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May 30, 2019

How Cricket Is Becoming Sustainable: Sanjeev Churiwala

Text by Snehal Pradhan. Illustration by Kashmira Sarode

Cricket — perhaps the ground sport most affected by weather conditions and consequently climate change — is in danger of muddying its legacy thanks to a showy capitalistic 21st-century avatar, which poses a threat to the same environmental stability it counts on. In the last of a four part series Verve speaks with Sanjeev Churiwala who is championing sustainable practices to ensure that, moving forward, spectators can expect a clean game

SANJEEV CHURIWALA
Chairman, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)

Before this, he had been with Ambuja Cements (a LafargeHolcim group company) for about 20 years in roles that spanned business development, project management, commercial operations, and financial integration. Sanjeev Churiwala’s current job profile allows him to mix business with his passion for sports, and he has used every opportunity to create a shift in the culture. The focus of RCB now also includes looking at things like environmental impacts and joint leadership, to ultimately create a trusted sports and lifestyle brand for the fans.

How did the environment-friendly measures of RCB take off?
The Go Green initiative has a strong Bengaluru connection. The city has been synonymous with diverse flora since time immemorial. There are many eco-warriors and activists bringing to our notice the changing weather and the loss of green cover in Bengaluru, and we at RCB thought that if we scaled up the message, it could reach almost everybody. The Green game is played by the team members once every season, and for this match they wear green jerseys (now made from recycled plastic) to push for a cleaner, greener future for the city.

You say RCB is carbon-positive. Can you tell us some of the milestones along the way?
We started these initiatives way back in 2010, beginning with carpooling solutions for fans travelling to the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru for the games. We also collaborated with the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) for additional buses to and from the stadium. In 2011, we achieved carbon neutrality, with over 3,000 schoolchildren and 6,000 RCB fans across Karnataka adopting saplings. We also took the message on to the field, with the first Green game. In 2012, we officially declared carbon neutrality and became the first cricket team in the world to become carbon neutral through initiatives that the fans participated in, not the purchase of carbon credits. In 2013, we became world’s first carbon-positive team, thanks to renewable wind power sourced during home matches. Then in 2015, the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) commissioned a 400 kilowatt solar plant to power the entire Chinnaswamy stadium, with solar panels on the roof. 2016 onwards, we started the Waste-to-Recycled-Kits programme. Special collection bins were set up in different parts of the stadium to facilitate the binning of plastic bottles, which were treated and transformed into the RCB green jerseys in 2017.

How have you made the fan experience in stadiums more eco-friendly?
We have installed bins in the stadium for the segregation of waste, which is then sent for recycling and composting. On the day of the Green match, volunteers from an NGO along with RCB management organise activities to educate fans on the necessary processes for proper waste segregation. Recycling one tonne of waste bottles results in the reduction of energy use by 85 per cent, water consumption by 90 per cent and carbon emissions by 65 per cent. Polyester fabric has 50 per cent fewer carbon footprints than any other material. Energy and water consumption savings of around 77 per cent and 86 per cent were achieved by producing one kilogram of recycled filament yarn from the bottle waste, as compared to normal yarn from virgin polyester.

Read part three with Tanya Aldred here.

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