The Volvo Ocean Race finished just in time for me to enjoy some of the major sporting events that take place over the summer months.
Since I have been back home, we’ve had Wimbledon, Formula One Grand Prix, Football World Cup, European Championships in Glasgow and Berlin, Cowes Week, Sailing World Championships and Tour de France to name just a few and of course there will be many more to follow. These sporting events attract a huge following and the athletes participating become role models and an inspiration to many. The demographic and audience reached by sporting events is wider and more influential than the most creative or expensive advert campaigns. The net result is that the power of sport and the voice of an athlete can have a huge impact when they support a cause or highlight an environmental or scientific issue.
Having walked the walked and talked the talk on the sustainability front as skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic, I am more aware than ever that there is a tipping point in terms of the momentum gathered. For me this was made evident when I finished the Volvo Ocean Race and became aware that governments and companies across the globe were finally taking steps towards the reducing the use of single use plastics. I look at events in general, but particularly sporting events, as an opportunity to extend the reach of the sustainability message and have a profound impact on the way people consume food and drink away from home.
As members of the spectating public, spending our hard-earned cash to attend these events, we are key influencers and in a prime position to demand more from them to make sure our world and ocean environments have a positive future. As sportsmen and women, we need to force a change in our own habits and actions and lead by example. As event organisers, we need to investigate and embrace new technologies and innovations and provide a platform for them to demonstrate how they can make the changes easier for us all to implement.
Event organisers can control who is involved and, for example, to only grant concessions to outlets that supply compostable cups and cutlery. If we want to encourage people to use re-usable bottles, events must ban the sale of plastic bottles and provide water stations so personal bottles can be refilled. If there is a glass law, then we should run the deposit scheme for a re-usable cup to be used again or returned. If sponsors or suppliers have agreements in place, reward them with branding on the reusable bottles or the water stations. Recycling is another area that can be developed and event organisers need to pass much more responsibility onto waste management firms in terms of the recycling and management of waste produced.
There are many practical ways that events can support sustainability, and I believe sporting events should lead the way. The guide below has been produced in collaboration with the Volvo Ocean Race sustainability partners* and has been made available to help all events reduce single use plastic. So, whether you are a school fete, a village fayre or a world leading sports event, this is a fantastic reference guide containing the top tips and learnings on best practice. It illustrates that, by working together and embracing a plastic free environment, we can make change happen. Download the guide here Plastic Free Events User Guide
*Mirpuri Foundation, 11th Hour Racing, Volvo Cars, AkzoNobel, OFF, Bluewater, Stena Recycling, UN Environment – Clean Seas Turn the Tide on Plastic