29 November 2019

Can tennis go green?

Whether it is yellow balls or Wimbledon whites, it is time for tennis to go green. Climate change and plastic pollution is harming everyone so what can you do to make sure tennis, and the planet, is sustainable?

A Manifesto for tennisVote Tennis

Have you contributed your ideas for our manifesto for tennis change? All the political parties are publishing their manifestos this week ahead of next month's General Election. Why should tennis be any different! Find out more...

Tennis has some eco-challenges but don’t let that put you off playing; there are huge health benefits and compared with how you heat your home, what you eat and how you choose to travel, the environmental impact of tennis is relatively benign. But there is an effect and there are things both companies and consumers can do.  

LTL's tennis shoe partner Mizuno established the Mizuno Green Grade in 2010, its own criteria for eco-friendly products and last year 92% of its sales met this standard. Then there is the UN's Sports for Climate Action Initiative supported by among others, the All England Lawn Tennis Club which has taken several steps to improve sustainability at Wimbledon - did you notice all the new water fountains and lack of plastic bags on the players' re-strung rackets. But we all need to do more. According to the UN, that means, measure, reduce and compensate (or offset).  There is also the option to re-use and recycle.

Measure Start by assessing your carbon footprint here

Reduce Scale back on the number of tennis balls you use only once with Trainer balls from LTL’s ball partner HEAD. Though they are not match-approved, they are a "super-durable pressureless ball so will last longer" and are perfect for practice sessions. 

You can definitely reduce emissions by walking, cycling or taking public transport to matches and avoid single use plastic water balls (ask Santa for a refillable bottle instead). 

Post-match, wash your clothes in full loads at cooler temperatures and try to avoid the tumbler drier or add a tennis ball to the dryer to speed things along. The Guardian has more tips and consider a Guppy Friend to catch the micro pieces of plastic which escape into rivers and oceans; you can read a review of it here.

Compensate When Easyjet announced it was going to be the world’s first major airline to be net zero carbon by offsetting its emissions, some accused it of ‘greenwashing’. But the UN says offsetting is a useful temporary measure on the way to reducing environmental harm and the more of us who do it, the better it works. It explains how it works on its platform here. LTL’s ball partner HEAD, for example, has partnered with Cool Earth to protect 7.030 acres/28 km2 (per year) of endangered rainforest. That is equal to ten times its carbon footprint.

Re-use If you haven’t made a weather vane or set of chairs out of your tennis racket or a festive wreath or Easter chick out of your old balls, you have not really got into the Greta Thunberg groove. See Instagam for inspiration. You can also avoid balls going to landfill by using them for a home for harvest mice, giving them to dogs to chase or putting them in the lavatory cistern to reduce the amount of water that is used each flush. Tennis balls are also a Pilates staple, perfect for leaning on to release the fascia or collagen fibre around your muscles or for massaging sore feet.

Re-cycle Don't dump your old tennis kit. High street fashion giant H&M lets you “drop off clothes and textiles from any brand, in any condition” and recycles or upcycles them so they don’t go to landfill and working with Oxfam, M&S has shwop to resell, reuse or recycle clothes (they don’t have to be from M&S). Nike will accept and recycle any brand of athletic sneaker. Wilson calls its Triniti ball the first performance ball in 100% recyclable packaging, £11.99 for 3 from Amazon and although it's a pressurised ball (unlike, say, the Tretorn ball) it uses new technology to allow it to remain playable for long periods of time even when not packed in a pressurised can.  

When it comes to plastic, and most tennis ball containers are plastic, there are a limited number of times it can be re-cycled as it downgrades and re-cycling plastic ultimately produces more plastic. But if it's the only way, Terracycle sells boxes which you fill with shoes, balls or backpacks which are then recycled. They are not cheap: from £140.53 for the smallest box for sports balls for exmaple, but you might be able to club together with your friends. Adidas is committed to using recycled plastic by 2024.

Finally, have a look at Compost and Cava which suggests 17 imaginative ways to make tennis eco-friendly. It doesn't shy away from the hard stuff - gut strings are a byproduct of the meat industry - but change is afoot. A compostable shoe is apparently in the pipeline and rackets may eventually be made with lignin a by product of the paper and pulp industry. There may still be some way to go, but tennis is getting greener all the time.

Main photo by Slashme reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license