The environmental side of sports

Sports are having a great summer with the Women’s U.S. National Team winning the World Cup and local Jordan Spieth showing impressive strokes on the golf course. The inspiration to pick up a ball, get outside and get competitive is vibrating across our nation.

But, are our sports and growing enthusiasm to participate either as competitor or spectator, damaging the environment? Yes. But they don’t have to. Sports can actually lead the way to a sustainable future.

The D/FW area is home to several large stadiums with high spectator capacities: the Toyota Stadium in Frisco seats more than 21,000, the American Airlines Center more than 18,000, the AT&T Stadium more than 80,000 and Globe Life Park more than 48,000 people. Those large numbers of spectators attending thousands of games a year create massive amounts of waste from concessions. Factor in the energy costs for the stadiums, construction waste and fuel used for transportation, and each game’s environmental footprint is high.

But some teams and stadiums are leading the Green Pack. The Houston Rockets and AT&T Stadium in San Antonio are members of the Green Sports Alliance ( Members of the Green Sports Alliance collaborate with vendors, team executives and environmental scientists to develop solutions to environmental challenges that are cost competitive and innovative. The Green Sports Alliance promotes sustainable communities by “inspiring sports leagues, teams, venues, their partners and millions of fans to embrace renewable energy, healthy food, recycling, water efficiency, species preservation, safer chemicals and other environmentally preferable practices.”

The stadiums and teams in Dallas are currently not listed as members of the Green Sports Alliance on their website. Our local big names in sports should take steps to be leaders in our community and model sustainability initiatives. Even our local colleges and universities can get involved. Ohio State University has initiated a “Zero Waste” program at their stadium with a goal of diverting 90 percent of potential waste away from landfills.

Not all sports are created equal and each has its own environmental concerns. But each industry can provide innovative ways to support the environment and local communities. According to Green Sports Alliance, the NHL donates 100,000 tons of prepared uneaten food from venues each season to people in need. Fenway Park now has Fenway Farms, a new 5,000 square foot rooftop garden, which provides produce for concessions below. And this year’s red carpet at the ESPYS was made out of recycled plastic bottles.

Golf, probably the most water intensive sport especially here in North Texas, is a sport using creativity to solve environmental issues. The U.S. Golf Association conducted a study in which they used GPS to track what parts of the golf course were heavily used and areas that were rarely or never used. Using this data they can preserve wildlife habitat in unused areas and provide less grooming and water management, saving money and energy. This kind of information would be great to use at our new golf park here in Dallas, currently being built on an old illegal landfill site in the Great Trinity Forest in South Dallas.

NASCAR boasts having the largest recycling program in sports with 5 million containers recycled annually since 2008. One of the biggest challenges at sporting events is encouraging spectators to place their trash and recycling in the proper receptacles. We are notoriously horrible at this as spectators and as venues. Venues need to provide plenty of recycling containers with obvious signage and spectators need to take the time to sort waste properly.

Next time you load up the car to go to a professional game or even your kids little league, take a second to consider the impact sports have on the environment. How can you as a participant lessen the environmental impact so you can continue to enjoy the sports we all love? Carpool, take public transportation, bring a bag to collect recycling if the field doesn’t offer it, and lastly, let’s encourage our Dallas sports teams to lead on the field and for the environment.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly. 

*Sports have a nostalgic place in my heart. I even dug up an old soccer photo of me to post with this article. Circa 2002 playing at the University of Connecticut. Look close and you can even see my little dreadlock.

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