Sustainability is core to everything we do at Forest Green Rovers, we might be known for being the only vegan football club in the world but it goes much deeper than that, we’re continually looking at new ways to push the boundaries of environmental consciousness in sport and that’s why FIFA described us in 2017 as the greenest football club in the world.
Energy, along with Transport, Food and supporting Nature are key pillars for FGR. As soon as you turn into the main entrance you get a sense of what we’re all about. At the gates we have a small solar array, we’ve also got panels covering the EESI Stand (check them on Google Earth) and together these provide around 20% of our annual electric needs. Our scoreboard is LED and running around the pitch we have state of the art LED boards all powered by a battery that’s charged from the sun. For any extra energy we need we’re supplied by Ecotricity – providing 100% renewable electricity and carbon neutral gas.
Sport always involves a lot of travelling for both teams and fans and so we’re always looking to reduce our impact. This season the First Team will be using an electric coach wherever possible to cut back on polluting diesel emissions whilst the Academy players are travelling to their training ground using an electric minibus. For the fans we organise group travel to away games where we offset the carbon emissions from the coach journey whilst at home games you can use the park & ride, cycle parking or the line of EV charge points to make your journey more sustainable.
When it comes to food it seems that the whole world knows that we’re a vegan club (the players even take vegan food to their away matches) but did you know that we work with local brands such as Stroud Brewery as well as national and international names like Quorn and Oatly? Because hospitality is a major source of waste we’re introducing a wash and re-use system for all of our cups and chip trays this season. This will help cut down on the amount of rubbish generated plus we’re also adding food recycling points around the stadium.
Stopping plastics from entering the oceans is something that our partners Sea Shepherd campaign for and something we think about as part of everyday decisions. As well as avoiding single-use packaging in our catering outlets - we replaced single-use sachets with refillable pump dispensers- we’ve cut plastic out in other areas. All of our cleaning materials are produced on site and use refillable bottles rather than us buying-in normal products in throw away containers.
We’ve got an organic pitch that captures rainwater and recycles it back for irrigation, saving precious tap water. This year we’ve introduced an epic new process that cleans up the water from the away fans’ toilets and pumps that back onto the pitch as well! It’s not just the playing field that we treat with this level of care, the whole site is given the same attention and managed without chemicals or pesticides. We have a mowing regime to reduce the weeds and plant the boarders with wild flower seed to help encourage the pollinators that are so important to food production – we even have a bee hive.
All of this work has attracted a lot of interest and there’s rarely a match that goes by where we haven’t got a film crew or journalist wanting to talk about all the epic things we’ve done. In 2019, FGR chairman Dale Vince was appointed as a Climate Champion for the United Nations who also recognised FGR as the first Carbon Neutral football club in the world as part of the UN Climate Neutral Now pledge. Our profile on the international arena has been further cemented by being founding members of the UNSports for Climate Action initiative.
We’ve been measuring our carbon footprint at FGR for over a decade and our whole operation is certified to the international environmental standard ISO1400. We’ve made good progress even though demand has increased as we’ve climbed up the leagues and attracted more fans. The last couple of years have been impacted by COVID with less activity at the New Lawn and less travel, however, the 73 tonne foot print from last season is still 12% less than the last pre-COVID season in 2018/19.
One good way of looking at our carbon footprint is to divide it up by the number of fans that come to home games each year, this chart shows how many kg of carbon each fan is responsible for (2020/21 was the year of COVID when the games were all played behind closed doors):
As part of our UN work we’ve committed to a 50% cut in emissions by 2030 and this is how we plan on doing it.
Want to learn more about what we’re doing when you next visit the New Lawn? You can take yourself off along our Eco-trail using the info boards we’ve put around the stadium or ask about one of the organised tours that are routinely led by the FGR Community Trust.
There’s more to come - we’ve got an exciting future ahead of us, not only are we going to be welcoming a whole legion of new fans to the New Lawn for the 2022/23 season but we’re also planning our new stadium at Eco Park. We’ve spent the past decade showing others what can be done by retrofitting sustainability into an existing site, now we’re going to show the world what can be done when you start with a completely clean slate.
We're proud to show-off some of the projects we're involved in, bringing Sustainability into the world of Sport.