Forest Green Rovers certified as world’s first carbon-neutral football club

English Football League Two side Forest Green Rovers has become the world's first football club to achieve carbon-neutral certification from the United Nations (UN), after switching to renewable energy and sourcing vegan food for fans, players and staff.

The Gloucestershire-based club, which announced news of the accolade today (July 30), was praised by the UN for signing up to the UN Foundation Climate Committee’s (UNFCCC) Climate Neutral Now scheme for the upcoming 2018-2019 season.

Forest Green chairman Dale Vince said: “It’s a real honour to be the very first sports club in the world to be named carbon neutral by the UN. We’re a small club with big ambitions, and it’s fantastic we can work together to champion the sustainability message worldwide.

“It’s great to be first, but I believe it’s only a matter of time before the big boys like Real Madrid, Man United and the San Francisco 49ers follow our example. I’m personally looking forward to working more with the UN to help spread the word about the environment through football.”

The scheme sees companies, governments and other organisations agree to have their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions measured by UNFCC, commit to reduce their GHG output and then offset the remaining emissions through UN-certified Emission Reduction Certificates (CERs).

Each CER prevents one tonne of CO2e being emitted through carbon-reduction projects set up under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism. These include renewable installations which replace coal plants and projects which capture methane emitted by landfill sites for re-use.

Climate captains

Forest Green Rovers’s green credentials have attracted the attention of the media and sustainability professionals for several years now, leading it to be dubbed the “world’s greenest football club” by FIFA.

The club made headlines in 2011 when its chairman, Dale Vince, who is also the chief executive of green energy firm Ecotricity, banned red meat from its half-time meals.

Four years later, Vince, a former winner of edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards, switched to an entirely vegan menu because of the “huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming”.

Away from food and drink, the club’s grounds are powered by 100% renewable electricity – a quarter of which is generated by the solar panels on the stadium roof.

Meanwhile, the pitch is maintained by a solar-powered robot lawnmower and is irrigated by a mixture of rain, drain and spring water – making it independent of mains water. 

The club additionally has electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities at the stadium and has been encouraging fans to help cut the club’s indirect emissions by car sharing

Eye on the ball

The sporting world has taken a host of measures to become more sustainable in recent times. 

In the UK, Wimbledon this summer announced a ban on plastic straws for its 2018 tournament as part of a wider sustainability plan for the two-week event, while the Premier League has partnered with Sky in a similar bid to eliminate single-use plastics from the organisation by 2020.

Meanwhile, a string of sports clubs including Rugby League team Leeds Rhinos and Premier League sides Arsenal and Newcastle United have pledged to purchase 100% renewable power for their stadiums.

On a global scale, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also committed to source 100% renewable power for the Tokyo games in two years’ time, securing the electricity through a combination of onsite renewable arrays at stadiums and green power contracts. The IOC is additionally aiming to ensure that 99% of products sold at the games will be reused or recycled.

Sarah George

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