The minor leagues of English soccer/football have become a petri dish of Green-Sports innovation. GreenSportsBlog has featured Forest Green Rovers, the “Greenest Team in Sports” and Dartford F.C. Today, our focus turns to Sutton United F.C., the South London club in the fifth tier of English soccer whose home stadium, Gander Green Lane, became the first to receive The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification.
Some of the greatest innovations in Green-Sports are happening in the soccer equivalent of baseball’s low minor leagues. While several Premier League giants, including Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle, have taken strong green-sports actions, it is the mid-to-lower levels of the English soccer/football pyramid where bold sustainable sports innovation is happening.
Forest Green Rovers of the fourth tier of English Football has become the undisputed Greenest Team on the Planet and a GreenSportsBlog staple through its all-vegan menus, solar powered lawn mowing “mow-bots”, rooftop solar, and more. Last month, GSB featured Princes Park, home of sixth tier Dartford F.C., and, arguably, the greenest of all stadium green roofs in the world.
After hitting “send” on the Dartford F.C. piece, I thought “there can’t be any other small, quaint English soccer/football clubs doing state-of-the-art green-sports things, can there?”
Yes There Can.
Today, we bring you fifth tier Sutton United F.C.. Located just south of Wimbledon, the Amber and Chocolates (how about that for a nickname?) are in the midst of a noteworthy 2017. On the pitch, the club made an improbable run to the fifth round of the FA Cup, the 10 month tournament that involves the entirety of the professional/semi-professional English soccer pyramid, from the Premier League to pub leagues. When Arsenal, the Premier League Goliath, came to the 5,000 seat Gander Green Lane in February, it was the biggest game in Sutton United history. And it was played at the first football stadium to achieve The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification.
Gander Green Lane, home of Sutton United F.C. (Photo credit: AFTN)
The Planet Mark is a three year-old British certification system that recognizes businesses for their sustainability better practices, including waste reductions, detailed carbon footprint measurements and targets, as well as stakeholder engagement. Over 100 organizations have been certified, each committing to reduce their carbon emissions by at least 2.5 percent per year.
Sutton United, which began its sustainability journey in 2011, has certainly earned its Planet Mark designation. They have:
- Reduced their carbon footprint by 13.6 percent in 2016, led by savings came from gas consumption (down 39 percent). Those reductions were mostly attributed to installing double glazed windows and by decommissioning a leaking boiler in Gander Green Lane’s club buildings
- Recycled 88 percent of their waste
- Invested in the Eden Project, a climate change education nonprofit and visitor destination that has officially been added to my bucket list. Nestled in a huge crater in Cornwall, UK, it features massive Biomes housing the largest rainforest in captivity
- Stored 260 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent (CO₂E) by protecting endangered rainforest through the nonprofit Cool Earth
- Committed to engage their employees and suppliers to drive improvements.
Dave Farebrother, chairman of the board of directors at Sutton United and an environmentalist, has been the driver of the club’s sustainability initiatives. “We like to say that our club is much more than just the ‘first team’,” enthused Farebrother. “Our community program is very active in the local area. I’ve…been into local schools to talk about sustainability.”
“I think climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face but, as [Sutton United] showed in its magnificent FA Cup run, challenges are there to be overcome,” said Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark. “We are delighted to support Sutton United and, in our small way, contribute to the club’s success.”
Although the clock struck midnight on the Amber and Chocolate’s Cinderella story when Arsenal earned a hard fought 2-0 victory back in February on the way to winning the 2017 FA Cup, Sutton United did earn an estimated quarter of a million pounds from TV broadcasting rights, a significant sum for a club of that smallish size. According to The Planet Mark, “If some of that money is ploughed back into low carbon measures, the club’s position as a sustainability leader will be secured for years to come.”
Sutton United (yellow) and Arsenal battle in their February 2017 fifth round FA Cup match at The Planet Mark-certified Gander Green Lane (Photo credit: Caughtoffside.com)
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