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Plastic-Free Sporting Events

Walk into any gym or field across the country and you’re bound to see the same thing at the end of the game when the participants and fans are leaving the stands and stadiums. Scattered across the playing field will likely be several trash cans overflowing with empty sports drink bottles.

An article in Beverage Industry reported that in 2020 sports drink sales in the U.S. alone were more than $7 billion. When you factor in that the major sports drink brands are sold in more than 80 countries worldwide, that equates to a lot of single-use plastic bottles that have the potential to end up in waterways and oceans.

Problems like this are exactly what the Wyland Foundation is focused on preventing. There are several steps you can take as part of your Volunteer Water Project to help eliminate disposable sports drink bottles at your local little league, middle school, or even high school sporting events. While the nutritional value of sports drinks might make them an important part of athletics, they don’t have to be in single-use plastic bottles to be effective at replenishing electrolytes for athletes.

Reusable water bottles can just as easily be used for sports drinks as they can for water. Many of the leading sports drink brands sell powdered drink mix that is easy to mix with water in a reusable bottle and provides the same health benefits without the single-use plastic bottle. Encourage the athletes on your team to make a commitment to mix their own sports drinks in a reusable water bottle and bring it to the game with them. Explain to them that not only will it help save them money, it will also be infinitely better for our waterways and oceans.

Another option is to bring a large water cooler – like the ones that are famously dumped on the heads of winning coaches – and mix up enough sport drink for everyone on the team. If your family budget won’t allow for this type of financial commitment throughout the entire season, work with other parents on the team and let them know that you’re trying to provide a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option for the athletes on the team, and ask them if they’d be willing to chip in to help pay for the sports drink mix. When you consider that making sports drinks from a mix costs approximately $.02 per ounce while a pre-mixed bottle of sports drink costs about $.23 per ounce, it’s unlikely that many parents won’t be willing to contribute to an effort that helps them stretch their family budget a little further. Even if they aren’t concerned with helping protect the environment.

Getting your team on board with helping to eliminate single-use plastic sports drink bottles is one thing, but no matter how successful you are with that endeavor, there will still be an abundance of bottles from fans and visiting teams. To help lessen the environmental impact of these bottles, take your commitment to the Volunteer Water Project a step further and coordinate with Parks and Recreation departments and schools to have recycle containers placed next to the trash cans at every sporting event and encourage announcers, coaches, and even officials to ask athletes and fans to put their bottles in the recycle bin.

Taking steps such as these not only have an immediate impact by helping to reduce the number of disposable bottles that have the potential to end up in lakes, rivers, and oceans, but it also has the benefit of raising awareness and helping change people’s habits. And that might be the most valuable impact of all.