Liverpool Climate Change GFXLiverpool FC/GOAL

Rainwater, allotments and recycling: How Liverpool aim to become the Premier League's greenest club

The weather could hardly be better, barely a cloud in the sky as the sun beats down.

“Are you sure this is Liverpool?!” smiles Dirk Kuyt, dressed in a red club tracksuit and clutching a red LFC-branded bottle.

We are at Anfield Sports and Community Centre, less than a mile from the stadium which Kuyt graced for six years between 2006 and 2012.

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“Lots of memories,” he says, reflecting briefly on his 286 appearances and 71 goals for Liverpool. “Most of them good!”

Kuyt is here as part of a prize-giving ceremony, where children from 19 local schools, as well as the LFC Foundation’s Easter sports camps, have been taking part in the #IWill challenge, an initiative designed to educate students on the topic of recycling and reduced plastic waste.

Sustainability is an increasingly important subject at Liverpool, who last year launched their own in-house initiative, The Red Way, and who in February topped, along with Tottenham, the 2021 Sports Positive Environmental Sustainability League..

Now in its third year, the Sport Positive EPL Environmental Matrix measures each Premier League club’s environmental policy and commitment to areas such as clean energy, energy efficiency, sustainability transport, single-use plastic reduction or removal, waste management, water efficiency, plant based/low carbon food and biodiversity, as well as their education, communication and engagement on the subject of sustainability.

In 2021, Liverpool scored 23 out of a maximum 24 points, earning praise for “overhauling” its sustainability project, and for creating a “comprehensive strategy” which “permeates across every facet of the organisation.”

Liverpool Climate ChangeLiverpool FC

The work undertaken has been vast, if not obvious at first glance.

Electricity and gas for all of the club’s UK operated sites, for example, comes from renewable sources, while all food used for club catering is sourced locally in the north west, reducing ‘food miles’ as well as supporting the local economy.

The club has a global partnership with Quorn, the sustainable meat-free meal provider, while it also owns its own 1,200 square metre allotment in the Tuebrook area of the city, where fruit and vegetables are grown to be used by chefs at Anfield and the Kirkby training complex.

Meanwhile, the ‘Reds Going Green’ initiative has seen the installation of organic machines to break down food waste into water. All cardboard catering packaging is 100 percent biodegradable, while the club even collects rainwater, which is used to treat the pitches at Anfield and Kirkby.

The LFC Foundation works extensively with local schools to educate on the subject of climate change and sustainability, while at the AXA Training Centre, over 650 new trees have been planted, along with 6000 plants and over 1.5 kilometres of hedging.

There is also a state-of-the-art ‘biological vehicle wash system’, which treats and filters out grease, grime, oil and grass-cuttings that can collect on vehicles and equipment, and recycles the dirty water to be used again.

Long-term, the club is working to achieve absolute zero carbon emissions, in line with UK government legislation. Short-term, Liverpool say they have become carbon neutral for all direct activities.

Through newly-introduced carbon offsetting schemes, they say they have offset 435 tonnes of CO2 emissions via the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) reduction project and the planting of trees across the north west.

Last September, they announced a multi-year ‘Goals for Change’ campaign with American company SC Johnson, who are represented alongside Kuyt at the prize-giving ceremony at Anfield.

Goals for Change aims to recycle more than 500,000 plastic bottles used at Anfield each year, using specially-designed receptacles which are dotted around the stadium. The bottles deposited are then ‘upcycled’ to create packaging for SC Johnson’s famous ‘Mr Muscle’ (‘Scrubbing Bubbles’ in the USA) cleaning product.

SC Johnson already has similar partnerships in America, where it works with both the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise, and the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. According to chief communications officer Alan VanderMolen, the progress made so far is encouraging.

“I think your average consumer knows that sustainability is important, but perhaps doesn’t understand why, or what it really means,” he tells GOAL. “So by partnering with sports teams, and in particular one like LFC, it helps make sustainability relevant and relatable.

“Our partnership with the Brewers is in its second year. Last week was opening weekend, and I went to the stadium.

“Now in year one, you didn’t see any difference in behaviour from fans. Maybe they started to see the signage, but generally they did what they’d always done.

“But this year, on opening day, I saw a mother with her two kids in front of the recycling bin, making a point of putting their bottles in. The behaviour is changing.

“It’s clear that it will take a while for messages to sink in, but that’s OK. It’s one habit at a time.”

Dirk Kuyt Liverpool Climate ChangeLiverpool FC

He adds: “The Liverpool badge is huge. I’m flying to Rio today, and if I step off the plane with this badge on, people are going to recognise it straight away, right?

“That’s the power of LFC. It helps give us a platform to talk to people all over the world about reuse and recycling, and to shine a light on the ocean plastics crisis.”

The key, VanderMolen says, is to build on the work that has taken place already. Small step after small step, to create bigger ones down the line.

"We met with Liverpool recently,” he says. “We spent half a day looking at what we’ve done and what we can do in the future.

“The key is consistency, and making sure the message is as simplified as possible. Our learning is that we don’t want to throw too much at consumers at once, and we don’t want to impact too much upon the fan experience at the ground. We want to keep it really simple, and repeat it as often as we can.

"These issues are not going away. It’s about educating supporters, young and old, on their importance.

"And what better way to do that than through sport, and through a global institution like LFC?”