Other sports have similar negative impacts. Air pollution (mostly from transportation and tailgating), excessive water use (e.g., for hockey rinks or grass fields), food and drink waste, plastic overuse, improper waste disposal, and high energy use contribute to sports’ large environmental footprint. The bigger the events are, the more resources they use, and the more our climate suffers.
In North America, the NHL Green initiative was launched in 2010 to promote sustainable business practices across the NHL. Recognizing the importance of an intact climate for hockey, its website states: “We rely on freshwater to make our ice, energy to fuel our operations, and healthy communities for our athletes, employees, and fans to live, work, and play.”
But currently, these initiatives are a starting point at best. In order for meaningful change to occur, more sports leagues and organizations need to become aware of their influence and leverage their reach. Sports fans build up their identities around teams, so why not become “green role models” and influence followers positively?
In this vein, leagues and teams should also rethink their scheduling. In the 2018-19 season (pre-COVID-19), each NHL team played 82 regular-season games. Every single game produced waste, travel and energy consumption. This year, the NHL only scheduled 56 regular-season games. To think long-term, playing fewer games per season and reconfiguring how we schedule seasons seems like a reasonable tradeoff for protecting our climate and sport. After all, the adage of “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” appears in the order that we are supposed to act: “reduce” as the first point of action.
For positive environmental change to be implemented successfully, it takes everyone – from large-scale sports organizations and leagues to small-scale followers like you and me. As long as sustainable leadership isn’t the norm, we must hold those with power accountable.
Let’s take the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to rethink our habits. Let’s become more mindful of sports’ connection to climate change and how we as organizers, consumers and fans contribute to this relationship. After all, what use is sport with no world to play it in?
Philip Simpson is a sport psychology graduate student at Queen’s University in Kingston. Twitter: @philipbsimpson
This content was originally published here.