Match is resuming…

The referee has blown the whistle, the horn has sounded, and the timeout has ended. Over the past 10 weeks or so, we’ve explored various aspects of the relationship between sports and the environment. Throughout this journey, we’ve not only seen how the area of sports has impacted the environment but also seen how it has done its part in some ways in contributing to the environment and becoming more sustainable.

Sadly, I’ve come to the end of this blogging journey, and I would like to thank everyone who has spent the time to read this blog and engage in conversations about the various posts. I hope you’ve been able to learn something new about this area. Personally, it’s been a pleasure and a real enriching experience blogging about this topic. As someone who loves playing and watching sports, I’ve learnt so much about what goes on just beyond what we see on the television screen. My sincere hope is that every different sport can continue to become more sustainable, and even fans have a part to play as well! After all, wouldn’t we want to be able to enjoy watching and playing sports for a long time to come? As well as ensure that future generations get to enjoy sports in the same way as we do right now? Well, I do, and I hope you do as well!

-Joseph

Green Sporting Stars

Growing up, having watched several different sports, there were some athletes I really adored. Some of the examples include Steven Gerrard, a football player who used to play for Liverpool and Rafael Nadal, a tennis player. Being someone who adored such stars, I would pay attention to their every move on the news, and even try to buy the same equipment as them to try to emulate them.

In many ways, it is no secret that sporting stars have a huge influence. Companies spend millions in order to get the world’s biggest sporting stars to endorse their product. This got me thinking: If fans certainly do copy their favourite sporting stars in some ways and engage in some forms of “hero worship”, then if a sporting star were to endorse and engage in certain green behaviour or environmental causes, would it have a positive impact on fans? Well, that is what I’ll be exploring this week.

Yao Ming Blocking Shark’s Fin Soup

One of the best, if not the best example of a sporting star advocating for an environmental cause would be Yao Ming. As some of you may know, the consumption of shark’s fin soup was a huge issue in China. In fact, it posed the biggest threat to sharks at one point in time.  However, recently, the good news is that the demand for shark’s fin has declined by 80% in China (Denyer,2018). You may wonder what contributed to this decline. Well, Yao Ming is one of the main reasons why. Yao Ming started advocating for wildlife protection for sharks back in 2006 (WildAid, 2006). Back then, there was a lack of awareness among the Chinese with regards to this issue. ¾ of the Chinese population were alien to the fact that shark’s fin soup originated from sharks, which sounds quite head-scratching but happened because due to inaccurate translations. So, the simple thing that Yao Ming did was to simply raise awareness on this issue by appearing in commercials and documentaries that pointed out how the consumption of shark’s fin was actually killing sharks (Hinckley, 2016). Thus, the abovementioned result was largely due to the influence he had as one of China’s most recognizable sporting stars (Musaddique, 2018). It may please a lot of people that after tackling shark’s fin soup, Yao Ming has moved on to tackle the ivory trade, encouraging the Chinese people to stop purchasing ivory (Ng, 2017).

Along with Yao Ming, there have been some sporting stars that have engaged in environmental activism in one way or another. You can view this link for some examples. In most cases, sporting stars have used their influence to promote awareness for environmental causes. Because of the influence and popularity they have, attaching a cause that may not be that well known on the back of these sports stars, as with other celebrities, would help in raising awareness, as was the case of Yao Ming. After all, nearly 5 times as many Americans watch sports than science (), and this would likely be true in general.  However, such sporting stars are still the minority, as I’m sure more of them would rather receive huge amounts of cash rather than endorse an environmental cause for nothing. Let’s hope there’ll be more sports stars like Yao Ming!

References:

Denyer, S. (2018, February 15). Even as China turns away from shark fin soup, the prestige dish is gaining popularity elsewhere in Asia. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/14/even-as-china-turns-away-from-shark-fin-soup-the-prestige-dish-is-gaining-popularity-elsewhere-in-asia/?utm_term=.83e6d6a787a6

WildAid. (2006, August 2). Yao Ming Swears Off Shark’s Fin Soup. WildAid. Retrieved from https://wildaid.org/yao-ming-swears-off-sharks-fin-soup/

Hinckley, S. (2016, June 2). How Yao Ming appeased the Chinese appetite for shark fin soup. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2016/0602/How-Yao-Ming-appeased-the-Chinese-appetite-for-shark-fin-soup

Musaddique, S. (2018, July 20). Yao Ming: NBA legend build schools, fights shark fin soup in China. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/16/yao-ming-nba-legend-builds-schools-fights-shark-fin-soup-in-china.html

Ng, E. (2017, December 2017). Basketball Star Yao Ming joins calls to stop ivory trade, as China ban set to kick in on Sunday. HKFP. Retrieved from https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/12/27/basketball-star-yao-ming-joins-calls-stop-ivory-trade-china-ban-set-kick-sunday/

Plogging – The Greenest Sport Around?

Over the course of my blogging journey, I have explored various sports and their impacts on the environment. Although many of them are taking steps to become greener, they still continue to leave a considerable impact on the environment. Two weeks ago, I blogged about how the FIFA World Cup is not actually “for the world”, and most sports are similar to football in this aspect. However, is there actually any sport that is actually “for the world”? Well, there is! Look no further than plogging, which is probably one of the greenest sports around.

What is Plogging?

Running/ Jogging is one of the simplest sports one can engage in. All you need is a pair of shoes and you’re good to go. Normally, as a person runs, the most he/she would be doing would be listening to that killer playlist while enjoying the sights and sounds. However, back in 2016, a Swede named Erik Ahlström started plogging to do something about the litter seen on the streets and parks of Stockholm (Noe, 2018). “Plogging” is actually derived combining the words “jogging” and plocka, a Swedish phrase that means “to pick”. So, the only rule is to pick up whatever trash you see along the way, and the way you do it is up to you. Some people bring along small bags to stuff their trash in, while others carry it in their hands or clothes.

The rules are simple: Just run and pick up! (Source: Funk Dooby) Image retrieved from www.flickr.com

Why Plogging?

Plogging not only allows you to play a part for the environment by actually picking up and recycling waste, but you also get a good workout in the process. Not only do you get all the benefits from jogging, but you’ll also get the added benefits from squats when you stop to pick up stuff, which makes up for a good strength and mobility training session (Mackenzie, 2018). Additionally, the action of cleaning and organizing can actually help to strengthen your mental health (Fowler, 2015).

Where has it gone to?

At the beginning of this year, the internet was hyping up plogging as the “new fitness trend”. Many people were posting pictures of the things they collected while plogging. Therefore, it has helped to raise awareness regarding the issue of plastic waste. Ever since the craze started, plogging has spread to countries like the United States, England, France and many others (Frymorgen, 2018). Plogging has even made its way to Singapore, with local running clubs such as Superhero Runners starting plogging groups here (Ong, 2018). The plogging trend was even featured on Mediacorp’s Channel 8. You can view the video below. (It’s in Chinese though, so apologies for those who non-Chinese speakers)

In summary, I found that it’s great that such a sport/trend has come up in response to an environmental issue. I think plogging brings across the message that we as individuals and groups can play our part in saving the environment. However, it’s really sad that we have so much waste lying around our cities for people to pick up in the first place. As much as plogging is a really good initiative, there shouldn’t even be that much waste to pick up in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better if we live in a world where plogging would be impossible? Well, I sure hope that day comes, but it starts with each one of us.

References:

Noe, R. (2018, February 2). New Swedish Fitness Trend, “Plogging”, Combines Jogging with Picking Up Litter. Core77. Retrieved from https://www.core77.com/posts/72971/New-Swedish-Fitness-Trend-Plogging-Combines-Jogging-with-Picking-Up-Litter

Mackenzie, M. (2018, February 15). “Plogging” Is the Swedish Fitness Craze That Combines Running and Recycling. Shape. Retrieved from https://www.shape.com/fitness/trends/plogging-swedish-fitness-running-recycling

Fowler, P. (2015, January 29). How Cleaning and Organizing Can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health. Shape. Retrieved from https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-cleaning-and-organizing-can-improve-your-physical-and-mental-health

Frymorgen, T. (2018, 31 January). Plogging is the latest Scandinavian lifestyle trend to rock your world. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/237c63d4-0a54-406a-ae51-ad677a872456

Ong, S M. (2018, July 30). Plogging comes to Singapore. the new paper. Retrieved from https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/plogging-comes-singapore

 

Green Stadiums

Last week, as part of our ENV1101 module, we visited a zero-energy building being constructed at the School of Design and Environment in the NUS campus. It was interesting to hear how such an idea actually came into fruition in our own campus. However, it made me wonder about green buildings in sports. So, for this week’s blog posts, I’ll be exploring green stadiums in sports.

Overview

In sports, stadiums have slowly been gearing towards being green. The typical stadium has a huge environmental footprint from the construction of it to the everyday operations. However, there is an increasing trend of stadiums aiming to achieve green certification. In the US, around 30 stadiums have achieved the U.S Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification (Harder, n.d). However, what lies behind all those different certifications? Join me as we dive in to take a deeper look at what stadiums are doing.

Stadiums like this have large environmental footprints. How are they becoming green? (Source: Mahanga)

Water-saving Features:

Sports stadiums use up a lot of water, mainly for irrigation and yes, the toilets! To put things into perspective, the average Major League Baseball (MLB) stadium consumes around 12 million gallons of water a year (Grant, 2014). Also, back in 2007, each of the 178 urinals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was consuming 44,000 gallons of water a year each before they made a switch to waterless-urinals (NRDC, n.d), which certainly shows how much water they consume previously. Therefore, this is one area that sports stadiums are trying to improve on in order to go green. One example would be the Levi’s Stadium in California, which recycles 85 percent of water collected for irrigation and flushing toilets (Muret, 2015).

Saving Energy:

Besides water, sports stadiums consume a lot of energy. This is mainly due to things such as lighting and air-conditioning. To put things into perspective, the Cowboys Stadium in Texas consumes more energy than the nation of Liberia produces (Greenberg, 2014)!  Now that’s a lot of energy. On the bright side, we see stadiums that have turned to use of solar panels and LED lighting in order to cut down on energy consumption. Impressively, in Taiwan, the Kaohsiung Stadium, with its 9000 solar panels, is powered entirely by the sun (Pham, 2014).

Kaohsiung Stadium in Taiwan makes use of 9000 solar panels to power it up (Source: Peellden)

Therefore, I do hope that more sports stadium can work towards being sustainable in terms of design. If a stadium consumes as much energy as a third world country can produce, then I would say that it is a huge problem and that it is simply too much, especially when the sad reality is that a sports fan is enjoying a match at the expense of many others. If clubs and organizations are willing to invest money into sustainable stadiums, then they would be able to experience the benefits in the long run. One great example of this would be in California, where efforts to increase water conservation measures help reduce water usage in the drought season back in 2014 (Jennison, 2014). Also, they would also be able to save a lot in terms of water and electrical usage. So, let’s hope more stadiums turn green!

 

References:

Campelli, M. (2018, June 27). Green building certification for all World Cup 2018 venues. Sport Sustainability Journal. Retrieved from https://sportsustainabilityjournal.com/news-analysis/green-building-certification-for-all-world-cup-2018-venues/

Grant, T. J., Jr. (2014). Green monsters: Examining the environmental impact of sports stadiums. Villanova Environmental Law Journal, 25(1), 149.

Greenberg, J (2014, October 30). Kristof: Dallas Cowboys Stadium draws 3 times more power than Liberia can produce. Pundit Fact. Retrieved from https://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/oct/30/nicholas-kristof/kristof-dallas-cowboys-stadium-draws-3-times-more-/

Harder, J. (n.d). National sports reach into the community through the area of sustainable design. USGBC Retrieved from http://plus.usgbc.org/sustainable-stadiums/

Jennison, K (2014) Stadiums increase water conservation efforts. Environmental leader. Retrieved from https://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/10/stadiums-increase-water-conservation-efforts/

Muret, D. (2015, April 27). Water Conservation is nothing new for California Stadium. Sports Business Journal. Retrieved from https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2015/04/27/Facilities/Breaking-Ground.aspx

NRDC. (n.d). Water > Indoor Water Use. NRDC Greening Advisor. Retrieved from http://nfl.greensports.org/water/indoor-water-use/

Pham, D. (2014). Dragon-Shaped Solar Stadium is 100% Powered by the Sun. inhabitat. Retrieved from https://inhabitat.com/taiwans-solar-stadium-100-powered-by-the-sun/

World Cup – For Or Against The World?

For a football fan like myself, the one event that I always look forward to and absolutely cannot miss is the FIFA World Cup. Once every 4 years, the best players from nations around the world come together to battle it out for the biggest prize in sports. Yet, is the FIFA World Cup for or against the world, especially in terms of the impact it has on the environment?

Once every 4 years, the FIFA World Cup takes place. But is it for or against the world? (Photo: www.kremlin.ru)

In order to fully answer this question, as a single blog post would simply not be enough. Therefore, for this week, I’ve collaborated with Brendan, a fellow BES mate and football enthusiast, to assess if the World Cup is for or against the world. Over on my side, I’ll be exploring how the FIFA World Cup is against the world. On the flip side, Brendan will be showing how it is for the world. You can view his blog post right here!

Infrastructure

As with many other sporting events, new infrastructure like stadiums are often built for the World Cup, and some may be built in ecologically sensitive areas. For this year’s World Cup in Russia, a total of 6 stadiums were new built. Although each stadium attained a certification confirming their sustainability (Odogwu, 2018), Kaliningrad Stadium just so happened to be constructed on the city’s last natural wetland sites which were homes for water-bird colonies (AP, 2018).

Football Fans

You will find that in Brendan’s blog, he talked about how the Japanese have the practice of picking up rubbish and food waste before leaving the stadium. However, the Japanese would be the minority when it comes to this. When you consider this further, they were clearing waste left behind by other fans. During the 2018 World Cup, an average fan produced about 3kg of plastic waste (Brady, 2018).  Prior to the 2018 World Cup, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was responsible for 1595 tonnes of non-recyclable waste (George & Mace, 2018).

Transportation

Lastly, transportation would probably be the major thing responsible for the environmental harm the World Cup causes. Not only do million of fans have to travel to the host city from around the world, but they also have to travel from city to city in order to watch the different games around the country. This year, the Egyptian Team had to travel a staggering 5,288 total miles just for 3 games in the group stages (Gal & Lauletta, 2018). And remember, we also got to consider that a lot of fans travel along with them. For the 2014 World Cup, transportation accounted for 83.7% of the total carbon footprint (FIFA, 2014)! This just goes to show the impact of transportation for an event like the World Cup has.

Breakdown of Carbon Footprint of the 2014 World Cup (Source: Edington)

Therefore, we have seen how the FIFA World Cup is actually against the world, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide after you have read Brendan’s and my posts! However, personally, I would say that the World Cup, like many other sporting events, has a long way to go before it can be considered “for the world”, as we cannot ignore that the impacts have caused widespread damage to the environment.

Reference:

 

Odogwu, G. (2018, June 21) FIFA World Cup can get greener after Russia. Punch. Retrieved from https://punchng.com/fifa-world-cup-can-get-greener-after-russia/

AP (2018, June 12) World Cup has divisive legacy for Russia’s environment. Fox Sports. Retrieved from https://www.foxsports.com/soccer/story/world-cup-has-divisive-legacy-for-russia-s-environment-061218

Brady, E. (2018, July 2) Russia could ‘drown’ in its own plastic waste, campaigners warn. Sky News. Retrieved from https://news.sky.com/story/russia-could-drown-in-its-own-plastic-waste-campaigners-warn-11423268

George, S. & Mace, M. (2018, June 14) How sustainable is the FIFA 2018 World Cup? Edie. Retrieved from https://www.edie.net/library/How-sustainable-is-the-FIFA-2018-World-Cup-/6822

Gal, S. & Lauletta, T (2018, June 24) Here’s how far every team in the World Cup will have to travel — and one team is at a significant disadvantage. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.sg/heres-how-far-every-team-in-the-world-cup-will-have-to-travel-2018-6/?r=US&IR=T

FIFA (2014) Summary of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Carbon Footprint. FIFA. Retrieved from https://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifaworldcup/generic/02/11/20/03/summaryofthe2014fwccarbonfootprint_neutral.pdf

Edington, J (2014) Football Footprint: How the World Cup Impacts the Environment [Digital Image]

 

Greening or Greenwashing

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been mainly exploring the impacts of sports on the environment and vice versa. With how climate change is threatening sports, you would think that sports should surely do its part in helping to tackle climate change, right? Indeed, in some cases, sports have been progressing to doing its part to save the environment. In fact, regarding the Olympics, arguably the biggest sporting event on earth, concern for the environment has been one of the pillars for Olympism since 1994 (IOC, n.d.). However, before I talk more about how sports are playing its part in saving the environment in subsequent weeks, I would like to talk about greenwashing.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is “expressions of environmentalist concerns especially as a cover for products, policies, or activities” (Greenwashing, n.d.). It allows a company to portray itself as more environmentally friendly than it actually is. It happens in industries like fashion, food and cosmetics. But for this post, I’m going to talk about greenwashing in the context of sports.

Greenwashing in Sports?

In sports, companies and organisations are slowly shifting their efforts and resources towards saving the environment. The reasons behind this move are mainly for economic, ecological reasons and for public relations. One clear example of this would be Formula One, as mentioned in my earlier blog post, where efforts have been made to be greener due to sponsors (Miller,2016). Their efforts have led to the press lauding their efforts, with many articles being written about their actions taken up to be more environmentally friendly (Sylt, 2015; Nicholson, 2018) However, this only brings about the question: Is Formula One being portrayed as more environmentally friendly than it actually is?

Were the Rio 2016 Olympics truly a “Green Games for a Blue Planet”?

Case Study: Rio Olympics 2016

A much clearer picture of greenwashing happening in sports would be in the case of the Rio Olympics 2016. One of the reasons why Rio won the rights to host the Olympics in the first place was due to the pledges it made regarding environmental sustainability. With all those promises being made, the organisers had no choice but to portray the games positively in the media as being green despite not being able to deliver on some promises eventually. These broken promises meant that the Rio Olympics ended up as being “greenwashed”. Some of the difference between the promises and reality can be seen below:

Promise Organisers Made Reality
24 million Trees Planted Actual Figure: 8 million
The cleaning up of Guanabara Bay and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, which were the venues for water sports Reports emerged that the waterways were dangerous to human health; Dead fish were even found at the waterways
Avoid construction that isn’t required Built a new golf course instead of revamping old ones. Furthermore, it was built inside a Nature Reserve!

Note. Data from Boykoff & Mascarenhas (2016)

To summarise, greening in Sports may very well turn out to be greenwashing in some cases. Even as we read reports and articles about how certain sports is making efforts to be more environmentally friendly, I feel it is important to be aware of the possibility of greenwashing and not take the reports at face value. In the case of the Rio Olympics, the fact that it was “greenwashed” meant the spotlight was taken off some of the good work that contributed to environmental sustainability. Therefore, I sincerely do hope that organisations and companies in sports would take action out of a genuine concern for the environment and not solely because of economic reasons and for public relations.

References:

IOC (n.d) XII Olympic Congress – Paris 1994. Retrieved from https://www.olympic.org/paris-1994-olympic-congress

Greenwashing. (n.d.) in Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/greenwashing?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld

Nicholson, J. (2018, March 18) Formula 1 killing the planet? They just might save it… PlanetF1 Retrieved from https://www.planetf1.com/news/formula-1-killing-the-planet-they-just-might-save-it/

Boykoff, J., & Mascarenhas, G. (2016). The olympics, sustainability, and greenwashing: The rio 2016 summer games. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 27(2), 1-11. doi:10.1080/10455752.2016.1179473

 

Facing The Heat?

FACING THE HEAT?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve mainly presented about the different impact sports has on the environment, but I’ve never really talked about how the environment could affect sports as well. As global temperatures rise due to global warming, does it have any impacts on sports in general? Here are some possible impacts:

Fewer Records Broken:

Records are meant to be broken. In sports, the great appeal of it comes from watching or reading about athletes pushing beyond the barriers and smashing records that we thought were previously humanly impossible to break. Before the 2016 Rio Olympics, Brazil’s Climate Observatory published a report stating that higher temperatures would make breaking records much more difficult (Observatório do Clima, 2016). With rising temperatures all around the globe, it could mean that in the case of certain outdoor sports, athletes will find it much harder to break records as higher temperatures tend to lead to lead to a decrease in athlete’s performances.

With rising temperatures, outdoor sports like marathons are likely to be affected

The eventual death of outdoor sports in certain areas?

Forget about breaking records, the increase in global temperatures may eventually lead to a day where outdoor sports may be too risky for human health in some areas. Generally, temperatures beyond 30 degree Celsius brings the risk of hypothermia and heat stroke as our human bodies aren’t build to exercise in such hot weather (Hanna, 2015). In the case of Brazil, if the high emissions scenario were to hold, by 2090, all the major cities would experience certain months where it would be too risky to exercise outdoors without any climate controls. The worse case scenario would be in Manaus, where it would be impossible to do any outdoor sports all year round (Observatório do Clima, 2016).

Death of Winter Sports?

Lastly, with the rising global temperature, winter sports are finding itself in a position that is becoming increasingly threatened. The increasing temperatures have led to the receding of snowlines and less snow falling in shorter time periods. The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was the hottest Winter Games ever (The Climate Vulnerable Forum, 2016), and organisers had to go to extreme measures such as making use of snow stockpiled over 2 winters just to ensure events could go on (Clarke, 2014). In fact, by 2080, out of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics, only 6 would still have low enough temperatures to host it again, if greenhouse gases emissions aren’t reduced (The Climate Vulnerable Forum, 2016). Around the world, this trend is widespread, and it has led to several ski resorts and camps closing down, making winter sports less accessible to the general masses.

The Winter Olympics in a Warming World (Source: Climate Central)

Therefore, we can see the potential consequences that rising global temperatures due to global warming might cause. If we don’t cut down on our greenhouse gases emissions, we may live in a world where people are unable to enjoy playing and watching certain sports. Personally, as someone who loves sports, I hope that day never comes, but we can only prevent it if we take action with regards to climate change.

 

 

References:

Observatório do Clima (2016) A PODIUM TOO FAR How climate change will impact sports in Brazil Retrieved from http://www.observatoriodoclima.eco.br/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/relato%CC%81rio-clima-e-esporte_EN_alta_impressao_VE.compressed.pdf

Hanna, L (2015, Feb 2) Just not cricket – how climate change will make sports more risky. The Conversation Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/just-not-cricket-how-climate-change-will-make-sport-more-risky-36839

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (2016, Sep 2) How climate change is challenging the Olympic Games. Connect4Climate Retrieved from https://www.connect4climate.org/article/how-climate-change-is-challenging-the-olympic-games

Clarke, L (2014, Feb 11) Sochi 2014 Officials turn to their stockpiles of snow as temperature at mountain venues creep higher. The Washington Post Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/olympics/wp/2014/02/11/sochi-2014-officials-start-shoveling-as-temperatures-at-mountain-venues-creep-higher/?utm_term=.e40c929500c1

Climate Central (2014) The Winter Olympics in a warming world [Digital Image] Retrieved from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/the-winter-olympics-in-a-warming-world-17042

Is Fake Grass Greener?

Recently, during one of the ENV 1101 lesson I attended about impacts of land and soil, artificial turfs were mentioned as a “new” cause for soil pollution, due to the microplastics being used in them. In Singapore, we use them a lot. The Ministry of Education has set aside $83.5 million for its Synthetic Turf Programme, with 142 schools having a synthetic field in their premises already. (Chia, 2018) Personally, the first time I started playing on artificial turfs was back in secondary school. Till today, much of the football I play is on artificial turfs as well. For myself, I don’t really enjoy playing on artificial turfs due to all those ground tire rubber that would get into my shoes when playing but have never thought of the environmental impacts these artificial fields may actually bring. So, comparing natural fields and artificial pitches, which grass is greener?

 

The Case for Artificial Turfs

Artificial turfs have been promoted as a “green” alternative to natural grass. Natural grass requires a huge amount of water for maintenance. Artificial turfs, on the other hand, do not. In 2011, synthetic fields in North America was shown to save 3 billion gallons of water. (Synthetic Turf Council, 2011) Additionally, the rubber granules are made of recycled rubber tires. (Synthetic Turf Council, 2011) These are the reasons why companies have been labelling it as an eco-friendly switch.

Artificial Turfs like this are increasingly common, but are they greener?

The Case Against Artificial Turfs

However, this does not tell the full picture. Natural grass acts as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide, whilst artificial pitches do not. Additionally, artificial fields absorb heat rather than reflect heat, which explains why you are likely to feel the heat much more when playing on these pitches in the hot sun. This leads to increased temperature in urban settings, helping to create an urban heat island effect. (Huber, 2006) Last but not least, the microplastics used, which are plastic particles smaller than 5mm in all directions, may seem tiny but they could have huge impacts on ecosystems. In Sweden, 70 kg of microplastics per artificial field ends up in seas and waterways. (Kimo, 2017) Though little research has been done about the actual impacts it has on the environment when plastic particles break down, they develop new chemical properties, making it toxic. When it is ingested by aquatic organisms, it can proceed up the food chain, leading to physical and chemical effects. (UN Environment, 2018)

Therefore, after looking at artificial turfs, I feel that we ought to err on the side of caution when it comes to artificial pitches. It is by no doubt cheaper when it comes to maintenance of it as compared to natural grass. However, as seen from the impacts of removing natural grass and replacing it with a layer of artificial turf filled with rubber granules and microplastics, it does have an impact on the environment. Therefore, touting it as a “green” type of grass is clearly a mistake, especially when research on it has been inconclusive so far.

References:

Chia, L (2018, 22 June) Less maintenance, more cost-effective and cleaner students: Why schools turn to synthetic turf fields. Channel News Asia Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/why-singapore-schools-turn-to-synthetic-turf-fields-10451860

Synthetic Turf Council (2011, 11 Feb) Synthetic Turf conserves more than 3 billion gallons of water and helps the environment. Retrieved from https://www.syntheticturfcouncil.org/news/123873/Synthetic-Turf-Conserves-More-Than-Three-Billion-Gallons-of-Water-and-Helps-the-Environment.htm

Huber, C (2006) ‘A New Turf War – Synthetic Turf in New York City Parks’, Research Department at New Yorkers for Parks, New York, USA. Retrieved from http://www.precaution.org/lib/new_turf_war.060415.pdf

Kimo (2017, 27 Feb) Microplastic Pollution from Artificial Grass – A Field Guide Retrieved from http://www.kimointernational.org/feature/microplastic-pollution-from-artificial-grass-a-field-guide/

UN Environment (2018, 3 Apr) Plastic Planet: How tiny plastic particles are polluting our soil Retrieved from https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/plastic-planet-how-tiny-plastic-particles-are-polluting-our-soil

Racing Ahead?

This weekend, the Formula 1 circuit makes it stop here in Singapore. So, for this week’s blog, I decided to talk about Formula 1.  Before I started my research for this blog post, the thought I had in mind was: Surely, these races cause a great deal of environmental harm, right? After all, cars produce loads of greenhouse gases, and Formula 1 is no exception, especially since the loud engines release more harmful gases into the atmosphere than your average car. So, this week, I did some research to see if Formula 1 was truly racing ahead in terms of the environmental impacts it causes. To my surprise, I stumbled upon a picture of it I didn’t initially expect.

Are these races causing too much environmental harm?

 

THE NEGATIVES

Formula 1 is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, which comes as no surprise. However, the actual racing itself isn’t actually the one responsible for most of the carbon emissions. In fact, majority of the carbon emissions comes from the raw materials, manufacturing and electricity usage . (TRUCOST, 2011) Furthermore, in the past, way back in 2007, Formula One racing cars generated a whole lot of carbon emission, with 1.5 kg of CO2 being released for every kilometre driven, which is considerably more (around 900%) than that of a normal car(Ornstein, 2007) Therefore, it would be fair to label Formula 1 as an environmentally harmful sport, right?

THE POSITIVES

Not so fast! In recent years, Formula 1 has been taking steps in being a more sustainable sport. In 2014, the Formula 1 cars made a switch from using 2.4 litres V8 engines to 1.6 litres V6 turbos, which are more fuel efficient. This is just one example of the technologies from Formula 1 that have been or can be potentially transferred to every-day vehicles, allowing our vehicles to run more cleanly and efficiently (Sylt, 2015). Formula One has, in recent years, tried to promote itself as a sustainable sport in order to appeal to audiences. In fact, McLaren Racing team actually became carbon-neutral seven years ago, largely through emissions controls. It now recycles two-thirds of its waste and houses its headquarters at the energy-efficient McLaren Technology Centre which regulates its temperature through a thermal buffer and by a lake, and has a roof made of recycled tires. (Nichols, 2013)

McLaren Technology Center (McLaren, 2015)

SO, HAS IT TRULY RACED AHEAD?

              After all this research, I was left with a completely different picture of Formula 1 as a sport. Although it is true that Formula 1 has and could benefit the environment in some ways, the fact remains that it still causes a great deal of harm to the environment, and I do hope that Formula 1 can keep racing ahead in terms of being a sustainable sport. Perhaps one day, we can see Formula 1 make use of its popularity to promote electric cars by racing with them, such as in the case of Formula E.

Reference:

TRUCOST (2011) FOTA Environment Programme Baseline Report. Formula One Teams Association, Geneva. Retrieved from: http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/FOTA-EnvironmentProgramme-Baseline-Report-2010.pdf

Ornstein, D. (2007, March 7) Earth Car or not, Button will emit over 50 tonnes of CO2 this season. The Guardian, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/mar/02/formulaone.sport

Sylt, C (2015, August 25) Is Formula One the World’s Most Sustainable Sport? Forbes Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/csylt/2015/08/25/is-formula-one-the-worlds-most-sustainable-sport/#66422ff2952b

Nichols, S (2013, 5 March) Case Study, McLaren accelerates to sustainable racing Business Green Retrieved from https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/feature/2252124/case-study-mclaren-accelerates-towards-sustainable-racing

McLaren (2015) 2015 McLaren Technology Centre Tours [Digital Image] Retrieved from https://www.mclaren.com/formula1/mclaren+/events-and-competitions/2015-team-mclaren-member-tours-coming-soon/

Hosting Cleaner Air?

Time-out!

This week, to start off this journey, let’s take a break and explore the subject regarding air pollution in host cities of major sporting events. In the first few weeks, I will be mainly exploring the impacts that different aspects of sports has on the environment.

Recently, whilst following the news on the 2018 Asian Games held in Palembang and Jakarta, Indonesia, I came across this article on the 50km race walk event, which reported an Indonesian athlete collapsing at the finishing line due to the heat and pollution in Jakarta. (AFP,2018). As some of you may know, Indonesia is infamous for its high level of air pollution in the country, mainly due to the forest and plantation fires and the traffic congestion experienced in cities like Jakarta. Yet, having to host such a major sporting event with such polluted air going around is something no host city would envision, especially since it leaves such a bad impression of the city for the millions of eyes watching the event. As such, in order to ensure better air quality, the Indonesian government had taken steps such as the vehicle restrictions and the setting of emissions standard. (AFP, 2018)

Air Pollution in Jakarta (Photo: AFP/BAY ISMOYO)

However, in the midst of the games, the air quality index in central Jakarta, surged beyond the 150 mark to read 163. This level of reading indicates a health threat to the general population. (AFP,2018) To me, the irony of the failure on their part to improve air quality sufficiently was that it affected their own athlete’s performance in the game, as mentioned in the article earlier. In contrast, during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese government undertook successful measures including temporarily shutting down factories and controlling automobile use, which improved the air quality drastically (Davis, 2011) giving us a sunny Summer Olympics. Sadly, a year after those Olympics, those gains had already been reversed by a significant portion (Davis, 2011), and Beijing is still known for its ‘airpocalypse’.

Bird’s Nest Stadium (Photo: Kessler, J)

As I look at these sporting events, it seems to me that governments are only interested in enacting plans to curb air pollution for the duration of these sporting events, with the aim of giving the world a somewhat false positive impression of the city. It is obvious that much less attention is paid to these issues after the sporting events, and the improved air quality enjoyed by citizens during these major sporting events is only short-lived as the measures taken before the sporting event are often not sustained past the event even though air pollution greatly harms the health of citizens. The WHO estimates that ambient air pollution is likely to be the reason behind 4.2 million premature deaths  (WHO, n.d). Therefore, I feel that governments should have the well-being of citizens in mind and be focused on continually tackling this problem even after these major sporting events. After all, in the case of Beijing, it has been proven that it can be done if governments are willing to take steps and measures in order to tackle the problem.

Thanks for reading! Till the next time-out!

List of References:

AFP (2018, August 30) ‘This is Indonesia’: Asian Games race-walker collapses after 50km of heat, smog Channel NewsAsia Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/this-is-indonesia-asian-games-race-walker-collapses-after-50km-10666936

AFP (2018, August 21) Protesters scale billboard in Asian Games host Jakarta over toxic air Channel NewsAsia Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/protesters-asian-games-jakarta-air-pollution-10638570

Davis. B (2011, March 29) Most of Beijing’s Olympic Pollution cleanup evaporated a year later The Wall Street Journal Retrieved from https://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/03/29/most-of-beijings-olympic-pollution-cleanup-evaporated-a-year-later/

WHO (n.d) Ambient air pollution: Health Impacts Retrieved from http://www.who.int/airpollution/ambient/health-impacts/en/

AFP/BAY ISMOYO (n.d) Jakarta Air Pollution [Digital Image] Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/image/10638568/16×9/991/557/4c9ca7ca0f1248bdf91277f18d86f9ae/WB/jakarta-is-notorious-for-its-air-pollution-and-traffic-jams-1534853984292-2.jpg

Kessler, J (n.d) The National Stadium, aka Bird’s Nest [Digital Image] Retrieved from https://s-i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/381132/slide_381132_4523126_compressed.jpg