Published 1 month ago.
About a 3 minute read.
British Olympians Sir Ben Ainslie and Hannah Mills have created calls to
action for young people, with a special focus on marine efforts, as part of a
program to educate children ages 8-18 on the complexities of climate change
and how to take meaningful action.
Although SailGP is a relatively new international sports
league, it’s already making waves (every pun intended) as a leader in sensible
ways in which sport can champion climate-positive action.
league (whose first iteration was in 2019) includes an array of teams that sail
on high-tech catamarans at various locations around the world. It’s grown from
just six teams and five events in season one, to 10 teams and 13 global events
in its fourth season. There are a variety of technical rules, and the feel of
the competition is not unlike Formula 1 or Formula
While sailing is a niche sport overall, SailGP has used its growing platform to
advocate for important marine- and climate-conservation causes — integrating
environmental efforts into a sub-competition within SailGP called the Impact
League. Teams are encouraged
to figure out how to reduce their carbon footprint and increase inclusivity
efforts as they compete. Categories include Clean Energy, DEI, Waste
and Single-use Plastics, and more.
As in other leagues, a select group of individual athletes act as ambassadors
for the sport, who also highlight the potential of a competition such as Impact
League. In SailGP, British racers and former Olympians Hannah Mills
OBE and Sir Ben
Ainslie are two of the sport’s
highest-profile athletes and have used the reach of the Great Britain team to
help young people engage with climate action.
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“Young people definitely resonate more when they see sustainability in action,
especially by sportspeople they admire,” Ainslie — whose passion for
sustainability kicked into higher
after seeing the 2015 documentary, Racing
Extinction — told
He and Mills recently partnered with Open Planet
— an open source of footage of our changing planet — to call on other athletes
to help empower and equip young people, educators and their schools with the
knowledge to take climate action, with a special focus on marine efforts. The
new resource, entitled “Use Your
educators with a four-part guide to help children ages 8-18 understand the
complexities of climate change and how they can take meaningful action. Use Your
Voice is part of a broader climate-education program called Protect Our
Future, created by sport-inspired educational
charity 1851 Trust.
“Use Your Voice’s aim is to empower young people with the knowledge and
confidence to speak to their peers, family members and communities about climate
action and how we can all make a difference,” Mills says.
Mills and Ainslie also deliver educational workshops at SailGP events, where
they’ll tailor the programming to the region they’re in.
“The action can have different priorities, but the ethos remains the same,”
The lessons and footage are open to everyone at no charge. Ainslie says that the
educational plans were built to focus on collaboration and to suit students no
matter where they are.
What remains to be seen is how much this latest effort can move the needle for a
sport that still has a relatively small reach. It’s great to see a sports entity
with a sizable footprint try to mitigate its own impact and take broader action,
but also create meaningful connections for the athletes whose voices stand
tallest in this case.
For Mills, it’s an opportunity to make a difference based on her prior
experience competing at the highest levels.
“What I saw competing in Rio 2016 really shocked me. It was one of the most
pivotal points in my career, winning an Olympic Gold medal — but it really
highlighted just how much damage had been done to the ocean through plastic
she says. “Each time we launched our boats into the water, we would have to wade
through plastic pollution. It was overwhelming at the time, but it inspired me
to take action.”
Published Feb 2, 2024 8am EST / 5am PST / 1pm GMT / 2pm CET
Geoff is a freelance journalist and copywriter focused on making the world a better place through compelling copy. He covers everything from apparel to travel while helping brands worldwide craft their messaging. In addition to Sustainable Brands, he's currently a contributor at Penta, AskMen.com, Field Mag and many others. You can check out more of his work at geoffnudelman.com.