When discussing football, what are your first thoughts? Is it ‘which team is winning the league’? Or which channel the next big derby day is playing on? Planetary would be willing to bet that it isnt ‘how are my club offsetting their carbon footprint’? This article might challenge that perception – meet the Forest Green Rovers…
Chaired by Dale Vince OBE since 2010, the Gloucestershire-based club quickly began to improve their environmental footprint, and now are the first and only vegan football club, as well as the first to be certified as carbon neutral by the United Nations. According to the club’s own report, ‘sport as a force for good‘, Forest Green Rovers also became a founding member of UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework and in 2018 received a prestigious UN 2018 Momentum for Change Award in the Climate Neutral Now category.
Their stadium, Innocent New Lawn, is completely green; powered 100% by Ecotricity, the team train and play home matches on an organic, pesticide-free pitch, which incidentally is also cut with a solar powered lawnmower and irrigated using collected rainwater!
In 2015 they became the first ever vegan football club, citing the impact of livestock farming on carbom emissions and animal welfare as key influences on their decision and one that was recognised by The Vegan Society in 2017. On match days, fans can expect a range of vegan half-time options rather than the normal burger or hotdog. Instead, venders sell locally sourced plant-based alternatives.
Given their spectacularly impressive efforts, which serve as a shining example to sporting clubs and organisations worldwide, you might wonder what else the club has in store? Well, the club isn’t stopping at green innovation and veganism… their next project will see them build the greenest football stadium in the world, made entirely from wood with parkland containing 500 trees and 1.8km of hedgerows planted all around it. Named ‘Eco Park’, planning permission has been granted, and construction will be starting shortly according to the club’s website.
In recent years the role sport plays in impacting climate change has been pushed to the forefront of eventing and planning. The UN Sports for Climate Action Framework states:
“Sports impact on our climate is complex and can be difficult to measure depending on the size of the organization and/or event. However, most sports organisations and fans would now acknowledge that sport’s contribution to climate change – through associated travel, energy use, construction, catering, and so on – is considerable.”
It is important to recognise that the sports industry has a large environmental footprint and are part of the problem, and fundamental, widespread change is needed to address this. A consideration that shines the light even more brightly on this one UK football club going beyond all reasonable expectations to play their play and act as an example for others.
To support Forest Green Rovers or follow their journey, you can visit their website here!