Friday, 14 September 2007

Green football

I've never really associated football with humanity's drive to save the planet. And I'm sure I would be excused for never even connecting the two. In fact, if there's ever a fraternity that is working hardest to increase the size of the gaping hole in the Ozone layer, I'd guess it would be the football set. The power consumption on match days, the floodlight wattage, the noise pollution (except at the Arsenal library), the size of the water bill (both watering the pitch and filling the post match bath). And then the players with their fuel guzzling sports cars and the WAGs with their 4x4s. And not to mention all those air miles. Oblivion here we come.

But down at Dartford FC, carbon footprints are a serious matter.

Ten years ago if someone had told me they'd gone green, I'd tell them to lie down, don't make any sudden movements and I'd call a doctor. Nowadays, you're considered a miscreant if you don't recycle. All of sudden, out of nowhere, green is the nation's favourite colour.

In our house, we recycle like there's no tomorrow. We have a box for newspapers, a bag for clothes. We take trips to the bottle bank to deposit plastic, we take trips to post glass. Cans in one bag, shoes in another. And we compost. Endless sojourns to the foot of the garden, armed with vegetable peelings, fruit trimmings, tea bags and egg shells. Grass, leaves, shredded paper. Toilet roll tubes. And we save electricity. We've installed energy saving light bulbs and have turned the thermostat down by a couple of degrees.

It's great in our house, as long as you don't might the dark and the cold. Our little bit to protect the polar ice caps.

And down at Princes Park, Dartford are doing their own little bit. Except their little bit is a pretty big bit. And impressive too. The football ground is the UK's first sustainable stadium; it is built from renewable timber and has a grass roof. The stadium is sunk two metres below ground level to reduce noise and light pollution. An average football pitch needs 20,000 litres of water a day but Dartford have two lakes to feed the pitch; solar panels generate sufficient energy to power the facilities. Funded by Dartford Borough Council, it is acclaimed to be one of the finest non-league stadiums around.

And on the eve of my trip to Kent it is this aspect I find most intriguing. Has it really got a grass roof? Wow, certainly a first for me.

Oh, and I'm going down with two good friends tomorrow and we'll be travelling in the same car. Our own extra little bit to minimise Ozone depletion. But what they don't know is that I need to drop some plastic bottle tops off at the Recycling Centre on the way...

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