Leisure activities can play an overwhelmingly positive role in communities and on individual well-being. Studies show that participating in outdoor recreation not only boosts physical activity and psychosocial enjoyment, but also enhances sustainable practices and behaviors.
Yet, these leisure activities can also have a devastating impact on the planet, requiring the same activities that lead to climate change—generating electricity and heat, manufacturing new goods, increasing transportation, producing food and cutting down forests.
For example, travel contributes to transport-related emissions, with tourism expected to account for 5.3% of all man-made CO2 emissions by 2030. Industries that allow us to enjoy seemingly fun and healthy activities, such as participating in or watching sporting events, make environmentally-unfriendly equipment and uniforms. They also build massive stadiums that destroy ecosystems, contribute to air and water pollution, and create billions of pounds of waste.
How can we continue participating in these life-affirming leisure activities while ensuring they have the least harmful impact on the planet that sustains our lives? Below, we'll take a look at ways that businesses can help people enjoy their hobbies and free-time activities in a more sustainable way.
How Innovation Drives Environmentally Responsible Leisure
As society becomes increasingly aware of the environmental challenges we face, the push for greener leisure activities is gaining momentum. Innovation plays a crucial role in driving this change by creating new technologies, materials and practices that enable us to enjoy our hobbies and pastimes with minimal impact on the planet.
Here are some of the ways innovation drives environmentally responsible leisure and empowers businesses to contribute to a greener future:
Pioneering Plastic-Free Sporting Events
Sports are uniquely positioned to be both a contributor to and victim of climate change. For example, extreme weather, droughts and rising sea levels all disrupt professional and leisure sports. At the same time, the Rapid Transition Alliance found that global sporting events contribute the same level of emissions as a medium-sized country due to:
- Transportation to and from events
- Construction and use of sporting venues
- Inefficient supply chains for sports equipment
But sports can also play a crucial role in promoting environmental awareness and sustainable development. For example, the Mercedes-Benz Arena, a multi-purpose indoor sports facility in Berlin with one million annual visitors, has tracked and modified its environmental impact since opening in 2008 by:
- Employing innovative energy and water conservation measures
- Mandating recycling and the use of environmentally-friendly products
- Using renewable hydroelectric electricity
- Purchasing regional products and seasonal foods for catering to reduce transport emissions
- Connecting to local and long-distance public transport
- Encouraging carpooling among fans
- Conducting a monthly environmental audit of energy and water consumption and waste sorting
Transforming Aviation for a Greener Future
As the demand for more sustainable travel options grows, airlines have adopted solutions to minimize their environmental impact. For example, many airlines strive to reduce single-use plastics or switch to non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning agents. Customers also have long had the option to participate in carbon offset programs.
Technological innovations have even more potential to reduce airline emissions. For example, more fuel-efficient engines and lighter aircraft materials on the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses up to 25% less fuel.
But the exploration of technology to reduce airlines' reliance on fossil fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions is far more meaningful than paper straws. That's why airlines like KLM and Virgin Atlantic have completed test flights using sustainable aviation fuels derived from sources like used cooking oil and agricultural residues.
Others are harnessing digital technology to optimize flight routes and reduce fuel consumption. For example, NAVBLUE, an Airbus subsidiary, offers "RNP-AR," or Required Navigation Performance with Authorization Required technology, to help airlines design more direct routes, resulting in reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Embracing Sustainable Tourism
Hotels and other lodging options are increasingly adopting green technologies and practices, such as energy-efficient lighting, solar power and water-saving measures. Many hotels also prioritize recycling, reducing single-use plastics and offering guests the chance to engage in local conservation efforts.
For example, The Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina features solar panels, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and a green roof, making it one of the most sustainable hotels in the United States.
Sustainable tourism also encourages using public transportation, ride-sharing, bicycles and electric vehicles (from cars to scooters) instead of traditional rental cars to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion.
Travelers increasingly have dining options that prioritize locally grown, organic ingredients to reduce the carbon footprint associated with food transportation while supporting local economies.
Smartphone apps and online platforms can help travelers find eco-friendly accommodations, transportation options and activities, making it easier for tourists to plan and participate in sustainable leisure experiences.
Tech Innovations in Sustainable Gardening
Not all leisure activities require leaving home. A seemingly benign activity, gardening can actually harm the environment through excessive water usage, the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, the introduction of invasive species, the use of fossil fuel-powered equipment and the destruction of natural habitats.
But there are technological innovations that make gardening more sustainable, including smart irrigation systems, organic fertilizers, automated home composting and mobile apps that help gardeners find information on sustainable practices, native species and other environmentally friendly gardening techniques.
The fitness industry has also taken steps to become more environmentally responsible by using innovative solutions, energy-efficient gym equipment and sustainably built materials.
Some gyms are utilizing energy-efficient LED lighting, solar power and smart thermostats to decrease energy use further. For example, in 2017, Planet Fitness introduced the first net-zero gym in St. Petersburg, Florida. And companies like SportsArt are producing eco-friendly fitness equipment that harnesses the energy generated during workouts and converts it into electricity to offset a facility's carbon footprint.
The fitness industry is also increasingly using sustainable materials to construct fitness facilities and workout gear. Some fitness centers are using recycled rubber flooring or other eco-friendly building materials, while clothing companies like Patagonia and Adidas are developing activewear made from recycled materials to reduce water consumption, the use of chemicals and microplastic pollution.
By adopting innovative technologies like fitness apps and online platforms, people can increasingly gain access to workouts and fitness classes from home, reducing the need for transportation to and from gyms and lessening emissions.
Embracing Innovation for a Greener Future in Leisure Activities
Innovation is playing a pivotal role in promoting environmentally responsible leisure across various industries, including sports, aviation, tourism, gardening and fitness. Environmentally responsible leisure uses new technologies, materials and practices to enable us to enjoy our hobbies and pastimes with minimal impact on the planet.
By raising awareness and encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices, we can continue to foster a greener future in which leisure activities can contribute to our well-being and that of the planet.
If you're looking to integrate innovative technology solutions and sustainable practices into your leisure business, Endava can help. With expertise in digital transformation, software engineering and agile consulting, we can assist you in becoming a leader in environmentally responsible leisure. To learn more, connect with us today.
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