• English soccer club Manchester City is trialling an edible coffee cup made from leak-proof wafer.
  • Another English team, Forest Green Rovers, has tried sustainable shirts made from recycled coffee beans and plastic bottles on for size.
  • FIFA is aiming for Qatar 2022 to be the first carbon neutral World Cup.

The pitches may be green – but how sustainable is soccer?

Next year, we are being promised the world’s first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup. Pulling this off will be no mean feat – from construction to travel and accommodation, Qatar 2022 is expected to produce up to 3.6 million tonnes of CO2.

The event plans to tackle its emissions through a variety of measures including offsetting, reusing construction waste, and building a stadium from recycled shipping containers.

And across the sport, there are many other examples of small changes that could have a big impact if widely adopted. Here are some of them.

Coffee cups you can eat

In England’s Premier League, Manchester City Football Club is trialling a sustainable coffee cup that you can eat.

The edible cups, from Scottish company BioBite, are made from wafer that is said to stay leak-proof for up to 12 hours once filled with hot drinks.

If successful, they could provide a solution to a sizeable problem: an estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK every year – the majority of which are not recycled, according to a House of Commons report.

Manchester City Football Club is trialling edible coffee cups.
Manchester City Football Club is trialling edible coffee cups.
Image: BioBite

Sustainable shirts

Forest Green Rovers, a football club based in Gloucestershire, England, is trialling a sustainable soccer kit made from recycled coffee bean waste.

Each shirt is made from three cups of used beans and five plastic bottles. And they are not the only way Forest Green is living up to its name.

The team, dubbed “the world's greenest football club”, became the first to be certified carbon neutral by the United Nations in 2017. It is owned by Dale Vince, the founder of green energy company Ecotricity.

Dutch innovation

Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, the home of Dutch football club Ajax, claims to be one of the most sustainable stadiums in the world.

Its approach ranges from big investments in green energy to creative ways to use waste. The stadium is powered by 4,200 solar panels on the roof and a wind turbine. Grass mown from the pitch, meanwhile, is taken to a local farm to feed goats whose milk is turned into cheese – which is then sold in the stadium.

Dutch football club Ajax’s stadium in Amsterdam is packed with green features.
Dutch football club Ajax’s stadium in Amsterdam is packed with green features.
Image: Johan Cruijff Arena

Sustainability will take centre stage at this month’s World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021.

Over four days from 20-23 September 2021, the meeting will bring together leaders across sectors to accelerate progress towards the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

These goals were adopted by the UN’s 193 member states in 2015 and include combatting climate change and ending poverty, inequality and hunger by 2030.