Grassroots clubs, NGOs and informal groups are playing a part in tackling environmental issues through sport.

Sport’s role in addressing environmental challenges is not limited to reducing the environmental impact of high-level sport. Grassroots clubs, NGOs and informal groups also play a part, and sports activities can be used to engage local communities, educate people on environmental issues and support people who have experienced weather-related disasters.

Sport can be used to educate, and sport for development organisations are increasingly integrating environmental issues into their work. Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), for example, runs workshops for children on waste management, reducing plastic use and sustainable consumption. Similarly, the Wave Alliance, the Grootbos Foundation and I Am Water integrate marine conservation into a surfing programme focused on gender equality. 

Sport and Environmental Education (SEE) is a European Union funded project that uses outdoor sports as a tool for environmental education. Alongside other school subjects, physical education can improve understanding of climate change. Teacher’s Climate Guide, developed by Finnish environmental educator, Pinja Sipari, has developed resources on the subject.

Sport can also be used as a tool for psychosocial support. While this approach is often used to address the symptoms of trauma in people who have experienced war and violence, it can also be beneficial following natural disasters and extreme weather events. Psychosocial sport projects are not about winning and losing, but rather about the process of helping people to restore their social and psychological health and for communities to rebuild following disasters, which often impact the most marginalised. 

There is compelling practical, anecdotal and theoretical evidence to suggest that psychosocial sport and play programmes can assist people who have experienced severe stress or trauma in a disaster setting. However, there is limited empirical evidence and this has been linked to the complexities of conducting research in an emergency setting, to limited financial and technical capacities of disaster relief agencies, and to a small number of validated tools to measure psychosocial impacts of sport and play. Nonetheless, sport can play a role in assisting individuals, communities and organisations in relief, response and recovery efforts.

Image by Francis Ackson Soko

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This section was developed with the generous support of the Swedish Postcode Foundation.