Football is a wonderful sport to watch and play, but it also has its downsides: heaps of rubbish, squandering of water and a big CO2 footprint. The environmental consequences involve everything from building new stadiums, hotels, parking lots and other infrastructure to handling the sanitation from all those new toilets.
Eco-friendly football club
Forest Green Rovers (FGR) are a League 2 English association football club established in 1889 and based in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England.
In 2010, Dale Vince, OBE, British ‘green energy’ industrialist, and founder of Ecotricity, the world’s first green electricity company, became the club’s majority shareholder and since, with the support of the team, decided to completely transform football’s environmental footprint.
In December 2011, 180 solar panels were installed on the roof of the stadium stand, helping the club generate 10% of the electricity needed to run the stadium.
In April 2012, Forest Green introduced the first robot lawn mower to be used by a British football club on to its playing surface. The Etesia robot mower – known as a ‘mow bot’ – uses GPS technology to guide it round the pitch without the need for human intervention and gathers power from the solar panels at the stadium.
The club won the sustainability/environmental award from the Grounds Management Association thanks to their ground’s organic compost, rainwater harvesting system,
They’ve also made plans to replace their current floodlights with LEDs bulbs to further reduce their energy consumption by 60%
In 2014, the team received a message of support from Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney when they staged the world’s first plant-based football match and removed all animal-based products from the stadium’s menu. Food sales were 84% higher in the 2014 season with their mostly plant-based menu, and by late 2015, they had permanently removed all animal products, becoming the world’s first all-plant-based football club.
Hot dogs, meat pies and sausages were replaced with sweet potato burgers, Mexican fajitas, and veggie pizzas. The traditional beef burger is replaced by quinoa on a match day. Their beer and cider (provided by the Cotswold Brewing Company) are vegan. Bovril, popular manufacturer of a beef-based beverage for over a century, have produced a plant-based version for supporters to drink on cold evenings.
In 2019 planning permission was received to build the world’s first wooden eco-friendly stadium, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.
The 5,000 capacity stadium will be built within the Eco Park complex beside Junction 13 of the M5 in Gloucestershire, 1.5 miles west of the town of Stonehouse (and 8.5 miles northwest of their spiritual home of Nailsworth). Almost every element will be constructed of sustainably sourced timber, including the structure, roof cantilevers, and louvred cladding.
The stadium may be named KEVIN, after the world class footballer Kevin Keegan but which also rhymes with the word “vegan”
FGR Chairman Dale Vince is now involved with Sky Diamonds, which uses a “sky mining facility” in Gloucestershire to pull carbon out of the atmosphere to form the gemstones – which are chemically identical to diamonds mined from the earth – using wind and solar electricity, with water collected from rainfall
Forest Green Rangers is just one solution contributing to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Among its 166 participants from all types of sport, Premier League Club Arsenal has planted 29,000 trees at the club’s training centre in London Colney since 1999 to create Colney Wood, it has installed LED lighting at its Emirates Stadium in Highbury London, and has a reusable cup scheme going during matches.
Discover solution 151: houses to resist forest fires
Support 366solutions on Patreon and receive the ‘366solutions Insider Newsletter’ with updates on the monthly progress and successes of published solutions.