Prioritising sustainability as an elite athlete - hear from sustainability athlete ambassador, Hannah Cockroft

Protecting the environment and making sustainable choices are at the forefront of our thinking here at England Athletics. This is something we are passionate about promoting, and supporting our family of affiliated clubs and member bodies with.

We know that we still have a long way to go, however each small step we take as an organisation and a sport will help in some way.

We recently caught up with elite athlete sustainability ambassador Hannah Cockroft OBE to find out more about her journey on becoming more sustainable and some of the challenges she faces.

A passion for her surroundings

Yorkshire born and bred, seven-times Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft is no stranger to training in stunning surroundings at her home in the North of England.

“When I used to go out and train on roads, they would be litter free and the most stunning places that I could go and escape life for a while. I have been racing 16 years, I go back now and they are covered in litter, there is fly tipping and it frustrates me how people don’t see what a mess we are making of the planet.

“Living a sustainable life is important as I want to leave the world how I found it, I want to make it better. Ultimately, I know that my job is not the most sustainable in the world, so if I can do my bit to reverse that then that is me doing my part.”

Making sustainable strides as an elite athlete

Being an elite athlete performing at the very top does come with its challenges when it comes to travel and consumption, however Hannah is making strides to try and reverse some of her carbon footprint.

“There are unavoidable impacts of being an athlete, I have to travel loads. If I travel internationally then I make sure to make it is worth it. I wouldn’t want to fly to a country for one competition, but I would enter multiple competitions to make that footprint a little more worthwhile.

“When I am at home I always share a car with my partner Nathan Maguire who is also an elite athlete. We try to enter the same competitions so we are traveling to the same places. We try and squeeze all our things into one car and it is definitely a more sustainable way to do it.”

Sustainable challenges in the sport

 In recent years we have seen some competition providers make more sustainable choices especially with single use plastic, however there is certainly more that can be done.

“We are already moving into not using plastic bottles and encouraging athletes to bring reusable bottles and having water refill stations at events and camps.

“I would like to see holding events taking place where the venue is already there instead of building new stadiums, using facilities that already exist but upgrading them a little bit.

“Bringing it down to club level, we should be encouraging car shares a lot more especially in junior level. You can go to training and competitions with friends, it is saving parents time and money as well as saving the environment.

“Clubs can also be encouraged to do kit swaps. As young athletes grow up they go through kit, spikes and trainers so quickly. Maybe once a month clubs can run a kit swap where you can go and get the kit that fits you second-hand."

"This could also be included in elite sport. I have so much kit from championships I have competed in. It is such an achievement to go and put on that kit and represent your country but if athletes could donate their unused kit, then a child could have the opportunity to wear the kit they have always dreamed of, and the clothes are no longer just sitting in the athlete’s loft.”

Watch the video of Hannah's full interview

Top tips for becoming more sustainable:

As Hannah has alluded to, being a sustainable community is not about one person trying to save the world single-handedly but instead every person making small changes to try and help out.

Listen below to her top tips to living a more sustainable life. Listen direct on YouTube.