Higher Education Funding Council for England

Sustainability in sport

Thursday 02-10-2014 - 11:12
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One of the key aims of Students' Green Fund is to engage with groups who might not consider themselves to be a core part of the green movement.

For both students and the wider public, sports teams probably aren't the first things to come to mind when you think of sustainability action. But thanks to Greener Gloucestershire, this is quickly changing.

Ahead of the sustainable sport conference on 21st October, we spoke to sustainable sports coordinator Nick Roberts at the University of Gloucestershire Students' Union about how sustainability and sport are forging a new partnership.

  • Sport might not strike some people as being particularly unsustainable. What are you trying to address?

In many ways sports are already very sustainable, they promote health, community inclusion and are being used to tackle social issues.

However, to be successful, they need a venue, they need energy to operate, transportation to bring players and fans to the same location, and food to power the athletes and spectators. The players need kit to wear and equipment to enable their sport. After every competition resources have been used, modified and in some way disposed of.

Sport therefore can act as the lens to view the sustainability issues which can affect everyone in all walks of life, occupations and hobbies - be it food and nutrition, transport, energy in buildings, ethical clothing manufacture, or recycling and waste. All can use sport as a framework to begin a positive sustainability focused conversation.

Any sports team will have a following who care about the actions of their team, a valued relationship with sponsors are wary of which can be positioned to achieve further positive outcomes. A sports team which changes their habits, which is supported by their players, role models who at times can be emulated by millions serves as a powerful tool to bring about positive behaviour change.

  • What is the concept of this project? What are you hoping to achieve? 

The programme encourages student athletes to think about their impact on both their local and global community. Through competitions, sports teams can win prizes for their club which benefits them, with each competition is framed around a positive action - taking the bus to trainings rather than driving, supporting meat free mondays for a month, choosing an ethical supplier for their kit, taking part in community action, running sports coaching in the community or raising money and awareness for a particular charity.

All these actions might be something some of them might do already, but the idea of the program is to raise awareness of what the knock-on impact of their actions are as well as reward the students for thinking differently - behaviours which will hopefully continue through following graduation.

BASIS are a members organisation which seeks to share best practice in the sustainable sport sector within the UK - a growing collaborative network which is working with organisations across the globe. BASIS are already working closely with professional sports leagues and community organisations, university sport, with support from BUCS (British University and College Sport) is ideally suited to connect these two areas.

Athletes will often flow from community sport, through university sport on their way to competing in, working in or being continued supporters of professional sports. Catching people through all three stages is essential to help embed sustainability within the sporting framework within the UK.

University sports programs are always looking for ways to save money which can be reinvested in providing better sporting opportunities. It is also important to demonstrate to the community around universities what an asset student sports teams can be and the positive influence they can be. Engaging in a sustainability program is an ideal opportunity to achieve this.


Talk to us about integrating sport and sustainability at your institution and attend the conference on 21st October in Cardiff.

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