Threatened by climate change, sport wants to be part of the solution

Despite a year marked by incarceration and health restrictions in 2020, sport remains popular with the French population. In this period, according to the Injep (National Institute for Youth and People’s Education), 17 million licenses and other certificates of participation have been issued by all federations recognized by the Ministry of Sports.† In total, 36 million French men and women regularly participate in a sporting activity. So many people whose uses and practices matter in an area where the environmental impact can be significant. Between travel, equipment and infrastructure, CO2 expenditures are numerous. At a time when the experts of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate) are constantly sounding the alarm about our behavior and its impact on the environment, the sporting world is going green. From individuals to clubs to major sporting events, every gesture counts to save the planet and therefore our favorite activities.

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“Climate change can lead to loss of up to 2 months of sports activity” to French women and men, the NGO WWF warned France last summer. In question ? The rise in temperatures and the multiplication of heat waves and heat waves endangering the health of sports enthusiasts. WWF explains:

“Practicing sports above 32°C is not recommended. Under these conditions, global warming can lead to the loss of up to 24 days of sports practice in a world at +2°Cand up to 2 months in a world of +4°Cdisrupting individual practices, which are supervised by clubs, schools, etc.

WWF France

Enthusiasts and enthusiasts of effort, but also reception structures and professionals in the sector, do they all know this? Not sure… Some of them are still unaware of the impacts of climate change and many still have practices that are harmful to the environment.

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On an individual scale we can quote: the impact of textile equipment or accessories the production of which necessarily generates CO2 and waste. On the collective side, facilities such as swimming pools, stadiums or sports halls can form ecological sinkholes water wastage, damage to biodiversity, purchases of materials made from oil… the list is long and we must add the significant impact of sporting events and other major events such as Roland Garros, the Coupe du world of football or even the Olympic Games .

Most of their CO2 emissions come from the relocation of spectators to watch matches and the construction of new infrastructure. They require the destruction of vegetated plots, the intervention of machines dependent on fossil fuels and the construction of materials that are not very noble and respectful of the environment. A cocktail that doesn’t mix well in times of climate change.

Fortunately, little by little, the practices are changing. Since 2017, the Ministry of Sport and the NGO WWF France have been offering sports event organizers the opportunity to sign a charter of 15 eco-responsible commitments. According to WWF France, 41 organizers (clubs, federations and companies that organize sporting events) have signed the charter. “This represents 250 national and international events organized every year”specifies the NGO for POSITIVR.

Sport, a vector of change like any other

To encourage the eco-responsible transition of sport, Julien Pierre, a former French international rugby union player, launched Fair Play For Planet a year and a half ago. “environmental label for clubs, stages and sporting events”, we can read on the site. Created in collaboration with Ademe (Agency for Environment and Energy Management), this label certifies the commitment and willingness of structures to improve their impact on the environment. In order to expand its field of action, Fair Play For Planet launched last year, again in collaboration with Ademe, an awareness campaign aimed at the general public: the “FPFPChallenge”. Objective: For athletes to adopt eco-responsible gestures in their daily lives and during their training and sports activities.

According to Julien Pierre, sport is “a vector like any other” to raise awareness of climate change and its harmful effects on the environment and the population. “By being a top athlete myself, I have been able to realize the power of sport and the influence of athletes on society”† This is apparent from the gesture of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo who replaces two bottles of Coca-Cola with a bottle of mineral water during a press conference in June 2021. His initiative caused the famous soft drink brand to lose $4 billion in the stock market, as reported Release

We also remember the refusal of French footballer Kylian Mbappe last March to participate in commercial operations with his Blues comrades. The 23-year-old does not want to associate his image with certain brands that are not in line with his values. This sporting series has been widely commented and passed on on social networks, which, on this occasion, has aroused a certain hypocrisy among the footballer preparing to participate in the World Cup in Qatar, a country where human rights are far from being acquired. and where the working conditions of the workers are widely criticized by the specialized NGOs, as reported The team

When an athlete, adored by fans, says he is eating less meat, exercising on a bike or throwing away his plastic bottles, he can send a positive message.”analyzes Julien Pierre. “These are actions we can all do and we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint, which is still way too high”

The former rugby player insists on this change obligation: “The laws are getting stricter. But athletes, supporters and partners will also demand more and more commitment. Some cities, federations and clubs have not yet realized this, while others know we need to change our practices, but don’t know how to go about it.

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Which concrete actions to take?

This is where Fair Play For The Planet or other initiatives for the same purpose come in handy: we can mention, for example, Otimouv’, a tool developed by the French Federation of Basketball and the National Center for the Development of Sport (CNDS) . Its mission: to reduce travel related to sporting events by at least 15%.

Some structures are also developing solutions internally to change their practices. A few examples :

  • The French Basketball Federation has, for example, the production of giveaways“We were able to push through this decision through education and information. The role of a federation goes beyond sports. A sport must be in line with its practitioners and its generations. It is fundamental to position this sport on environmental issues.”explains Raymond Bauriaud, the federation’s communications director, at the World Conservation Congress last September, the site reports Ecosport
  • decathlon is committed to the path of ecological responsibility. The famous French brand aims to have 100% of its repairable products repaired by its teams or by its customers, and that 100% of its electricity in stores or in its warehouses comes from renewable sources. All by 2026.
  • Roland Garros offers free shuttles and a carpool site to reduce the movements of its spectators and, among other things, organizes an annual awareness campaign through commercials involving the players of the tournament.

On the private side, there are plenty of solutions to reduce its impact. Here are a few :

  • Buy used equipment : General private sale sites can do the job very well, but some sites specialize in the resale of used sports equipment, such as Everide and Campsider, both of which have opted for the outdoor pursuits.
  • Take good care of your equipment : It’s necessary to rethink the era of everything single-use. Taking care of your equipment means avoiding the purchase of new products and overconsumption. To extend the life of your accessories or clothing, you can bet on DIY, sewing or going to a recycling center such as the Recyclerie Sportive (about ten points in France). This place offers co-repair workshops to learn how to fix your bike or skateboard yourself. It also provides tools or spare parts to prevent an object that still has a good life ahead of it from ending up in the trash!
  • Choose a greener way to travel : if you have to travel to practice your sport, choose a means of transport that is clean (bicycle) or less harmful to the environment (public transport, carpooling).
  • Adopt the eco-friendly gestures of the house : Whether at the gym or at home, don’t forget to turn off the tap, turn off the light when you leave or turn down the heating. Julien Pierre: “When we leave the house, we check that all the lights are off, but in a sports club we tell ourselves that someone else is going to do it, we don’t check that we are the last!”
  • Limit your waste : here too, the waste must be sorted, just like at home. You can go even further by picking up those you encounter along the way while hiking or (eco)trailing. There’s even a sport that links running and garbage collection: plogging† You can promote this movement through a Facebook group founded in 2016 with 27,000 members.

In 2022, 70% of French men and women said they wanted to participate in sport regularly, according to a poll for the Ginkoia brand, reports La Dépêche. Among the most popular sports? Cycling (for 30% of respondents), running (23%), then fitness, swimming and walking (almost 20%). Activities that can have a lesser impact on the environment when the reception structures are committed to the environment and when the practitioners adopt the appropriate eco-gestures.

This article is brought to you by the editors of POSITIVR with the support of the EPSA Foundation.

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