Sport is a part of life that attracts a large audience and therefore has a great impact on consciousness, social behavior and, yes, on the environment. As a sector that draws in billions around the globe, the sporting world has a responsibility to give back to the environment and produce a significant push for active, conscious sustainability.

How do sports and competition actually contribute to sustainability? How does sport give back to the environment? Can it?

Imagine the amount of people coming by public transport to attend games, the amount of plastic water bottles, the power consumption in stadiums - all of this increase the use of energy and water. Reducing waste, using recyclable materials, increasing venue access by public transportation – these steps can reduce energy consumption and coal emissions into the air. Luckily today there is no need for tickets printed on paper, as most viewers who come to the games use reusable passes or various digital applications. .

Many of the most popular games in the world take place on fields. In recent years, methods of collecting and utilizing rainwater for field irrigation have been developed. Soccer and rugby fields around the world like the Amsterdam Arena, Ajax’s soccer field, also use solar panels, wind turbines and the energy batteries of used cars.

Sustainability is not only the environment but also the people who live in the environment, so improving people’s day to day lives and making them more eco-friendly is also a big part of making sports greener.  Making venues more accessible to people with disabilities, along with operating proper public transportation, creating charging stations for electric vehicles and more are key steps. In Melbourne, for example, special water (eWater) is used to clean the cricket ground instead of the standard cleaners that contaminate the stadium’s field.

Sustainability in sports is a topic we hear about more and more, as every sector gets on board with the global shift towards a greener future. The sporting world is no exception, and Maccabi is excited to plan for a sustainable 2022 games. Here are a few of the recent and ongoing initiatives other sports programs have taken on to promote a healthier planet and better future for everyone.

Here are some examples ….

  • Tokyo’s 2020 green Olympics

With the slogan “be better, together,” the 2020 Olympic organizing committee set out to create the most sustainable Olympic Games ever. The athletes’ village was built from locally sourced wood and all vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Medals were made of recycled cell phones, the Olympic flame cauldron was hydrogen-powered, the torch was made of aluminum waste from temporary housing built after the 2011 earthquake and torchbearers’ clothing of recycled plastic bottles, podiums were of recycled plastic waste and 99 percent of all goods collected for the Games were reused or recycled. Furthermore, only 8 of the 43 buildings used were built from scratch.

  • The NFL environmental program

The National Football League in the United States has been sponsoring an environmental program to reduce the Super Bowl’s and other games’ environmental impact over the past several years and improve the League’s overall sustainability. The NFL works with local partners across the country to improve the sustainability efforts related to things like solid waste management, recycling, prepared food recovery, materials donations, sports equipment donation, and greenhouse gas reduction. This is all part of a larger dedication to the movement towards renewable energy.

  • Helsinki International Horse Show using horsepower

The 2019 Helsinki International Horse Showwas horse powered in more ways than you might think. The main theme of the Horse Show Jumps Green program was Zero Waste. As part of a variety of zero-waste steps taken, Finland’s biggest indoor sporting event was powered completely by electricity generated from horse manure. There was also a large recycling effort, reduced food waste and increased digital options to lower paper waste.

  • Manchester United added biofuel production company Renewable Energy Group (REG) as a global partner.

Man U was one of the first football clubs to tackle carbon reduction in 2008 and has reduced annual emission by 2700 tons since then. A new agreement between the English football powerhouse and US-based REG takes things even further. The pair is collaborating to raise awareness about the company’s renewable fuel efforts, biofuel products and strides to make a cleaner world, as well as ‘encourage positive environmental change’ among Man U’s fanbase.

  • Carbon Neutral World Cup Qatar 2022

Sustainability at the Qatar 2022 World Cup is a major priority. The efforts rest on five pillars- Human, Economic, Social, Environmental and Governance. The human pillar focuses on workers’ rights, the social pillar on accessibility and fan experience, economic pillar on economic development around World Cup projects and governance pillar on urging stakeholders to focus on sustainability. The focus is mainly on environmental, with green transportation at the games, sustainable stadiums and other measures.

  • Spanish Olympic Committee

The Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) is one of the most forward thinking national Olympic committees in terms of sustainability. The COE leads European sporting institutions in efforts and signed up to the UN’s Sport for Climate Action Framework. This five-step policy framework outlined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is hoping to help sporting organizations achieve ‘climate neutrality’ by 2050.

The COE’s climate action program is in line with the International Olympic Committee’s sustainability strategy, covering areas such as waste management, supplier procurement and eliminating plastics. They also involve the private sector in their efforts and focus on educational campaigns in connection with Spanish national federations.

  • World Athletics

In 2018, World Athletics, known then as IAAF, decided to team up with UN Environment and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to look at the impact of air pollution on health. They established a five-year partnership with the goal to monitor air quality at approximately 1,000 athletics tracks globally. Data collected at competition venues is used to create a real-time air quality database. This database helps runners choose the most optimal times to go on runs in their location, offers event organizers the chance to design smart, safe timetables and allows experts to study the correlation between air quality and athletic performance.

  • Mercedes Benz Stadium’s sustainable design

Atlanta’s Mercedez Benz Stadium, home of the NFL Falcons and MLS United FC, opened in 2017, was the first US professional sports stadium has become a global model for sustainable stadiums.

Atlanta’s high rainfall and number of storms allows the venue to focus on water management. The stadium is able to help to prevent flooding in areas around the venue by capturing and holding over two million gallons of rainwater on-site. The stadium’s 4000 solar PV panels can generate enough energy to power ten NFL games. Fans are encouraged to bring their own cans and bottles, and the use of natural light and LED lighting has reduced the venue’s energy impact by up to 50%. 

  • Pac-12 Conference’s education program

The Pac 12 Conference’s education program teaches college students about the green movement, organized under the banner of a ‘Team Green’ initiative. Starting in 2018, the Pac-12 Conference’s efforts are the first of their kind in college sports and promote sustainability in all 12 member universities through publicity campaigns, educational seminars and a multi-stakeholder sustainability working group for knowledge-sharing.

Universities are being given the Zero Waste Challenge, an initiative that focuses on waste management by asking campus athletic venues to redirect waste from landfills and eliminate waste altogether at major events. Pac-12 schools now also actively work on reducing food waste by collecting and donating leftover food to those in need with partner Copia.

  • World Surf League funding research to restore ocean health

The World Surf League (WSL), one of the original signatories to the UN’s Sport for Climate Action Framework, has been inspired to take action by the drastic projections for what the ocean faces in the fight for sustainability. 8 million pieces of plastic get into the ocean daily. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish. The WSL is not just standing by and letting this happen.

The WSL Pure philanthropic division, launched in 2016, is allowing the organization to get involved in a way deeper than the usual beach clean-up. They are funding scientific research into plastic control, as well as sea-level rise and coral restoration. All of these efforts are under the WSL Pure message unifying label, and this message puts out a lot of original content, including the One Ocean podcast, to promote ocean conservation. 

  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The UN is focused on 17 Sustainable Development Goals to pursue over the next 15 years with the hope of bringing people and the planet together and inspiring global action for development. One major focus to serve as an enabler for their goals is Sports for Development and Peace. Sports have been found to advance social progress and act as a crucial enabler of sustainable development. They positively impact physical fitness, improve wellbeing, promote gender equality, prevent conflict and promote peace.

The 21st Maccabiah, which will take place in 2022, has tackled the issue of sustainability, with the idea of ​​conserving environmental resources to ensure quality sports activities. One of the sponsors of Maccabiah is Nofar Energy - a global green energy company that operates throughout the value chain for promoting initiatives that yield environmental and economic value.

Maccabiah CEO, Roy Hessing: 

As the second largest sporting event in the world, we understand that it is our duty to give back to the environment. We are very pleased to be collaborating on this important issue with two leading companies in the Israeli economy and around the world one who deals with water and the other with Solar Energy. Following the previous Maccabiah in which plastic bottles were widely used by the athletes, this Maccabiah our Maccabi Tzair youth movement members, with the help of the national recycling corporation, will collect all bottles, take care of their recycling and use the deposit money for educational activities."