What it takes to be Zero

helicopter at the America's Cup
Fleet of Lexus hybrids used for transportation. Lightweight race committee boats.Bike to workReused wing table
Managing the carbon footprint for the oldest trophy in sports history.

For a large sporting event like the America’s Cup the goal of being carbon neutral is a complex balance of calculating how much carbon is produced, finding practical ways to reduce carbon emission, and purchasing offsets. I sat down with Jill Savery the head of sustainability to learn about how America’s Cup is managing their carbon footprint.

The first step in the process of developing a carbon management plan was to estimate the likely tonnage of carbon to be emitted. Unlike a company that operates year in and year out, there is no historical data avaliable.The only estimates collected are modeled after events like the Olympics. Every drop in the bucket counts and there are a lot of buckets such as, transportation of people and materials, fuel for boats and cars, building and maintaining new facilities, and keeping the lights on…just to name a few. 

The America’s Cup owns responsibility for its carbon emissions but that isn’t the only carbon in play here. What is produced by sponsors and vendors is considered shared carbon. The America’s Cup Event Authority is encouraging its partners to keep an eye on their carbon as well. They are also encouraging the use of locally sourced goods, which spend less time on a truck, reducing fuel consumption. 

The events carbon footprint expands beyond the sphere of influence of the organizers. For example take the average spectator. The America’s Cup is working hard to encourage spectators to take public transportation or ride a bike, both a  lower carbon option than driving your own car. If you by a souvenir t-shirt you own that carbon, think of all the energy that it took to produce the cloth, run the factory, pack it up, ship it out, and get it to you. You may not realize it, but a few cents of your purchase goes to offset that carbon footprint.

Race organizers have come up with some creative ways to reduce carbon emissions including, lightweight chase boats over traditional heavy fiberglass models to save on fuel. Additionally ,on land, electric golf carts and hybrid vehicles help the America’s cup reduce their fuel usage.

The final accounting will be a huge job and will be a thorough process almost down to the paper clips used. When the final numbers come in it will be time to balance the sheet. The America’s Cup is partnering with Offsetters to offset the carbon emissions they were not able to eliminate.

The offsets purchased will directly impact the marine environment by supporting the preservation of old growth forest located along the coastline!