Tuesday 26 February 2013

Carbon-neutral Villa reign in sustainability stakes

Aston Villa develop system to re-use water that falls on Holte End, grow crops and go carbon-neutral

The Holte End at Villa Park in drier times

A soaking wet day is no rare occasion for the people for Birmingham, but that’s just as well for diners in Aston Villa’s Restaurant VMF, where much of the homegrown produce arrives as a direct result of the heavens opening.

"Next time you're watching your heroes on the pitch and it rains, look up and remember where it's going"
Alison Plant

When rain falls on Villa Park’s Holte End roof, it is collected in giant containers and transported to the club's nearby allotment, where it is used to help grow fruit, vegetables and herbs that are served in Villa’s top-class eatery, Restaurant VMF.

"I am sure supporters will be surprised by this but it just goes to show how sustainable we are,” Alison Plant, head of hospitality and events, told the club’s website. "Next time you're watching your heroes on the pitch and it starts to rain, look up and remember where it's going.”

The water sustainability plan came about as a result of a link-up between Aston Villa and St George's Community Hub – a Nechells-based charity which straddles the voluntary, statutory and faith sectors. The aim of the link was to develop an allotment project which would give disadvantaged youngsters in the area purpose as well as service the club's healthy-eating project Villa Vitality and the club's restaurant VMF.

The scheme, which has become known as 'Eco-no-me' and which has proven to be a huge success, also produces honey from four hives on site at the allotment for Restaurant VMF. Unfiltered honey, which contains pollen, is believed to desensitise people to hay fever and asthma.

Restaurant VMF – and other eateries at the ground – also use local suppliers wherever possible, with up to 85% of the produce used coming from the counties surrounding the West Midlands, including farms in Bloxwich, Wythall, Tamworth and Earlswood as well as numerous other local businesses and producers.

Villa Park goes carbon-neutral

Villa’s dedication to sustainability is further reflected by the fact that Villa Park has now officially become a carbon-neutral stadium. Working in partnership with Clearway Sustainability Resources, the club have identified their carbon emissions and offset them completely with carbon credits purchased from renewable energy projects around the world.

As a result, Villa has achieved full carbon neutrality – an achievement recognised by the award of Clearway's Carbon Neutral Certification.

"We take issues around environmental sustainability and our responsibilities very seriously"
Paul Faulkner

"We take issues around environmental sustainability and our responsibilities very seriously," says Aston Villa's chief executive Paul Faulkner. "Over the years we have engaged in a number of activities to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect the environment around us.

"We are delighted to partner with Clearway and for our iconic home, Villa Park, to become a carbon neutral stadium."

“It's a privilege to be working with Aston Villa and to help them achieve their low carbon objectives," added Matthew Sullivan, Clearway's chief executive. "Our unique systems delivered the sourcing, management, settlement and retirement infrastructure that enabled Villa Park to use global carbon funding mechanisms to demonstrate their clear commitment to the environment."

Villa operate a comprehensive waste-management programme, in which they recycle 70 per cent of all waste, engage in responsible printing, with 98 per cent of printed materials produced by a member of the Forest Stewardship Council and their electricity consumption has been decreasing for the past nine years, with heating, lighting and electrical equipment remotely controlled.

The club has also developed a structured travel plan, aimed at significantly reducing the number of cars visiting Villa Park, while water-saving taps have meant water consumption has fallen over the past three years.

Little wonder the club have cleaned up in several award ceremonies over the past 12 months, scooping the bronze prize at the Green Apple Organisation awards ceremony at the House of Commons, six top gongs at the 'Stadium Experience', and the gold standard for chef team of the year, green sustainability and matchday hospitality in the Premier League.

It seems when it comes to sustainability Aston Villa are reigning supreme.

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Key Points

  • Aston Villa develop plan to retain rainwater and use it for growing food
  • Villa Park becomes carbon-neutral stadium
  • Club wins host of awards for sustainability programmes