If there's a thriving environmental movement in youth sports, it's a quiet one. I hadn't considered what a comprehensive green initiative for a rec council or travel league might look like until discovering this Top Ten list from Do It Green Minnesota.
Ten Things You can do to Green Up Your Youth Sports Experience
1. If practices and games aren’t too far away, consider alternatives to driving like walking, skating, biking, or set-up a carpool. Maybe someone on the team has a car or van that could accommodate a few teammates and families. Perhaps there is public transportation available like the bus or light-rail.
2. Make sure to utilize existing recycling bins for paper, cans, and bottles. If recycling bins do not exist where you are playing, ask permission to set up your own recycling center for practices and games. Bring the recycling home yourself if you have to! Or…
3. Institute a no plastic bottle challenge! Encourage your athletes to fill up their own reusable, washable bottle with water from home.
4. Find out who orders the team t-shirts and ask them to consider t-shirts made with something other than regular cotton and plastisol ink. Conventionally grown cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging crops on the planet. 25% of global pesticide use is in conventional cotton farming. Many printers are starting to offer friendlier material options like organic cotton or hemp and water based (permanent) inks. Visit www.pimn.org/environment/greatprinter.htm or www.doitgreen.org/greenpages.
5. Skip the team photo packages and opt to capture and share the memories with your digital camera. Stage your own team and individual poses, click away, and e-mail to your family and friends.
6. Work with your community or local recreational center to get funds for a compost bin. Make it a team-building project to build a compost bin from extra material in your garage. Field grass clippings, fruit scraps and peels, and some paper is just some of the waste that can be composted. Compost bins help turn organic waste into useable mulch for flowerbeds or planters.
7. Snacks and beverages can be a fun part of the post game ritual. Ditch the pre-wrapped, processed junk and encourage zero waste, healthy snacks like apples, orange slices or bananas (compost those peels), or bulk food trail-mix. Try shopping locally from a co-op or farmers market the weekend before the big game! For beverages, have a jug of ice water or 100% juice available and utilize reusable cups from home or water bottles.
8. Consider buying used equipment instead of new. Save some money at stores that sell perfectly good used equipment. You can also find some great deals online on web sites like craigslist.com.
9. Make sure your usable used sports equipment has a second life by donating or handing down to smaller young athletes in need.
10. Pass it on! Winning the GREEN game takes teamwork! Send this list onto some other parents or coaches. By incorporating a few easy green changes into our sports routines, we can help reduce our impact on the environment and inspire our young athletes to do so as well.
Footnote to No. 9. A few years back, the youth baseball league here launched a highly successful "Equipment Exchange." Families bring used gear - mostly outgrown and unwanted pants, shoes and gloves - to a collection point. Before Opening Day, the items are set out for families to pick whatever and as much as they want. It's a small, simple step. Yet it's environmentally responsible and, in our community, is making a difference for families slammed by the economic slump.
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