World Cup shines spotlight on environmental impact of such events

I am, by no means, what you would call a “soccer fanatic.” I played one year in elementary school where I pretty much just ran around, chasing the ball and trying to do whatever my teammates were doing.

I’m sure my parents, who aren’t soccer fans either, sat on the sidelines just cracking up at all of us bunched up and chasing the ball wherever it went, positions and responsibilities thrown out the window as soon as the ball was kicked off.
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But over time I have become more of a fan, to the point that when the United States played Ghana in the World Cup Monday night, I made sure to be at home and on the couch at 6 p.m. sharp, ready to cheer on the Stars and Stripes.

That said, it is always fascinating to me to see how different countries respond to hosting big international sporting events such as the World Cup or even the Olympics. On one hand, having to accommodate the influx of people and visitors for the event is a modern marvel in and of itself. For instance, according to some reports, over 1,300 km of road was built for last winter’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

On the other hand, these events can pose major threats to the environment of the countries that host them. The amount of carbon that is generated by all of the international travel that takes place can result in millions of tons finding its way into our atmosphere and some believe that it will be close to 1.5 million tons for this summer’s World Cup alone.

However, there are some great things environmentally that are coming out of this World Cup that worth noting as well. Last week, Japan played and was beaten by the Ivory Coast. As the world watched, Japanese fans – as is custom in their country – spent time cleaning their part of the arena of any trash they generated.

Two of the stadiums built for the World Cup are powered by solar energy and many of the other buildings are either LEED certified or close. In Natal, one of the cities hosting some of the group play matches, the stadium built for the World Cup both collects rainwater, which they hope will cut usage by 40 percent, and they hope that close to 100 percent of the waste generated will be recycled.

All of these highlight a change in policy. As these events are being planned, it has become commonplace to think just as much about the impacts on the environment as the local economy and current residents.

Events that don’t consider the environment are becoming rarer and, generally, will attract negative attention as well. So as you are (hopefully!) celebrating U.S. soccer success over the next few weeks, just know that although these events still place major stress on the environments of the host countries, being “green” and reducing environmental impact are trending up for such events.

Click here to read a column in the Christian Science Monitor about how much energy it takes to put on this year’s World Cup.
1 Ryan-Farley

Ryan Farley serves Bluegrass Greensource in a hybrid role, working as an environmental educator with several outreach specialist responsibilities. Ryan received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown College and a master’s in recreation and park administration from Eastern Kentucky University. He has worked at wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Texas and with Kentucky 4-H in various roles. Farley provides educational programs to several Fayette County schools and works with downtown businesses and the greater Lexington community to educate and empower residents to become better environmental stewards.

This article appeared in KY Forward on June 19, 2014.

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