Tennis is not something that gets mentioned much in the same sentence as environmental issues. Roger Federer has encouraged environmental campaigns in the past, but there are not many players who could be considered eco- warriors (Billie Jean King being the exception). All you need to do is look in your kit bag and around your club and you will notice how being a tennis enthusiast can end up being not the best for the environment. A lot of plastic and single use/ disposable items can be used over the course of a tennis match. It doesn’t have to be that way though. So before you put on a fresh overgrip or throw away a tin a balls after only one use, I recommend that you read 7 ways in which you can be an environmentally conscious tennis player (please think before printing this article).
But first, we should not forget the tournament that has recently finished. Wimbledon has incredible grass playing surfaces and amazing foliage adoring the exterior of Centre Court, but it is not these things that make it a good case study. When I was last at the Championships I used (and ended up keeping) a plastic beer glass and ate from cardboard food packaging. It was pleasing to see that it was possible to enjoy Tennis without everything I touched ending up in a landfill. One of my favourite things about Wimbledon is that they recycle the used balls from the matches themselves! You can purchase them from a kiosk by Centre Court next time you visit.
But what about every time I play tennis? I checked my racket bag and realised that at this stage, it would be impossible for me to go plastic free. Tennis balls, trainers, synthetic tennis shirts and the rackets themselves all need polymers in the modern game. This does not mean we should all stop playing, we just need to be conscious of what we use. There are things each tennis enthusiast can do though and below are a tie break winning 7 ways for you to be environmentally conscious when you enjoy tennis.
- Environmentally friendly tennis balls – the most innovative, but perhaps least known option to reduce the use of plastic are these balls. The Royal Parks Foundation have collaborated with Will to Win and Second Serve to produce “Your Friendly Green Tennis Ball” which is guarantee to have lifetime bounce! This is a great way to stop your cupboard filling up with balls that you’ll never use because they have gone flat. Every pack you purchase includes a donation to the Royal Parks Foundation. Incidentally, the Royal Parks were founded by an avid tennis player – can you guess who? Answers on a postcard.
- Pressure less balls – there are a number of different types of training Tennis balls that are pressure less. This means that they last much longer. The balls do play harder than normal tennis balls and it is not recommended to play with them multiple times per week, but using these balls instead of a new tin each week will save balls ending up in the bin.
- Recycling tennis balls charity (or dog lovers delight). When you have a tin of balls that are past their best, you don’t have to throw them away. Recycaball is a organisation that recycles tennis balls and use them for training working dogs or give them to your dog walking friend. Giving Tennis balls a second life after the Tennis court is great way to make sure they don’t go to waste and delays the balls ending up in a landfill. It also reduces the need for
- Choosing brands that have signed up environmentally friendly initiatives. Head have partnered with Cool Earth and “supercharged” it’s carbon responsibility by committing to saving over 7000 acres per year of mature rainforest from destruction. Wilson also have a good record tackling green issues, with packaging for strings and grips being made out of recyclable material and K factor rackets requiring less chemicals than other models. Supporting companies that act in this way will encourage others to follow suit.
- Buying natural rather than synthetic – Using a natural gut string bed on a wooden racket with a leather grip is probably the most environmental racket set up but it may not be achievable for the modern pro (or amateur). However the string set up you choose and the grip you use could be environmentally friendly options. Federer even uses leather for his vibration dampener in between his strings at the throat of his racket. There are also great merino wool and coconut based options for sports socks and underwear so it is possible to wear natural fibres as well. Icebreaker do activewear that would not look out of place on court. Wilson do a leather grip that feels great. It may cost slightly more, but it will probably last longer, which is the next point.
- Buying kit that lasts means that over time you are going to put fewer t-shirts and shorts in the bin. It is great to look like the pros and wear the outfit they are wearing for each tournament. But it should mean that you throw away at a similar rate (we could all recycle). I have an Adidas Tennis shirt from the range Marit Safin once wore at Wimbledon (if you have not seen him play you have to watch his semi-final against Federer at the Australian open). Having this shirt has meant that over the years I haven’t had to buy, use and then recycle training shirts so fewer shirts have ended up in landfill. It still looks reputable so I am sticking with it – my hope is that the style with make a retro comeback (but I’m not convinced).
- Repair rather than replace – There are so many ways to maintain and repair your tennis kit, before throwing away anything, you should at least have a go (you never know it may end up saving you money!) Sugru have a good instructional posts here. Following this guidance and taking an innovate approach can keep your set of kit from needing to be replaced. Stitching up a hole in your pocket will become no problem, using sugru to repair your clay court shoes will feel like a doddle and putting in a new grommet for your racket will make it seem like new. My favourite repair so far has been to resole my hard court shoes. The ASICS are the best shoe I have ever worn and after putting them through their paces for two years they began to show some signs of wear and tear. Using a little sugru I was able to reset the sole and fill in a gap of foam and now they look back to normal (almost).
These examples show how easy it is to be environmentally conscious without totally changing your habits. Tennis is a fantastic way to enjoy the summer and there is no reason why it can’t be done in an environmentally conscious way.
Bonus – Check our how you can use sugru and tennis balls as trainer hooks – post.
This post was inspired by Lizzie Outside who combines her environmental campaigning with Paddleboarding in order to keep Britain’s Waterways clean.