February 21, 2022

Industry Use Cases

Carbon Neutrality for Sports: Take Action Now 

Carbon Neutrality for Sports: Take Action Now 

Athletes, spectators, and other stakeholders are expecting sustainable and carbon neutral sporting events including at practices and matches. This expectation isn't only for professional clubs and leagues, but anyone can practice sustainability and carbon neutrality in their sport such as:

  • Stadiums, arenas, rinks, fields, courts and pools
  • Team practices
  • College, high school, and elementary sports venues
  • Gyms, sports centers, dance and yoga studios, and other recreational centers
  • Team merchandising throughout the value chain
  • Food and drink packaging and waste and recycling 
  • Care of natural venues i.e., parks, fields, mountains, and beaches
  • Traveling to different cities, states, countries with the team, trainers, nutritionists, and spectators
  • Emissions from athlete's diets

If you are a team manager, coach, team owner, investor, or athlete, and you want to learn about how sports can become carbon neutral, then this is for you! We will share some of the environmental impacts of practicing sports and their events and some examples of associations and teams that are going carbon neutral so you can go carbon neutral too. We'll also tell you how Net0 can help measure, reduce, and offset your carbon emissions and how you can become carbon neutral certified fast.

UN Sports for Climate Action Framework

UN Climate Change has created the movement Sports for Climate Action (UNSCA) to unify athletes, teams, spectators, and stakeholders of every kind to get involved in the change. While the sports industry has been the receivers of problems regarding climate change such as uncomfortable temperature increases, debates about geography for international events, and more, they have also been large contributors to energy costs in large arenas due to lighting, air conditioning, merchandising, and other unsustainable actions lying outside of carbon neutrality such as plastic water bottle and cup use and other poorly packaged food and drink materials, and what is more, with no place to recycle. 

The two main encompassing objectives are:

  1. To measure, reduce, and report GHG emissions to stay below the 2C temperature increase stated in The Paris Agreement.
  2. For the sports industry to use their platform to unify global citizens in the fight against climate change.  

Moreover, the signatories of the movement are being asked to halve emissions by 2030 (with 2019 being their baseline) and eliminate emissions by 2040. Within one year of signing, the signatories will have to submit their plans to achieve their targets. They are encouraged to join working groups to fulfill the principles in the framework that combat climate change. The principles are required although the working groups are optional. There are more than 200 signatories at the moment between professional leagues, teams, and federations, and over 60 on the race to net zero. However, this isn't only limited to professional sports. Local clubs in various sports and activities at any age and level can achieve carbon neutral athletics.

fans at nitto for carbon neutral tennis atp finals
Image source: The O2 in London, Nitto ATP Finals

Carbon emissions and the environmental impact of sporting events

While sports are healthy and fun, we have to take responsibility for environmental care. Even though achieving net zero is important, other parts of the environment are damaged through waste, plastic, lack of recycling receptacles, wasted water, and more. It's not only CO2 emissions that are destructive but we'll focus on that. It isn't a bad thing to enjoy and participate in these sports but some emissions are going to be unavoidable so these sports can exist. In that case, they would need to be offset with other projects that will benefit us in the future, like renewable energy so we can switch to alternatives and therefore, need less offsets in the future. We'll point out some of the most CO2 emitting scenarios although these are not all of them.

  • Skydiving and any air sports that require jet fuel emit a massive amount of CO2.
  • Ice rinks for hockey and skating that need to be constantly cooled in warmer regions. 
  • Flyovers and jet skis with gas used by workers at surf competitions and the trash and plastic left on the beach thereafter. 
  • Golf courses planting grass, wasting water watering it, then sending out lawn mowers that emit CO2, just to cut the grass they have then just planted. In 2000 in the US, over 2 billion gallons of water was wasted per day on golf courses (USGA.org data). 
  • Artificial ski resorts in places like Dubai that have no natural snow are wasting at least 500 tonnes of GHG emissions per year, according to treehugger.com, instead of flying to a nearby country that naturally has snow.
  • NASCAR emits 120,000 tonnes of CO2 in a weekend (connormarch.weebly.com).
  • Ski lifts on natural mountains use as much energy in a week as can be used in a home in a year. Also, people trash the mountains with cigarettes and plastic. And disruption to animal habitats.
  • Fireworks at sporting events cause an incredible amount of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, make the air quality toxic to breathe, and the debris litters the oceans harming ecosystems, reported by inverse.com.
  • The logistics of sporting events including flights and hotels for all the team members and TV crews, and transportation of spectators coming and going emit large amounts of CO2. This is especially prevalent in the World Cup due to putting matches in different cities and countries in the same year, producing even more transportation emissions for all. Plus the trash from excessive tourism and CO2 emissions from all of the trash trucks cleaning up after the tourists.
  • The heating, cooling, and lighting of stadiums and arenas and the waste and plastic from food and drink sales. 
  • The energy used in public and school gyms and recreation centers from using the machines, lights, and temperature controls. 
  • Emissions from manufacturing and logistics of team merchandise.
huntington beah surf city usa surf open pier
Image source: US Surf Open by Rowland 

Related content

If you want to know more about combating climate change, please check out our library of free resources including:

• Article: 10 Reasons Net0 Is the Best Carbon Accounting Platform
• Article: Carbon Offsetting for Events
• Article: Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

How sports can become carbon neutral

Carbon neutrality in sports would be nearly impossible without carbon accounting software because emissions have to be measured to be able to reduce them and offset the unavoidable ones presently. Obviously in other eco-friendly matters, we can all take actions not to litter and use plastic although people do not take them. They are easy steps. But it would be impossible to see an ice hockey game in a place without a frozen lake and not safe to play sports on one either, so we need a rink. While switching to renewable energy is the solution for excessive energy use, until we fully transition to zero carbon, we will have to measure and offset the emissions in order to make proper reduction strategies leading to the elimination of emissions.

Net0 provides a carbon calculator for athletes so they can calculate and offset their emissions.

carbon calculator for athletes

How Net0 emissions management platform can help accelerate climate action in sports

  1. Measure GHG emissions. This will let you know what your carbon footprint is and where to start. Any data you provide the platform will be calculated into CO2e tonnage for you and measured in real-time through easy-to-read charts and graphs. They are categorized so you see where your biggest emissions sources are. Once the data is provided, all of the calculations are done for you. The carbon calculator for sports is shown below.
  2. Reduce emissions. Now that proper insights have been made with the data provided, start making your strategy to transition to alternatives with better reduction targets every year. 
  3. Offset residual emissions. Any unavoidable emissions can be offset in Net0's platform with verified projects from all over the world that propel us into a carbon neutral future.
  4. Report emissions in real-time with scope-categorized, investor-grade reports at any time so you can communicate where you are in your net zero journey.
  5. Get certified. Net0 offers hosted certificates and badges you can display on premises and merchandise so people know you are carbon neutral. Since so many fans follow athletes and teams on social media like Instagram, this is the perfect place to communicate your carbon neutrality, which covers the second main encompassing objective of the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. When influential people spread the word, everyone will want to do it.
get carbon neutral certified

How the Olympics are becoming carbon neutral in 2022

Between 2018 and 2021, the Olympics more than halved their emissions from 1.637 million tonnes CO2e to 489,000 t-CO2e. This year they are going carbon neutral. How are they doing this? 

  1. First, Beijing is retrofitting and reusing the venues for winter and summer Olympic games to not have to rebuild more venues. 
  2. They are also to be fully powered by renewable energy sources. 
  3. Next, Toyota is providing fuel efficient and clean energy vehicles as transport. 
  4. Natural CO2 refrigeration systems will cool the ice which replaces HFCs that normally cool ice rinks and damage the ozone layer. This type of system is meant to bring emissions to almost zero.
  5. Offsetting residuals through afforestation. 
carbon neutral skating rink beijing 2022 olympics
Image source: Beijing 2022 Olympics

Examples of carbon neutrality in sports

Although many teams, leagues, and associations have signed carbon neutrality agreements, we'll highlight a few examples of what is happening in professional sports and climate action.

The ATP tour has set targets to fight against climate change and the players are enthusiastic about the ATP Serves Sustainability strategy. They even offset all emissions from the Nitto ATP Finals for tennis families and spectators transport in 2019.

Arsenal was the first Premier League Club member to sign the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. In 2019 they topped the league on sustainability measures. They also partnered with Octopus Energy in 2016 to be fully reliant on renewable energy and with Ball Corporation for aluminum packaging. A complete list of Arsenal's sustainability actions can be read on their website including water recycling, lighting, food and drink packaging, and more. 

Tottenham Hotspur FC encourages sustainability in everything they do in their stadium, even planting tens of thousands of plants for a nice ecological habitat. Back in 2010 they founded the 10:10 initiative which encouraged the community to cut carbon emissions 10% that year. They're also committed to sustainability in other areas of their stadium such as packaging, waste, and energy.

Juventus was the first Italian football club and the 150th signatory to the UNSCA Framework. They were also the first Italian club to join the UN's Climate Neutral Now which encourages the community and businesses to measure, reduce, and offset their carbon emissions.

Super Bowl LVI and Climate Change

To name an example of the most recent way sports are on the receiving end of climate change, Los Angeles, California, USA hit a temperature on February 13, 2022, during Super Bowl LVI. The average February daytime temperature is 53F/12C. But during Super Bowl LVI, temperatures rose to 87F and only two days later dropped to 45F at night. What is usually a winter occasion, the football players and spectators were exhausted in the heat. It was the hottest Super Bowl Sunday ever recorded, (but the hottest February 13th was recorded at 90F).  

However, don't forget that the spectators of the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB emit 35,000 tons of CO2 per year, according to wm.com, and that the Super Bowl Halftime Show alone emits a ridiculous amount of emissions through energy, the transportation of stage materials, and the construction, breakdown, and waste of those same stage materials right after. Plus, the production of TV and all of the infamous commercials that run for seconds specifically for that event, never to be run again, and the emissions from that equipment. 

Final thoughts

All sports associations and clubs are being asked to join the UNSCA this decade and pressure is on from spectators around the world. Setting benchmarks and making goals with carbon management software will get your team and venue on the fast track to becoming carbon neutral.

Whether you are a professional or local team, venue, league, or stakeholder, you can contribute to taking climate action now. Book a demo for free with Net0 today and we can show you how easy it is to achieve net zero fast.

Main image photo credit: Canva

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