Yesterday I flew back from Lausanne where I had the opportunity to address all the Olympic disciplines on ‘Leading the way towards a Sustainable Agenda’ at the International Federation (IF) Forum. I gave an overview on what Land Rover BAR, our British America’s Cup team, have achieved over the past four years and it was great to see the International Olympic Committee dedicate a conference to everything that encompasses sustainability.
Sports teams represent key role models in society, we are in a privileged position and we have seen how the power of sport can effect social change in the past. Mandela realised the transformative and unifying power of sports, and used that power to make changes that protests and diplomacy could not and I truly believe sport is now powerful enough to have the same positive impact on environmental issues, to be able to truly influence behavioural change around effecting positive environmental change.
There’s always a quiet period after any campaign and major sporting event, but it offers us a good opportunity to debrief and look into our processes and practices ahead of things ramping up for the next cycle. We are expecting the 36th America’s Cup will take place in Auckland early 2021, Emirates Team New Zealand, the 35th America’s Cup winners, have released an initial Protocol and we will receive more news within the next few months.
We have been based back in the UK for four months now and one of the biggest sustainability projects for us at the moment is looking into reusing or recycling our products for the next campaign and working to ensure for our future boats, the end life is designed in at the beginning.
A key part of our sustainability policy is to leave minimal impact wherever we go and in Bermuda we ensured that any materials used in the base build had an end of life plan. Our Sustainability Manager, Amy Munro, alongside our exclusive sustainability partner, 11th Hour Racing worked hard to find ways to reduce, reuse or recycle all our materials within the local community and charities and leave that lasting legacy we set out to achieve.
The water is our pitch and we continue to want to protect that, you can’t fail to notice the issues with plastic in our oceans has become more high profile within the past few months. One of the new additions to our base was to install the UK’s first Seabin on the team’s pontoon. The Seabin is an innovative automated rubbish collection unit and it sits alongside the oysters housed in protected cages on our dock. Each bin has the capability to collect the equivalent of 83,000 plastic shopping bags - or 20,000 plastic bottles per year (1/2 ton) from its surrounding ocean. At the moment, we’ve been emptying the bin around four times a day, we’ve had everything in there from a toothbrush to a packet of potatoes, but mainly lots of plastic bottles and seaweed coated in polystyrene. The UN estimated this year there were 51 tons of microplastic particles in the ocean today – 500 times more than the number of stars in the galaxy and we are seeing real evidence of this in our bin.
We understand that this is not the solution to the 8 million tonnes of marine debris entering the oceans each year, the ultimate goal of Seabin founders, Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, is to live in a world without the need for Seabins. We have to ‘turn off the tap’ and stop the rubbish from getting there in the first place and to do this we need to rethink how we use resources, move towards a more circular economy, and reduce and manage our waste more efficiently.
We are enjoying watching Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, which has started up again. David is a true British icon and the BBC’s footage is incredible. The oceans are changing faster than ever before and never has it been more important to reach out to the nation to highlight this. To support this, through the 1851 Trust, we are introducing a number of lessons within our BT STEM Crew education programme, including ‘Ocean Plastics’, ‘Marine Invasive Species and Biodiversity’, ‘Carbon cycle and ocean acidification’ and ‘Data Analysis and Solar Panels’. BT STEM Crew is aimed at young people aged 11-14, this is the generation who will really make a difference, we have 560 schools registered online and 81 schools have visited the Tech Deck.
Bringing people together and continuing to educate them is key to change. Last week, with the team’s exclusive sustainability partner 11th Hour Racing, we were able to join Wendy Schmidt in San Francisco for the 11th Hour Project annual conference, which brings together many of the organization’s grantees and partners. This was an incredibly eye-opening event for our team, that highlighted the fantastic on-going work around the world, not only through platforms of sport, but also through the arts, science, innovation - through empowering and upskilling young women in the Dominican Republic, to “rights to energy” campaigns across the USA, to protecting Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It’s really positive to see so much focus on sustainability, especially within sport. The power will be the sport, the fans and our partners all coming together to make this “leap of faith” and reduce the impact we all have on our world.