Sustainable sport

Sustainability reaches the world of sport

Social transformation

Doing sport is one of the best ways to improve personal health, but what about the health of the planet? Do you know, for example, how much pollution a Marathon creates? And a major sporting event like the football world cup? Some sports activities can also damage the environment and you should know about this to keep their effects to a minimum. Bet on sustainable sport!

Sustainable sport seeks to reduce the sport's ecological footprint on the environment.

The link between sport and sustainability is becoming ever closer, not only because sport is often practiced outdoors, but also because concerns about sustainability have become globalised due to climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and scarcity of natural resources, requiring a commitment at both the individual and collective level.

Sustainability involves maintaining a balance between natural resources, the environment and human needs. Sport can in turn be a powerful tool for achieving sustainable development and fostering a fairer and more equitable society. Through the values it conveys, such as cooperation, respect, solidarity and teamwork, sport contributes to improving people's health and well-being, promoting more active and healthy lifestyles.

The environmental impact of sporting events

Mountaineers have been denouncing this for a long time and now the latest data from the Nepalese government proves them right: the overcrowding of Everest has turned the biggest of the 14 eight-thousands into the world's highest rubbish dump. Far from Everest, major sporting events - such as the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup - leave a deep mark on the environment that is difficult to erase with the almost always hasty construction of infrastructures - stadiums, pavilions, complexes, etc. - and the environmental impact of the spectators. 85% of the greenhouse gas emissions of a sporting event such as a European Championship are due to the travel and accommodation of millions of people. This represents around 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to the annual emissions of half a million households). In fact, it is estimated that 90% of the carbon footprint of Roland Garros comes from the travel of spectators attending the tournament.

However, it is precisely the concern for sustainability in sport that is beginning to bear fruit and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are aiming for 95 % of the infrastructures they use to be existing or temporary in order to avoid large constructions that later fall into disuse. In addition, as they showed in their bid, they aim to halve the emissions produced by the Games and to offset these emissions.

How much CO₂ do these major sporting events generate?

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    Olympic Games

    During this event 3.4 million tons of CO₂ can be emitted into the atmosphere.

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    Football World Cup

    The tournament between the world’s best national sides emits 2.75 million tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere.

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    World Downhill Ski Championship

    The top international contest for this sport releases 800,000 tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere.

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    Rugby World Cup

    The competition between the world’s best national sides emits 570,000 tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere.

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    Roland Garros

    The Paris tennis tournament, one of the four Grand Slams, emits 156,000 tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: How much CO2 Nota do major sporting events generate? [PDF] External link, opens in new window.

Sustainability in different sports 

When assessing the pollution associated with different sports, it is important to consider various factors that may contribute to the environmental footprint. Some sports may be more polluting due to aspects such as intensive resource use, waste generation, the need for complex infrastructure, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with travel and events. Here are some examples:

  • Motorsport and motor racing:
    Reasons: Use of fossil fuels, high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, environmental noise.
    Impact: Intensive consumption of fuels and oils, as well as significant release of emissions during competitions. 
  • Winter sports (skiing, snowboarding):
    Reasons: Need for artificial snow infrastructure, frequent air transport, energy consumption for maintenance of facilities.
    Impact: Considerable energy consumption for the production of artificial snow and for maintaining complex ski facilities. 
  • Golf:
    Reasons: Intensive use of water and chemicals in golf course maintenance, large amount of land used.
    Impact: Consumption of water, turf chemicals, and deforestation for golf course expansion. 
  • Marathon races and large-scale events:
    Reasons: Mass displacement, waste generation, resource consumption in the organisation.
    Impact: Greenhouse gas emissions from travel, waste generated during events, use of disposable materials.

It is important to note that these examples do not imply that all events or practices within these sports are inherently polluting. Many organisations and participants are working to implement more sustainable practices, such as the use of renewable energy, responsible waste management and environmental awareness. Improving the sustainability of sports depends to a large extent on the adoption of greener practices at the individual and organisational level.

How to do sport in a sustainable way

Practising sport in a sustainable way means adopting habits and choices that minimise the negative impact on the environment and promote conscious and responsible physical activity. Here are some suggestions for doing sport in a sustainable way:

Choose sports with low environmental impact:

Opt for sports that require less infrastructure and resources, such as running, walking, cycling or water sports, which have lower environmental impacts than, for example, sports that require large facilities or machinery. 

Use sustainable equipment:

Look for sports equipment made of sustainable and durable materials. Avoid disposable products and choose quality options that can be repaired or recycled at the end of their useful life.


Opt for eco-friendly sportswear:

Choose garments made from recycled or sustainable materials and look for brands committed to ethical and environmentally responsible practices in the production of sportswear.


Sustainable travel:

If possible, choose sustainable means of transport to reach your training or competition venues, such as cycling, walking or using public transport. If it is necessary to use a vehicle, consider more fuel-efficient options or electric vehicles.

Reduce, reuse and recycle:

Minimise waste generated during your sporting activities by using reusable bottles instead of disposable plastic bottles, and carry a reusable bag with you to collect your waste. 

Environmental awareness:

Respect the natural areas where you practice sport and follow the local rules, in this way you will not only be more aware of the environment you enjoy but you will also contribute to create a change in others. 

Practice 'plogging':

It is a way of combining exercise with cleaning up the environment. It consists of collecting waste during your outdoor sports activities in order to contribute to the purity of the environment. 

Supports sustainable sporting events:

Participate in competitions and events that adopt sustainable practices in the organisation, such as responsible waste management, the use of renewable energy and the promotion of sustainable mobility.


Adopting these principles in sport not only benefits the environment, but also contributes to raising awareness of the importance of sustainability in the sporting community.