The AELTC is working toward ambitious sustainability targets for the Wimbledon Championships, with the most visible progress at this year’s event being the players drinking from reusable bottles. Sustainability manager Hattie Park tells Access about the key steps being taken.
Numerous measures were implemented behind the scenes to reduce the environmental impact of the Wimbledon Championships this year but the most apparent was the move to provide players with re-usable water bottles for their on-court refreshment.
Footage of players drinking from single-use plastic Evian bottles has been synonymous with the Wimbledon Championships since the deal was struck in 2008. The Danone-owned brand’s business is centred on selling single-use plastic bottles and so to see them being replaced in front of an audience of 25 million BBC TV viewers was a significant step.
“It was something very visible and hugely symbolic,” says Wimbledon Championships sustainability manager Hattie Park. “While the Evian bottles the players were previously using were produced using recycled plastic and were recycled, it didn’t fit the brief in terms of what we want to try and achieve, which is a move away from single-use and to promote re-use.
“I think it’s a great example of partnership in action in that we and Evian really worked hard to deliver it for this year. It was driven by our commercial team, our operational team, the Danone team, and the players were really happy to get involved. It was about enabling the players to be role models for a re-use culture.”
For years water bottle refill points have been available for the 100 or so players and 40,000 guests on site during the Championships, and the move to get hugely influential tennis stars to drink from reusable bottles was very much in line with the All England Club’s stated aim of ‘using influence to inspire wider action’.
Among its other aims is reducing emissions from Wimbledon Championships operations to net zero, and contributing to a net gain in biodiversity, by 2030. Measures already taken include the use of renewable electricity to power operations, the installation of LED lights, the use of 20 electric iPace vehicles, electric buggies for the transportation of guests, installation of solar panels, a move away from generators to grid power, low carbon options being highlighted on menus, and the promotion of plant-based dishes.
“It was about enabling the players to be role models for a re-use culture.”
Park says that while the 2030 net zero target relates to Wimbledon’s operational activity, the AELTC has a goal to be net zero across every aspect of the event by 2040 as part of its participation in the Sports for Climate Action framework.
“The 2030 goal is still a real challenge for us, essentially that is about decarbonising our estate,” she says. “It is really important we illustrate that we are doing as much as we can to get our own house in order, so we’re credible when we’re talking to the player community and guests about sustainability.
“The decarbonisation of the Wimbledon estate is happening behind the scenes, so we need to give the site an obvious environmentally friendly feel to encourage guests to take positive steps themselves. We are lucky that Wimbledon has a ‘tennis in an English garden feel’, through which we can hopefully enable people to feel a close connection to nature. With that in mind, and to encourage biodiversity, we have the living wall on the side of No. 1 Court and a wildflower planting program.”
She says that one of the ongoing priorities within the AELTC’s sustainability mission is to eliminate the use of gas in its operations: “To take out the gas from cooking, heating and hot water involves a major investment. When we put the roof on No. 1 Court we upgraded the kitchens and the suites and took out the gas, next on the hit list is Centre Court.
“As part of our plans for Wimbledon Park across the road, we’ve put in a planning application for ground source heat pumps over there, so that will enable us to reduce and then ultimately eliminate dependency on gas,” says Park.
This year’s Championship also saw AELTC put a mains electricity connection in Wimbledon Park so that many of the temporary structures were powered by its renewable electricity supplier. Where generators were used, they were powered by HVO biofuel.
Another key step ahead of this year’s event was calculating the carbon weighting of all dishes available on menus. As a result, guests were presented with a choice of dishes that were labelled with high, medium, or low carbon weightings.
Park says the aim of the exercise was not only to provide visitors with the details to help them make more informed choices but to enable the AELTC to get a clear picture of the level of emissions resulting from the entire food and drink offering at Wimbledon.
The site is well serviced by public transport, and 80% of Wimbledon guests arrive using it, but the AELTC is making a concerted effort via pre-event comms to encourage more people to use it or to cycle to the Championships. An additional bicycle parking area was set up this year, bringing the total to three.
“There were more bicycles in the bicycle parking areas this year,” says Park. “We had pop-up bike service guys, and that worked really well. We are looking at how we can make the bicycle parking more visible and appealing to encourage more people to come to the event using their own two legs or two wheels.”
Park says that the aspect of her role that excites her most is the opportunity to engage with players and the wider sporting community to help influence more sustainable behaviour: “There is a lot of challenging work to be done but there is a very strong feeling here that it is important to use the influence of a sports organisation and an event like Wimbledon to encourage change.
“People are not going to follow what the sustainability manager at Wimbledon does, but they might follow what their favourite player does.”