Croke Park Stadium produced 700 tonnes of waste last year, that’s the equivalent of more than 100 adult elephants. and not one peanut sized amount of all that waste went to landfill.
Zero per cent has been the target since the stadium set off on an ambitious sustainability path in 2008. It began with the small step of buying a cardboard baking machine and now it has reached a point where the GAA’s headquarters is leading the world in terms of an environment friendly world class stadium.
Over 100,000 will visit the stadium this weekend for the two remaining Football Championship Quarter finals and the All Ireland Hurling Semi Final between Kilkenny and Waterford.
On Sunday they will be met by a ‘Green Team’ driving home the message of putting the right rubbish in the right bins to win prizes and see themselves on the big screens.
“Kids are our best advocates for recycling,” said Martha Smithers, Systems Integration Manager at the Stadium and who has overseen preparations for the weekend.
“We see them tugging at parents to point out the right bins and even following adults who have dropped litter to ask them to go back and pick it up.”
“They have an inherent sense of how we need to behave because they have grown up in an atmosphere where recycling is the norm. That is spreading up the generation chain as well and everyone who has been to Croke Park over the past 12 months has played their part in getting us to the point of zero waste.”
There has been a Green Champions competition running on the Croke Park Stadium Facebook page throughout the week inviting us to upload pictures of how we are making our clubs and counties greener.
The winner will be announced later today and presented with a county kit on the pitch on Sunday to go along with the two premium level tickets they will win.
Sustainability though is about more than just putting the right rubbish in the right bin.
“We were the first stadium in Ireland and the UK to secure the International Standards ISO 14001 and ISO 20121 in 2012” said Tracy Bunyan, Deputy Head of Stadium Operations.
“It’s a key part of the culture in the Stadium and in our relationship with the local community.”
“Every member of staff from Paraic Duffy all the way through to every steward on match day is aware of what we mean when we talk sustainability and that filters through to players, fans and every one of the 1.5 million people that come through our doors over the course of a year.”
In May 2015, Croke Park’s Environmental and Sustainability Management Group were the proud winners of the Sustainability Team of the Year award at Ireland’s Green Awards. This recognition is testament to their dedication to ensuring that Croke Park Stadium continues to become even greener, on and off the pitch.
“It’s a continuous development initiative as well,” added Bunyan.
“We have an incredible natural grass playing surface, among the best in the world.”
“In 2013, an long cold weather spell led to increased gas usage in the stadium to promote grass growth and repair of the pitch.”
“We saw this and looked at what could be done to counter the impact so last year a bespoke control measure was installed which added pitch ventilation, drainage and heating systems to the stadium’s Building Management System.”
“The new pitch BMS allows the pitch team remote access which allows them monitor all aspects of the system at all times.”
“The system previously worked to outside temperatures which could remain low even when the soil had already reached optimum temperature from the undersoil heating. Therefore gas was being wasted as the soil was continuing to be heated.”
“The new system is set up to pitch soil temperatures from a thermostat in the pitch and with the new BMS system installed, soil temperature levels remained consistent and controlled throughout 2014.”
“This led to lower gas usage on the system and in turn has improved pitch quality throughout the winter months.”
That’s the kind of win-win result that makes sustainability programmes more than just a nod to the environment and a key part of how big businesses are running their operations. In terms of a facility it doesn’t get any bigger in sport than Croke Park and it is good to see that the showpiece stadium is playing a showcase role in educating us all about the big differences that can come from small changes in behaviour.
Now back to clearing those elephants off the pitch before the throw-in…
The GAA and Croke Park Stadium are among more than 120 organisations that are full members of our Sport for Business network of leaders. Find out how we can help your organisation build business through sport