UK's greenest football club plots eco success on and off the pitch

by ClickGreen staff. Published Sun 11 Nov 2012 12:13
Forest Green lead the football leagues in green success
Forest Green lead the football leagues in green success

Forest Green Rovers Football Club may only be third in the Blue Square Bet Premier table, but they are definitely crowned-champions of the Green league.

The Gloucestershire team is Britain’s first football club to put together a gold-standard of environmental management.

Out has gone the unhealthy traditional football food of greasy pies, hamburgers and sausage rolls and in has come the sustainable delights of locally-sourced, organic, healthy, mainly vegetarian food.

On the menu are rainbow khobez wrap, with pumpkin hummus, grated beets and grated carrot; polenta chips with chilli and thyme and badger pasty (though with a warning that it’s unlikely to contain traces of badger).

This has cut out the air-miles and eco-impact of rearing-cattle but has been hard to swallow with some die-hard fans.

Forest Green chairman is Dale Vince, founder of green energy company Ecotricity and he’s been working with the former Manchester United star Gary Neville, who is founder of the Sustainability in Sport campaign.

Neville has now linked up with the Carbon Trust to urge football clubs across the UK to improve their carbon performance and compete for the top spot in the sustainability league.

A letter is being sent out this week to all teams in the Premier League, Football League and Scottish Premier League asking them to focus on emissions and boost the environment and their finances.

Only four football clubs, Bradford City, Bolton Wanderers, Manchester United, and Newcastle United. have already attained the Carbon Trust Standard The Football Association (FA), including the new Wembley Stadium has also been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard.

Neville said: “Football clubs and indeed the wider sporting community are in a very privileged position to influence and inspire generations of fans to live more sustainably.

The launch of the Sustainability in Sport foundation was followed up by a charity football match between Forest Green Rovers and a Manchester United XI at The New Lawn stadium in Gloucestershire earlier this year.

Vince, the Forest Green Rovers FC chairman ,said: “The Olympics organisers have made great efforts to reduce their environmental impact and we applaud them for it, but there is no getting away from the fact that the London Olympics still had a massive carbon footprint – the equivalent of adding an extra city the size of Cardiff to the UK.

“The Olympics are a big event but they only happen once every four years. We need sport to be sustainable day-in day-out from the grassroots level upwards – we aim to help governing bodies, clubs and fans reduce the environmental impact of sport.

“Sustainability in Sport is about changing the rules of the game and putting environmental issues at the heart of all sport. As Gary says: nothing short of a revolution.”

Back at Forest Green Rovers, the club is working towards Soil Association – Food for Life Catering Mark (only Celtic FC have this eco standard) plus food composting.
Elsewhere rain-water is harvested from grandstand roofs and pitch water-recycled as part water efficiency measures within the club .

The club is powered on green energy including from its own solar panels and its creating the UK’s first organic football pitch.

They also have the UK’s first electric ‘mow-bot’ - a robotic mower which puts the Rovers in the same league as Bayern Munich, who also care for pitch and planet using the same revolutionary technology.

The ‘mow-bot’ uses GPS technology to automatically mow the pitch without the need for human intervention – saving groundsmen up to 50% of their working week or over 100 days of labour – and even sends a text if it runs into trouble.

Powered from 100% green electricity from solar panels on The New Lawn stadium roof, the eco-friendly R2D2 will trim the club’s carbon footprint as well as the grass, and can be used for other sporting pitches such as rugby and cricket.

Forest Green is becoming a test-bed for the Sustainability in Sport foundation – established by FGR Chairman Dale Vince and former-Manchester United player Gary Neville – demonstrating the best green tactics to recommend to sports clubs across the UK.

The club has already scored several green goals by installing solar power on the stadium roof, recycling pitch water and launching the first ever meat-free (and low carbon) football menu – leading international company Etesia to choose Forest Green as the UK pioneer for their fleet of emission-free pitch equipment.

Forest Green Groundsman Stuart Ward is no stranger to innovation and is working towards creating Britain’s first organic football pitch at The New Lawn stadium. He also became the first person in the Britain to trial Etesia’s Bahia M2E electric ride-on mower, an innovation now being tested by the Houses of Parliament.

Ward said: “It’s really exciting to be trialling these products, the robot saves me time and there’s no more dirty fuel or noise to deal with either.

“The time I used to spend mowing can now be utilised tending to the pitch in other ways to make it the best possible surface for the players.”

The new mow-bot will even help the club reach its target of creating a 100% organic pitch, by creating organic mulch which fertilizes the pitch as it works.

Sustainability in Sport mission is to utilise Forest Green Rovers as a grassroots test-bed to show how sporting clubs can audit their environmental performance – then retrofit technologies and introduce practices to provide eco-solutions – such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric robot lawn-mowers, organic pitches, recycling water, low energy lights and locally sourced food .

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