recycling in collaboration with local cooperatives.

Climate change: FIFA and LOC will estimate the tournament’s carbon footbrint and developed wide-ranging measures to avoid, reduce and offset emissions.

Volunteer training: Additional training modules were offered to all 2014 FIFA World Cup volunteers enhancing their future employment opportunities.

The Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, US has made its name as one of the most sustainable stadiums in American professional sports. Creating a green venue was one of the key issues for the New York Giants and New York Jets – the two NFL teams that built and now operate the venue through a 50/50 partnership – MetLife Stadium Company.

The New Stadium, built on the site of the former Giants Stadium, has succeeded in reducing water demand by an estimated 11m gallons per year – or a 25 per cent reduction in the average annual water demand. The major water conservation design features include synthetic turf – saving 3.5m gallons of water per year – and the waterless urinals throughout the men’s restrooms, saving an additional 2.7m gallons per year.

Metlife also uses energy efficient, United States Environmental Protection Agency Energy-Star compliant concession equipment, heating cooling and ventilation systems and lighting, which use 25-50 per cent less energy. This reduces costs without compromising quality of performance, reduces air pollution, provides a significant return on investment, and typically has an extended product life and decreased need for maintenance. Energy efficient Low E coating/glazing has also been used in the windows. Compared to the old Giants Stadium, the glass used at Metlife transmits 56 per cent less destructive UV light, is 51 per cent better as an insulator, and is 24 per cent better at reducing heat gain – while only sacrificing 3 per cent of the total visible light available.

There’s also a long-term commitment to reducing solid waste by 25 per cent through recycling and composting programmes. Fifty tons of solid waste is produced on an average game day in the parking areas and another 20 tons is produced in the actual stadium.

Fan behaviour and eco-awareness among spectators is another area that Metlife is seeking to influence. Both teams actively promote the use of public transport and car pooling/ride sharing for spectactors travelling to events. There are comprehensive fan education and participation programmes which use public service announcements; scoreboard messages; “green” programme goals and achievements via web site portal; Green Promotional Events.

New Delhi’s Thyagaraj Stadium is the first sports venue to receive a gold rating from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). Designed by architects Peddle Thorp for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the venue has earned a CII-IGBC-Gold rating.

Eco-friendly solutions at Thyagaraj include the use of solar panels to provide all electricity for lighting – with any excess generated being fed into Delhi’s main power grid using integrated photovoltaic cells. Other key features incorporated in the stadium include the use of rainwater harvesting for flushing and horticulture, double-insulated glazing and an independent sewage treatment plant with a capacity of more than 200,000 litres a day. Thyagaraj Stadium is owned by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) and is part of the larger Thyagaraj Sports Complex. GNCTD's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, said the IGBC award reflected Delhi’s pioneering role in promoting eco-friendly practices. She added that the success of Thyagaraj would encourage other states in India to invest in more sustainable sports infrastructure.

US Open's paper trail

• The 2.4m napkins in the general concession area are comprised of 100 per cent recycled material

• All printed materials are composed of at least 30 per cent recycled materia

• US Open tickets are printed on paper comprised of 30 per cent post-consumer waste, and parking books, parking visors and coupon books are printed on paper comprised of 10-15 percent post-consumer waste

• The paper towel dispensers located throughout the US Open venues have been replaced with energy-saving motion-sensor dispensers


All waste is categorised across the venue
Getting into the swing of things

The luxury Six Senses Con Dao resort on the island of Con Son in Vietnam has come up with a novel, eco-friendly way for guests to practise their golf swings in environmentally delicate surroundings.

The resort has introduced Ecobioball – balls that have a core made out of fish food. The food is released when the outer cover of the ball biodegrades – around 48 hours after coming into contact with water. Although ardent golfers will find the ball a little sluggish for competition on the greens, it is perfect for practice.

While the idea might seem outlandish, there is a serious side to the initiative – the balls are a more sustainable way for guests to play golf in a region that has a beautiful yet vulnerable eco system. There is no need for floodlighted driving ranges as the ball can be safely launched from any surface – and as an added plus gives local fish a free lunch.


The ball can be safely hit from any surface

Originally published in Sports Management Handbook 2014 edition

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