Today marks World Environment Day (WED) 2014, under the theme of “Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and Climate Change”. This Day, initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), provides an opportunity to highlight how sport and the environment are deeply interlinked, and to illustrate actions taken by the sports world that contribute to the promotion of sustainable development.
A degraded environment can have a negative impact on sport, the Olympic Games and, most importantly, on the athletes. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Movement at large consider environmental responsibility as an integral part of Olympism, along with sport and culture, and work to acknowledge and encourage the implementation of good environmental practices in the field of sport.
In line with this year’s theme - Small Islands Developing States and Climate Change - two particular projects within the Olympic Movement are being highlighted, which, through the engagement of Athletes, push their local communities to become active and take the necessary measures to protect islands and their surrounding environment.
“Love Your Coast” in Papua New Guinea
The Athletes’ Commission of the Papua New Guinea Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (PNGSFOC) teamed up with New Zealand-based charity Sustainable Coastlines to launch the “Go Green: Love Your Coast” environmental programme. A continental winner of the 2013 IOC Sport and Environment Award, this project aims to raise large-scale awareness about environmental challenges faced by communities as a result of the impact of non-biodegradable waste and to initiate engagement on how to look after fragile coastlines and waterways.
A mainstay of the programme is the role model function of athletes, who inspire young people to look after their local environment through simple, hands-on educational solutions, generating behavioural change. The project also empowers athletes in areas such as public speaking, event logistics and budgeting to benefit them in their chosen careers during or after their sporting lives.
Inspiring New Zealanders to be environmental champions
Working at the intersection between sport and the environment, Project Litefoot is a New Zealand-based charitable trust led by top sports people, including IOC member and Olympic windsurfing champion Barbara Kendall. Setting the example, these athletes seek to inspire New Zealanders to be environmental champions. The objective is to transform community sports infrastructure so as to make it collectively electricity independent, water neutral and have zero waste by 2025. In addition to the environmental and social benefits, the initiative is freeing up money for investment into sport.
Through its lead initiative, LiteClub, launched in 2011, more than USD 1.6 million has already been freed for investment in sport; 12.2 million litres of water have been saved each year; and 820 tonnes of waste have been diverted from landfills each year.
The environment: A pillar of Olympism
In keeping with a recommendation by the Centennial Olympic Congress in 1994, the IOC amended the Olympic Charter in 1996 to stress the need to “encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly.” It also signed a cooperation agreement with UNEP to develop joint initiatives in the field of sport and the environment.