As a family, we are all fairly active in a number of different sports. Our lives revolve around tennis, Taekwondo, gymnastics, and running but I never really stopped to think of how those activities effected the environment. We tried to find activities that were relatively close to home and I have even found some great ways to recycle tennis balls but that was about all the thought I gave to the topic. Then, last week I came across an article about eco friendly sports and how our choice of physical exercise can really increase our carbon footprint. I thought I would share with you a couple of the worst ‘culprits’ when it comes to their effect on the environment and then give you a few ideas on how you can green up your sports routine.
Think About This Thursday
Skiing: One of the least eco friendly sports!
Some sports are notoriously BAD for the environment. Not that they aren’t really fun or maybe even great exercise but the negative effect on the planet is pretty significant. There are people (those lovely scientist type people) who are working diligently to improve this but until they do, the following activities are not considered particularly eco friendly sports:
Skiing: Coming from New England I am a HUGE fan of skiing…preferable cross country since I don’t really STOP all too well. Those lovely ski slopes rarely get covered with snow courtesy of Mother Nature. Usually those feet of powder come from an artificial snow making machine. That machine will use about 800 gallons of water Recent studies also suggest that snow-grooming machines and artificial snow-making cause tons of damage to soil and vegetation in these mountain areas. And some ski resorts put salt in their artificial snow to make the runs faster. When the snow melts and the salt leaches into the environment this is really bad for the health of the plants and animals in the area.
Attempts to ‘green up’ the skiing industry include things like a Trash Incinerator-Ski Slope and equipment that runs on bio fuels instead of traditional gasoline. Sometimes they also buy renewable energy certificates from wind farms or are even exploring the possibility of powering some of their lifts using wind turbines. It will never be one of the most eco friendly sports there is to participate in but some ski resorts really are trying.
Those acres and acres of green grass as far as the eye can see don’t grow that way on their own. They require a ton of water, fertilizer, weed killer and pesticides to create a truly spectacular turf. In fact, golf courses have one of the most highly concentrated per acre use of pesticides. In 2003 there were over 61 million golfers in the world and over half of them live in the United States. That is a lot of people wandering around golf courses whacking little balls around. Oh, and those little white balls that end up in lakes and lost in the woods? Guess how long they’ll be around for? One golf ball takes anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to decompose naturally. And over 300 million golf balls are lost or thrown away every year, just in the US alone! When they finally do decompose they release a large amount of heavy metals including high levels of zinc. So, every ball that accidentally gets lost in the water on your Saturday morning golf outing is contributing to the heavy metal contamination of our water supply. You better learn to start aiming better!
Recently, the biodegradable golf ball has hit the market and research is ongoing to come up with even more eco friendly golf ball ideas. University of Maine has recently come up with one made out of crushed lobster shells! I am more than happy to help eat the lobster if they need a few more volunteers!
Skiing and golf are just two examples of sports that negatively effect the environment. Whether you are talking about watering baseball diamonds, sport fishing, chlorinated swimming pools or building a gigantic new football stadium almost all sports can have a negative effect on the environment. Here are a few tips that might help in reducing your family’s carbon sports footprint:
1. Ditch the disposables and bring a reusable water bottle to practice. Very few people need electrolyte replacement drinks like Gatorade. Learn to drink water…it is much better for you in the long run!
2. Find somewhere to recycle or donate your used equipment. Whether you donate your shoes to Soles for Souls, give your used racket to Good Will, or sell your mostly unused football helmet on eBay keeping sports equipment out of the landfill is important.
3. Carpool to practice. If you have a ways to drive to get to your ice skating lessons find someone who lives close to you and carpool. One car uses much less gas than 4. You will also be saving money as well as time by carpooling.
4. Buy secondhand equipment. New stuff always comes with lots of packaging. Many areas have secondhand sports stores like Play it Again Sports where you can get your basketball or tennis racket second hand without the unnecessary boxes, bags, tags, and plastic ties. Not sure your child is going to stick with a sport? Consider renting or leasing or borrowing larger items whenever possible.
5. Buy eco friendly sports equipment! Whenever possible, buy sports items made with recycled or biodegradable materials like those eco golf balls I mentioned earlier. Fair Trade Sports sells sustainable sports balls and designates the after-tax profits to children’s charities.
While there is no way that environmental activists are going to get people to stop play golf or zipping down the ski slopes you can make a few small changes in the way your own family plays sports that will reduce your own personal carbon footprint. And hopefully more and more resorts, country clubs, and sports stadiums will begin to see this country’s need for change when it comes to our favorite outdoor activities.
Eco friendly Sports References: