Climate Action

Coronavirus postpones sports, but climate change can cancel them

Sporting events around the world have been canceled or postponed due to coronavirus

It’s understandable: Thousands of screaming fans — touching seats and high-fiving, sharing beers and fries — doesn’t make for a social distance-friendly environment. Even smaller youth sporting events put families and children at risk of infection. 

But aside from coronavirus, another crisis has threatened our beloved sports for years: climate change. Poorer air quality, heat-waves, rising waters, shifting seasons and, yes, more frequent diseases put athletes and their families at risk. 

Sports stadiums and venues have huge environmental footprints — from stadium construction and use, player travel emissions and fan transportation to events. So, what if the most eco-friendly way to enjoy sports is, well, not at all?

Fortunately, with creative and sustainable solutions, we shouldn’t have to go that far. Some stadiums and sports leagues, like Major League Baseball, are already leading the way to a sustainable future — one that includes sports. 

Baseball stadiums are switching to alternative energy sources such as wind and solar and incorporating rainwater collection to reduce water use. And more athletes are swapping to plant-based diets, with more than just their environmental footprint in mind.

Professional ice hockey player Zdeno Chára, for example, has been on a plant-based diet for several years and still feels the benefits

“Choosing to eliminate eating meat and dairy and going plant-based helped me elevate not just my performances but also my wellbeing,” said Chára in the video posted on Earth Day 2020. “What we eat can help our planet… We have the power to make a change for better.”

Other outspoken plant-based athletes include baseball player Chase Utley, football player Derrick Morgan, soccer gold medalist Heather Mitts and cycling silver medalist Dotsie Bausch.

The sports industry has a long way to go to combat climate change, but coronavirus gives it the opportunity to reset. As we reopen cities, the world and eventually sports, we have a chance to incorporate some new sustainable practices. 

There’s no denying the benefits of sports worldwide — the revenue generated for cities and states, the cultural identity and camaraderie, the lessons and skills taught to children and adolescents. But we also have to be mindful of their carbon footprint. 

Earth Day Network’s Athletes for the Earth campaign expands the sustainability conversation past individual athletes by working with stadiums, teams, organizations and sporting events to embrace green initiatives and inspire environmental stewardship among fans. Start with the youth athletes in your area: Check out our Athletes for the Earth Toolkit.