10 of the Most and Least Eco-Friendly Sports
Organized sports are great ways to stay active and connect with people who share a common interest, but some of them have a significant downside — lack of sustainability. Which popular sports are the most and least eco-friendly?
Most Eco-Friendly Sports
The most eco-friendly sports have one huge similarity — they don’t require an artificial playing surface, which minimizes their environmental impact. There can be some human influence, but the world’s natural geography largely dictates where you play these sports.
Running is the most eco-friendly sport because of its simplicity. The environment doesn’t need to undergo any changes. You just need to wear decent athletic shoes and Planet Earth takes care of the rest. You could run indoors on a treadmill or elliptical machine, but running outdoors gives you more health benefits and doesn’t consume electricity.
Cycling is an eco-friendly sport for the same reasons. Although a manufactured cycling path certainly helps, you don’t need one. You can go cycling in the mountains, jungle, desert and all kinds of other scenic environments. Plus, this activity is a viable alternative to driving and can reduce your carbon emissions on your daily commute.
3. Water Sports
Outdoor water sports like swimming, surfing, kayaking and paddleboarding are great eco-friendly activities. However, you should know the items you bring into the water can negatively affect the environment. Ensure your sunscreen, bug repellent and other chemical products are safe for the water.
Climbing is eco-friendly to a fault. Some climbers are so committed to sustainability they choose more difficult terrain to limit wildlife and terrain disruption, jeopardizing their safety in the process. The mark of a great climber is the ability to complete challenging climbs while following a leave-no-trace policy.
5. Amateur Soccer
Playing soccer with friends is a simple and sustainable way to stay active. All you need is a flat grassy field, which the environment provides in abundance. Amateur soccer’s low impact is one of the main reasons for its popularity in developing countries worldwide. Anyone with a field and a ball can play.
Least Eco-Friendly Sports
The least eco-friendly sports have one of two things — a high-maintenance playing surface or lots of equipment that usually damages the surrounding ecosystem. These five sports have a significant impact on the environment.
1. Professional Soccer
Unlike amateur soccer, professional soccer is a huge spectacle. The massive fields require constant maintenance, which is a drain on local resources. Global events like the FIFA World Cup also create millions of tons of emissions from transportation and stadium operations. Artificial astroturf used for professional soccer fields isn’t ideal because it can’t sustain natural plant life and leads to common sports injuries such as sprained knees and ankles. (The same holds true for American football.)
Golf courses might look pretty, but they are known for being bad for the environment. Courses in the state of Utah alone use 38 million gallons of water every day and go through lots of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemical products. The sport’s impact will only increase as it grows in popularity, unless changes are made.
Auto racing sports produce significant amounts of air and noise pollution, but only a fraction of emissions come directly from racing events. Transportation and manufacturing facilities are also big contributors. However, these sports are trending in the right direction, as new electric racing vehicles could allow them to phase out high-emissions race cars.
Skiing and snowboarding resorts have the same problem as golf courses — they require lots of resources to maintain, including an endless fuel supply and electricity to continue making snow. Keeping an environment in a perpetual state of winter can also negatively impact the local wildlife.
Skydiving is terrible for the environment for one simple reason — the planes. Planes in competitive skydiving have to take off and land multiple times daily, requiring constant refueling. This sport emits 24–60 pounds of CO2 per jump.
Play an Eco-Friendly Sport Today
One of the biggest advantages of playing eco-friendly sports over high-impact sports is their accessibility. There are endless places to run, ride a bike, swim, climb or play a casual game of soccer. So what are you waiting for? Get outside and play an eco-friendly sport today!
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