How Can You Make Your Sports Club and Facilities More Sustainable?

Posted by Andi

Climate change is not something any business or industry sector can afford to ignore in this day and age. Questions about sustainability are being asked in organisations up and down the country as we search for ways to square the circle between what is commercially viable and environmentally necessary.

As far as sports clubs and facilities are concerned, becoming more sustainable is now the way to survive economically – club members and users of community facilities demand it, it’s that simple. Luckily, there’s plenty that can be done, and it’s not all doom and gloom. Here we take a look at ways you can make your sports club or leisure facility more sustainable, addressing concerns that are important to customers and help look after the planet.

Know your legislation

Start by familiarising yourself with the environmental legislation and regulations that your business must comply with and take a look at Sport England’s very informative guide entitled ‘Environmental Sustainability’ that you can download here. Look out for relevant sport-specific information too – here’s a handy guide for golf players, for instance.

Next, take a broad brush look at how your club could reduce waste and save energy right here, right now. This could be a list of simple sustainability ‘hacks’ that you can use on a daily basis as the first step towards a more comprehensive sustainability strategy for the club.

Compile an energy efficiency report

Creating a sustainability report or energy efficiency report can help identify areas where your club or facility can make improvements. Consult government energy efficiency policy to help your business understand how to save energy and reduce operational costs, Likewise, carry out an energy audit to inform your sustainability strategy designed to reduce your club’s bills and lower its carbon footprint.

There’s a wealth of information out there to assist you in putting together your own sustainability strategy. Having an overarching policy document in place will help to provide important reference and guidance for all the individual decisions that must be taken throughout the organisation.

Look at eco-friendly alternatives

Investigate simple switches that your club could be making to reduce its carbon footprint. Solar panel installations, for instance, can greatly reduce your carbon emissions, converting sunlight into energy, which can lower utility bills by some 90%. As a long-term sustainable solution, they can also generate a good return on investment with such schemes as the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) giving the opportunity for unused solar electricity to be ‘sold back’ to National Grid network.

Sustainable Sports

LED lighting is another obvious switch to increase energy efficiency. LED lights last much longer than traditional light bulbs, making them easier to maintain and cheaper in the long run. The higher lumen output per watt means about 70% of energy is converted into light, so there’s much less wastage.

Finally, swap single-use plastic for reusable cups and paper straws and encourage your members to bring their own bottles for refilling at the club rather than selling plastic bottled water.

Investigate funding opportunities

Financial support for environmental improvements does exist if you know where to look. Whilst the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (RHI) closed earlier this year, the current  Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is worth looking up if your leisure club is considering changing from gas central heating to a heat pump or biomass system. The current scheme is expected to run to 2025 and offers funding towards the cost and installation of low carbon heating system alternatives.

Check The Grants Hub for environmental funding options and look out for relevant local schemes too and make an application. The latest funding opportunities can be found here and here.

Make use of your natural surroundings

Many leisure clubs and sports facilities have access to outdoor areas such as playing fields, pitches, courts and courses. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to create a wildlife garden somewhere, or plant trees and plants on site, or encourage wildlife in some areas? Even something as small as a wildflower meadow, bird boxes or hedgehog homes can help encourage greater biodiversity on site.

Ensure these areas are kept well away from areas of high sporting activity and perhaps encourage junior members or a volunteer task force to get involved and take ownership of your club’s green schemes.

Engage your club membership

Making sustainability improvements are going to make you a more appealing organisation to be a part of. Use this to your advantage by engaging and inspiring your members, both current and potential.

Lead from the front by introducing waste separation, recycling bins or a comprehensive recycling programme such as this one for sports stadiums. Have a clearly visible policy, with impactful posters designed to remind staff, club members and the general public to practice good environmental habits. Making a habit of eco-friendly routines at the club will also make it more likely for good habits to be embedded at home.

You could also run sports kit recycling schemes such as this one championed by the Somerset Cricket Foundation, or other charity initiatives that can help reduce waste and help others in the process who are in greater need.

Regular fundraising campaigns

Sustainability schemes and green innovations don’t have to be costly to implement, but they can be. While some initial funding may be available through official channels, you may need to top up the coffers through fundraising, at least in the short term before any ROI gains can be felt.

Consider making fundraising campaigns a regular fixture in your club and use it as a fun way to get your members and the general public involved. It’s a brilliant way to rally the team around you to help achieve a common goal, and an effective marketing tool to tell the world about the sustainability work you are doing as a business.

Why not set up relevant sporting / endurance events with a competitive edge? From danceathons to marathons, gym challenges or tennis tournaments, you can tailor the activity to your particular sport and member demographics for best effect. Your members will enjoy the opportunity to become involved and contribute something worthwhile to their local club. Set SMART goals and be transparent in your fundraising efforts and let your supporters know how much has been raised and exactly what the money is going to be used for.

Finally, don’t be afraid to take on a challenge. Start small and build on your achievements, making sure they are in line with your club’s values and needs – but don’t lose sight of the bigger climate picture.

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