Sustainability in Croke Park – A team effort
As the first stadium in the world to be accredited to international standards ISO 14001 and ISO 20121 – in Environmental Management and Sustainable Event Management respectively – Croke Park places a commitment to sustainable and environmentally-progressive practices at the heart of its contemporary identity. Under Croke Park’s commitments to these international standards, the stadium sets itself annual targets in waste and energy usage reduction and in 2018 the focus is on cutting the stadium’s production of plastic waste.
Croke Park’s sustainability team – officially known as the Environmental, Sustainability and Safety Management Group (ESSMG) and which is composed of members of the Croke Park’s facilities, events and community teams as well as representatives of the stadium’s catering, maintenance, cleaning and mechanical and electrical contractors – is overseeing in 2018 the drafting of a new Sustainability Strategy for the stadium in order to identify plastic-reduction opportunities and goals and, most importantly, to ensure that these are implemented in a workable and sustainable manner for a real and lasting change in behaviours and mind-sets.
Match-going caffeine lovers in Croke Park for the Leinster Football Semi-Finals on 10 June will find their tea and coffee served in cups in which only vegetable-based plastics are used, allowing these cups to be disposed of in the stadium’s organic waste stream, thus entering into a cycle in which compost produced from stadium organic waste is made available each year to members of the local community for use in local and community gardens. Meanwhile, those conference attendees who visit the stadium on weekdays have their water – both still and sparkling – served in refillable glass bottles. The next step for the stadium is to further reduce the plastic consumed in match-day catering options and the stadium sustainability and catering teams are working together to bring in measures before the end of the 2018 season that will see disposable plastic being phased out in bars and concession units.
The efforts to reduce plastic waste production in the stadium are part of an ongoing broader waste strategy in the Croke Park that has not only seen the stadium maintain a 0% waste to landfill record but also achieve a year-on-year reduction in overall waste production as well as constant improvements in recycling figures. After each match-fixture a member of Croke Park sustainability team visits the facility of the stadium’s waste partner to ensure that the stadium is properly segregating and managing its waste, thus allowing it to be correctly recycled and repurposed and keeping it out of landfill.
While the 2018 focus for the stadium is on plastic reduction, Croke Park management have not lost sight of the stadium’s other sustainability goals. Complementing an existing building management system that controls energy usage in the stadium, new energy monitoring measures have been introduced into the Croke Park in 2018 and a planned upgrade to LED lighting across large areas of the stadium – with the first phase completed in late 2017 – will see further gains in energy efficiency.
With increasing international pressures on the recycling market, this is a challenging time for all those engaged in efforts to minimise humankind’s impact on our lands and seas. Nonetheless, for the Croke Park sustainability team this is also an exciting time; one of opportunity and innovation. On the last Sunday in July, on a weekend when the All-Ireland hurling finalists will be decided, the stadium will be inviting the wider GAA community to join it on its Sustainability Journey as the stadium celebrates its annual Sustainability Day in Croke Park on 29 July.