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On a national, European and global level, more and more attention is being paid to sustainable entrepreneurship. In July, Europe will kick things up a notch and a new law will come into force: A ban on disposable plastic. FC Groningen stadium, which has been working on an intensive sustainability approach for years already, has been preparing itself for the new regulations over the past few years. “We use sustainable cardboard cups and our beer glasses are biodegradable,” says Edwin Froma, marketing manager at FC Groningen.

FC Groningen: It is the greenest football club in the Netherlands. Since 2012, the club has embarked on various sustainability projects in collaboration with Energy Valley. The stadium roof, for example, has not been spared and is now covered with solar panels. Even the catering had to be changed. From 3 July onwards, it is no longer permitted to sell disposable plastic articles in stadiums. No more plastic cutlery, straws or plates. And the green club from Groningen is also ready for that: “We have sustainable cardboard cups and our beer glasses are biodegradable,” says Froma. “The stirrers and straws have been replaced as well.

Cardboard straws, stirrers, cups and cutlery

Jepko van Roon, FC Groningen’s catering manager, also says he is ready for the transition and is pleased that steps are being taken towards sustainable catering. “As a club, you do have to set an example. We are very happy to do our bit.” Next year, our catering will face the challenge of testing various sustainable alternatives. “We have been at a standstill as a club for over a year now and have had almost no supporters as guests. It remains to be seen in August how the sustainable alternatives will be received.” Van Roon can imagine that not everyone is enthusiastic about the cardboard straws. “Fortunately, there are more and more sustainable products on the market, like straws, plates, cups and cutlery. So we have more and more choice.”

“Climate preservation is for a great deal in your own hands and can be done by adapting your own behaviour.”

Good housekeeping

More is being done in addition to these measures. ‘Good housekeeping’ is also being looked at in the stadium and training complexes, and according to Froma it is at least as important as the measures mentioned above. “Climate preservation is for a great deal in your own hands and can be done by adapting your own behaviour.” For one thing, we encourage people to keep the windows closed as much as possible. We also make sure that the heating is not on all the time. Sometimes I hear colleagues say that it is a bit chilly in the building”, Froma jokes. “But by doing that, we ensure that we are making great strides as far as saving energy is concerned.”

The club has also joined forces with the Province of Groningen, Energy Valley Top Club, Rabobank, and Huis voor de Sport Groningen with the ‘Energieke Club‘ project to provide support to Groningen sports clubs to reduce their energy consumption and making it more sustainable. Among other things, the clubs receive a free energy scan and advice on how to save energy.

Making stadiums more sustainable is not always straightforward

At first glance, it may seem as if stadiums are the ideal place to go green. The enormous areas of roofs appear to be suitable for solar panels. Yet greening stadiums is sometimes quite difficult. Froma explains why. “If an entirely new stadium is built, you can take sustainability plans into account. But it is a huge job to do it after the fact, when the construction has long been completed. We also noticed this at FC Groningen. Our roof construction was initially not made to easily accommodate a lot of panels. The realisation of good wifi systems is just as difficult. It’s quite a chore to install wifi in a large block of concrete that has already been built. Especially since this can be factored in the construction of new stadiums this With older venues, it’s a real chore.”

But once the panels are in place, the benefits are manifold. Not just for the club itself, but for the entire region. “A lot of panels can often be put on the roof and not many people will be bothered by them. Energy can then be generated which the whole district can use.”

Involve local residents in the greening process

The greening of the stadium is heading in the right direction. The task now is to get residents in the province enthusiastic about the new projects. Schools have not been left out of the loop. Froma: “We invite children to visit our green stadium and tell them what we are working on. They are also given assignments to take home with them that test their knowledge of sustainability.”

Healthy mindset as the basis for change

Besides sustainability, the club is also committed to another equally important goal: Exercise. According to Froma, a healthy mindset is important to bring about change in the region, also where greening is concerned. “We want to make sure that as a football club, we are an inspiration to everyone in the province when it comes to physical exercise,” says Froma. That is sorely needed, because a lack of exercise is very much apparent in Groningen and the surrounding area. “Groningen scores lower than the national average. And that while physical and mental health are the minimum requirements for growth in the region.”

In concrete terms, the club is committed to more sports lessons at schools in the coming years. “Gym lessons are free and with the help of the Province of Groningen, we have been able to expand them to four to six classes per school. We started out with the younger generation. If sport is in your veins from an early age, that can only be a good thing. Fostering that will be a big challenge for us over the coming period.”


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