The power of sport as a positive voice in climate action

Catalysts for Change

As athletes made their final preparations for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, a team of athletes came together to undertake a new kind of challenge for sporting elites. With representation across swimming, track, rugby, hockey, badminton, and volleyball, this group came together to discover how athletes can make a real climate impact.

Athletes have an opportunity to inspire engagement around the things they care about: a recent study from MIT showed that sportspeople account for over half the cultural influence on Earth. But when it comes to climate change, many athletes feel like they don’t know where to start and feel bogged down by their carbon footprint.  

Birmingham 2022 worked with Athletes of the World and Giki to deliver this project, supporting athletes to map their carbon footprint and then take meaningful steps to reduce it. In doing so, they helped to build the foundations for a new movement of athletes to become catalysts for change to make a real climate impact.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become much more aware of how much of a difference athletes can make for the planet. We have a unique position to help people understand how urgent things are, what they can do – so it’s been great to find Giki and realise that we can all be part of the solution

Melissa Wilson, co-founder of Athletes of the World and Olympian Team GB rower

It starts with knowing your number and understanding your footprint and the impacts of any lifestyle changes to reduce it. Once you have that knowledge, there are many ways to have a positive impact on the planet.

Jo Hand, co-founder of Giki

Over two weeks, the athletes taking part tried an average of five to six steps each – and the range of steps they tried shows just how many opportunities there are to reduce our carbon footprints. Here are a few favourites.

Eat animal products (meat, dairy, fish, eggs) once a day.

This is a great way to reduce your food carbon footprint because a plant-based diet has just half the footprint of a regular diet. If going plant-based is something you feel uncertain about, start cutting back on meat, dairy, and other animal products to just once a day. This step has a big impact!  

Recycle or compost all your food waste and share unused food.

The average person throws out over 80 kilograms of food every year, this equates to the body weight of a large adult in food!

Ensuring we re-use and compost any peelings is good for the planet because it avoids excess waste going to landfill, which creates greenhouse gas emissions as it rots down. 

Compost is great!I take my food scraps to compost in a community garden. It’s a great tie-in to growing your food and eating locally grown seasonal food to lower food miles.

Rhydian Cowley, Race Walker, Team Australia

I’ve reintroduced composting into our lives which is great because now our bin doesn’t smell anymore!

Mhairi Maclennan, Athletics , Team Scotland

Carbon-conscious travel

Even though it can be difficult to avoid flying for competitions, athletes still enjoyed the footprint tool to reduce their carbon footprint where they could. 

Something I’ve been doing that I’m proud of is walking 20 mins each way to the pool and back home twice a day, instead of taking the bus or an Uber.

Cheyenne Riva, Swimmer, Team Fiji

Walking journeys less than a mile, I walked instead of taking the tube in London and saw some lovely places.

Lauren Smith, Badmington, Olympian and Team GB

Buying second-hand clothesswapping an item with a friendor start the “Before you Buy” checklist.

Athletes in the group tried out each of these steps, and not only do they reduce our consumption of new products, which has an environmental impact, but they often save money. 

For weddings and formal occasions, my training group share dresses, and outfits. It saves money and of course, buying one wear pieces.

Non Stanford, Former World-Champion Triathlete, Team Wales

Energy savers

Taking shorter showers and putting lids on saucepans when you cook are both quick wins athletes tried to reduce energy usage a little. Each time we heat water or food, we use fossil fuels, which create carbon emissions. The less we use, the lower our footprint. 

Using our influence

One of the biggest things we can do is change where we put our money in terms of banking and pensions.  

I changed my pension to an environmentally focussed one yesterday. It’s been at the back of my mind as a big job for ages. I committed to it in Giki Zero which took five minutes. It was so easy!

Jamie Farndale, Rugby 7s, Team Scotland

Athletes can share their experiences with their fans and encourage them to think about what they can do for the planet too. A starting point could be signing up to Giki to learn more and try a few lifestyle changes. Then, you’re all set to encourage others to try it too!  

What’s Your Number? The Carbon-neutral legacy from the Games

The team at Birmingham 2022 has been working hard to create a carbon-neutral legacy for the Games and is inviting everyone to learn more about their carbon footprint and actions they can take to make more sustainable choices. You can be part of this too by joining ‘What’s Your Number’ here.

By harnessing the power of sport, we’ll be helping spectators and volunteers to think carbon and cut carbon by empowering athletes and other influential citizens with a clear, tangible experience. They can then use their voice to encourage others to find out, ‘What’s Your Number’ too.

If you want to empower your community to cut carbon at home and work using Giki Zero Pro, get in touch or book a demo.