Emerging victorious: sport and the environment

G Magazine

Could the greenest thing about sport be the grass on the field?

Illustration of sportspeople on the field, reaching for a world globe

Credit: Keith Burt

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As a life-long sports nut, there's nothing I like more than attending the latest AFL game. But when I do, I also feel a painful twinge in my environmental heart.

Turning my back to the game to survey the scene behind me, all I see is waste and energy use.

On the ground are plastic cups by the thousands (two, three, four deep forming an ocean of castaways) interspersed with chip wrappers and Coke bottles and oversized plastic hands and whistles all covered in festering, mashed-up confetti.

Layers of used tickets line the stairwell while two massive scoreboards replay the action, loudspeakers blare and light towers send up beams visible from space.

There are thousands upon thousands of roaring spectators, and I shudder to think of the energy it took to get them all to the stadium.

Aussie tradition

As a nation we flock to the big games and unashamedly indulge.

We drive our gas-guzzlers all over the countryside so Johnny can play 20 minutes of soccer. We glorify V8 Supercars and Formula One. We demand that our golf courses are sparkling green and that our local gym has big screens and treadmills and lights, lights, lights!

When it comes to recreation, our enthusiasm knows no bounds.

As positively un-Australian as it is to criticise our sporting culture, the simple truth of the matter is that while we are jumping on the green bandwagon like never before, it seems most of us throw environmental caution out the window come game-day.

Like a dieter that binges on the weekends, a lot of our good work is undone.

The tally board

The fact that we may be adding to climate change simply by having fun is a hard pill to swallow, so in true sporting fashion let's look at the stats and make some predictions.

Here's a figure to contemplate: 12,100,572.

That's the number of fans, give or take a thousand, that attended matches in the four major football codes during 2007 - more than half our population and almost three times that of New Zealand.

Now, for the sake of an argument, let's suppose that just 25 per cent of those people (three million) drove a brand-new Holden Commodore 10 km to the match, emitting 2.560 kg of carbon dioxide.

Their total vehicle emissions would be in the vicinity of 7,680 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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