How to make your sports and social club sustainable

Sustainable means to continue indefinitely. 

Clubs must become sustainable in order to survive, maintaining their long-standing reputation as a valuable community asset. Put simply, clubs must continue to offer services at a competitive price point so members renew their fees and visitors stay loyal to the club.

From an environmental viewpoint, clubs must also consider sustainability. In this context, becoming sustainable means finding renewable ways to generate energy.

In this article, we’re talking about sustainability with an eco-friendly focus. But you’ll often notice the two things go hand in hand. Putting environmentally friendly measures in place can reduce a club’s energy bills by around 20%, thus ensuring clubs don’t have to pass increasing costs onto customers. Make sure your club remains financially stable by implementing sustainable schemes…

Know relevant legislation

Get started on your sustainability journey by familiarising yourself with environmental legislation and regulations. If your club is not compliant you could face penalties such as fines.

Next, write a list of simple ways your club could reduce waste or save energy. The first step of any sustainability strategy is finding ways to reduce your energy on a day-to-day basis, and then begin looking into renewable schemes.

Conduct an Energy Efficiency Report

Turn to the experts in the first instance to help you identify areas where your club can improve its sustainability. The report is similar to an EPC assessment, helping to identify ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce your club’s carbon footprint.

The reports will help to ensure your club achieves mandatory compliance, plus achieving industry standards including the Carbon Trust Standard and ISO 50001. The report identifies how much energy is being used, and identifies areas of energy waste.

As a starting point, use this energy calculator to build up an image of how much your club’s spending, which will help you to identify the key areas where you need to reduce your bills. It’ll also help identify if your current tariff is the most suitable for your club’s needs.

The Sustainable Clubs website also gives guidance on how you can carry out your own sustainability audit and what immediate actions you can take to improve environmental sustainability at your club.

Consider eco-friendly alternatives

There are many simple strategies clubs can put in place to reduce its carbon footprint.

Solar panels can greatly reduce your club’s carbon footprint, and can generate around 20% return on investment. They are a low maintenance way to convert sunlight into energy, which can reduce your utility bills by up to 90%. Some solar panel installations can cost tens of thousands of pounds to install, but as a long-term sustainable solution this is a particularly effective initiative.

LED lighting is another easy way to increase energy efficiency. LED lighting lasts much longer than traditional lighting, meaning it’s easier to maintain. The higher lumen output per watt means LED lights turn about 70% of their energy into light, so there’s less energy waste too. They’re durable, reliable and safer than other types of bulbs. The initial cost might be slightly more expensive but, in terms of cost per hour of light, LED is the cheaper option by far.

Avoid single use plastic where possible, instead using paper straws and reusable cups/mugs. Installing bottle refill points at your venue could encourage people to bring their own bottles, rather than buying plastic bottled water each time.

Take advantage of Government Schemes

Businesses that install a Biomass System are able to generate income with the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme. This means clubs can receive quarterly payments dependent on the amount of eligible heat generated.

Some clubs may also be able to claim capital allowances on energy efficiency technology.

Inspire your members

Making environmentally friendly schemes such as recycling an everyday occurrence at your club will inspire your members to get into a routine at home, too.

Where possible, separate your waste so recyclable items are able to be recycled separately from general waste. Have a clearly visible recycling policy and posters reminding staff and members to be mindful of their own recycling habits.  Make it clear what should or should not be placed into each individual bin.

Making a habit of eco-friendly routines will help your staff and members be more likely to recycle at home too.

There are also several schemes such as sports kit recycling schemes that can reduce waste and help others in the process too.

Use your natural surroundings

Many clubs, particularly sports clubs, have access to large areas of nature and fields. Creating wildlife gardens, planting trees and plants on site, and encouraging wildlife in certain areas (such as hedgehog homes or bird boxes) can help encourage biodiversity at your club. Keep these areas far away from sports fields and areas of high activity. You could even encourage younger members of your club (such as a junior football team) or a local school to get involved and take ownership of your green schemes!

Run fundraisers

If environmentally friendly measures are too costly to put in place, consider making fundraising activities a fun way to get your members and wider members of the community involved.

Encourage staff or volunteers to take part in challenges such as sporting / endurance events or hosting bake sales. Your members will enjoy the chance to get involved and make a difference to their local club. Set achievable goals and be transparent in your fundraising efforts. For example, if it costs £10,000 to install suitable solar panels then have a section on your website or post regular social media updates letting your supporters know how much has been raised and what you’re doing to keep up your fundraising momentum.

Don’t be afraid to take on a challenge

There’s no denying it – sustainable schemes and innovations can be costly. And, yes, whilst they might reap the rewards long-term, it can still be difficult to raise the immediate cash to fund the initial outlay.

Create a spreadsheet of fundraising grants and local schemes you can apply for. Ensure the sheet states relevant deadlines and application criteria. To find out more about funding opportunities available, visit:

Why not get a group of volunteers together and divvy up applications? This will ensure you keep momentum up and keep track of any applications.

And most importantly… do what’s right for your club.

Not every club will have the same requirements or feel the need to take on large sustainability projects. Start by identifying small ways your club can improve its energy efficiency, and reduce waste, and build on that.

What steps are you taking to help make your club more sustainable? Get in touch or follow us on Twitter to let us know!