The Essex village cricket club going in to bat against climate crisis
With 2020 the joint hottest year on record, extreme weather events stoking up and a plethora of bad new stories in he past few weeks – the Greenland ice sheet on the edge of a major tipping point, threats to global food production and a drastic drop in Arctic wildlife population – the climatic situation is grim. It’s a wet dog and humanity is following-on, against Darren Stevens.
Last week, the BBC ran a project called Sport 2050. The idea was to raise awareness of how the climate crisis is projected to change sport in the next three decades. Its brief was wide, ranging from the existential threat to winter sports to footballer Eric Dier’s vegetable garden. Cricket had a high profile, because of its unique exposure to the swiftly shifting weather.
The website ran an imagined report from a Test forced under an Australian bio-dome to escape intense heat and air pollution – not such a wild concept when you consider that a Big Bash game between Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers was called off in December 2019 as thick bushfire smoke covered the Manuka Oval, or the life-threatening nature of Australia’s recent heatwaves. It also ran a real-life interview with Joe Root, who ended up in hospital during the Sydney Test of 2018, when a heat-stress tracker in the middle of the SCG, which shows how the temperature “feels”, read a terrifying 57C.
“Something needs to be done,” said Root. “It is scary to think that the game as it is right now might not be the case in even 30 years’ time. Hopefully there are things that can be done. I’m sure we’ll have to evolve and develop as a sport and players.”
Evolving is one thing, trying to urgently reduce carbon emissions something quite else. With the ICC finding the concept so difficult that they inch along at demi-tortoise pace, pausing to turn up the air-conditioning in their Dubai offices, individual cricket clubs are taking matters into their own hands.
Eight Ash Green CC is a rural village club in Essex that sits prettily on the outskirts of Colchester. Established in 1948, it punches far above its weight: in a village of around 1,000 people, it attracts everyone from window cleaners to classical civilisation teachers, running three senior men’s teams, a women’s team and eight youth teams running all the way from slap and tickle Kwik cricket to U-15s.
It was a combination of the lively youth membership and the loveliness of their surroundings that encouraged the club to start on their green journey. In 2013, they decided to start measuring their carbon footprint in conjunction with partner Neutral Territory, who devised a template to help them record their impact. They then started to offset their carbon through a scheme with the World Land Trust. They aren’t a rich club, the entire place is run by volunteers, but the members got behind the idea of positive change and found the money to fund between £100 and £150 in offsetting each year.
But this summer they want to go a step further with their Carbon Centurions Project. On 2 July, they and Neutral Territory are holding a match to launch the scheme, which hopes to recruit 100 (or more) clubs worldwide to join them in measuring and working to actively reduce their carbon footprint using the template provided by Neutral Territory.
“It makes it super simple,” says club member Sam Collins, “and if we can provide a tool to help other people, good. Using the form changes the way you think: because you measure it, you’re aware of it, it is a real education.”
At the same time, the club will open their new regional kit collection hub for the Lord’s Taverners, a project that gathers unused cricket equipment and distributes it to developing countries.
The club have made changes with each passing season. They got rid of plastic bottles from the bar, recycle every can and bottle, retired an old fridge and a diesel roller and provide jugs of drink for teams. They replaced all their lights with LED equivalents and moved their electricity to the green supplier Ecotricity, something that reduced their carbon footprint by a third in one easy switch.
Even before Covid they were encouraging car sharing and they’ve been holding meetings virtually long before the rest of the world clocked on in 2020.
Sam’s 17-year-old daughter, Anna, has taken over as the club’s new carbon championand is already proving the irritant she is supposed to be, pointing out the things the club isn’t measuring, such as the impact of food, its packaging and how much you consume in a cricket tea.
“We play on an ancient heath,” says Collins Sr, “where a little chunk has been turned into a cricket pitch. We keep it really rugged and wild around the edge. Part of the heath is ancient woodland and the club turn up en masse to help the Woodland Trust with coppicing.
“It is really picturesque and we want to protect is as much as we can, we plant trees and celebrate the vertebrates and the invertebrates.”
“Don’t forget the butterflies,” says Anna, “Dad is obsessed with the butterflies.” “Well, you should see the Purple Hairstreak fly across the pitch, they love our oak trees.”
The wettest May on record, that laid ruined the last two rounds of the County Championship, follows in the wellies of the UK’s frostiest Apriland 2020’s sunniest spring and driest May since records began.
“We’ve had our last seven games cancelled due to bad weather,” says Sam , “and it has all been impacted by what we are doing to the environment, Our sport is adversely affected now – this is what is going to happen.”