Can Tennis Go Green?

by Dan Martin | July 21st, 2009, 1:51 pm

This is not a column about the color of tennis courts despite clay courts looking like the terrain of Mars and most hard courts at professional tennis events no longer being green. While covering the 2008 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, members of what looked to be a local scouting troop wearing hats saying “Environmental Team” were collecting plastic bottles and aluminum cans for recycling. These intrepid scouts also placed litter into trash cans. Recycling is good, and minimizing litter is a solid step. I do wonder if the world’s most global sport could do more to be friendly to the planet.

Regardless of what any reader thinks about various claims regarding global ecological crises, increases in air pollution do have local impacts such as raising the frequency of asthma attacks. Some pollutants impact rain that in turn impacts local water and soil quality. The spikes in litter, air traffic, automobile traffic and electrical usage that surround a successful tennis event do have tangible consequences.

Tennis can be Greener and here are a few Ideas I have on How

1. The ATP should court either BP or Kyocera as a major sponsor. Each of these companies manufacture and sell solar panels in addition to other products. Solar arrays could be installed at select events. Many of these tennis centers serve as junior development hubs during the rest of the year. If enough panels were installed to provide more than the daily electrical needs for the facility during 51 weeks of the year, the wattage being pumped into the grid would help minimize pollutants throughout the year. Television covering these events would likely show the panels at various points during the telecast so BP or Kyocera would get a nice plug.

2. The Grand Slams should each adopt a sensitive ecological area unique to the nation hosting the event. The Australian Open could adopt the Great Barrier Reef, Roland Garros could sponsor efforts to protect biodiversity in the Mediterranean, The Championships could sponsor protecting and restoring various lakes in England, and the U.S. Open could promote Central Park as well as other green spaces in urban areas. The method of sponsorship would be quite simple. Internet auctions modeled after the tsunami support at the 2005 Australian Open could take place at each slam with proceeds going to the selected ecological project.

3. The WTA could partner with organizations such as the National Arbor Day Foundation, World Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy and plant 1 tree for every ace hit at selected events. The trees would be planted in the region of the given event so a local flavor would exist for this project. This may need to be a WTA project as Dr. Ivo might reforest the planet, but this is a simple and inexpensive way for tennis to green up the planet as it travels.

4. The Two Senior Tours should each adopt an endangered species for which to raise funds throughout their truncated world jaunts.

While these ideas are not perfect, they may be a way to give those local scouting troops a hand and also raise the profile of tennis world wide in a positive manner.

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31 Comments for Can Tennis Go Green?

Mike Says:

And instead of burning all those fossil fuels by flying to all corners of the globe to smack a fuzzy little ball around, the players could Wii it out from the comfort of their own urban center utilitarian communal dwellings!

Just kidding Dan, you know I’m on board for the green initiatives.

Dan Martin Says:

If this is the Mike I think it is, I will just say no one has laid more one sided beatings on me on the tennis court than Mike. He is also the best doubles partner I ever had and a hell of a guy. If it is a different Mike, well I take it all back.

Mike Says:

Thanks for the kind words…and sorry about the beat-downs!

Tennis surely has a fan base which would respond relatively well to eco-friendly measures. And at least there’s nothing fundamentally environmentally unfriendly about it. (Unlike golf. I don’t even want to think about the number of new 18-hole courses being built [and watered] in the UAE.)

jane Says:

Dan I totally support your suggestions; I especially like #3 and 4 but all of these would be excellent initiatives. And it would be a breath of fresh air (pun intended) as far as the ATP goes, since they seem to be so corporate/big business in some ways. Why not channel or balance that with a greening of the sport?! It makes great sense.

If you start the petition, I’ll sign.

Dan Martin Says:

Thanks to both Jane and Mike. This was a different sort of entry, but I think questions about social responsibility and tennis go back at least as far as Arthur Ashe so they are good to raise and discuss now and then.

Mike now lives in Europe therefore the frequency of my singles drubbings and doubles victories has declined (I think “Somewhere Out There” from “An American Tail” is playing).

Von Says:

Dan Martin:

I’ve seen on the Tennis Channel an ad type documentary discussing the ‘greening’ in tennis with respect to some of the players equipment, clothes, et al. Thus, I’m sure that it’s something the tennis world is indeed cognizant of, and will be shifting to, on a greater scale in the future, with emphasis on the use of eco-friendly merchandise.

Kudos to you for deviating and/or taking a break from discussing the usual tennis beat to think about our environment and the ‘Greening of America’. Who knows, your little girl might become an environmentalist/lobbyist due to her daddy’s selfless dedication and thoughtfulness with respect to keeping our world clean and eco-friendly.

“(I think “Somewhere Out There” from “An American Tail” is playing).”

Love that song, especially the version sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram. They can take me away to ‘Somewhere Out There’ anytime with their beautifully blended voices.

Keep up the good work, Dan Martin, you’re a man for all seasons!

Franz Says:

come on…. i was with you on sponsors but this is a sport, not a charity

niannah Says:

Has anyone ever calculated the average carbon footprint of one player travelling to the major events on the tour? Even if you don’t have your own jet á la Mr Federer, the carbon footprint would be massive. Like all of us, tennis does have a responsibility to mitigate its adverse impacts on the environment. These are great suggestions as to how to start.

Dan Martin Says:


Undoubtedly the charity would not be 100% altruistic. Good press is what the various governing bodies would be seeking. Many sports teams donate X ammount of money to charity for every home run or field goal or free throw … If it gets the media talking positively about the given team then it is a non-zero sum act. The cause benefits and so too does the sport/team getting the positive feedback.

jane Says:


I’ve wondered the same about the carbon footprints; and of course the private jets make things worse. Imagine all the flights/gas! It’d be nice if the tour could at least try to schedule events in one part of the globe, and then another, rather than Asia one week, America the next, Europe right after that, back to America, then to Asia, back to Europe, etc.

veno Says:

First of all, thanks Dan for putting the ball in play to start brainstorming more extensively and more broadly about these issues(I am certain inside tennis and other sports a wide spectrum of people try to raise awareness for the green issue)
Most important will be to get the top players, the ATP/WTA and the sponsors(potential future sponsors included)involved in the process. It should however be an added value in partition to tennis, to send a global message that tennis is conscious of the environment, but it should never happen that environmental issues(and their mostly “aggressively convinced” advocates) should start to influenze the beautiful sport of tennis.

To Jane: in the other thread I posted a reaction w.r.t. the interview of Novak’s manager about Novak’s priorities and goals.

To Maman(Von): Almost done sucking in the Spanish sun, drinks I can pronounce and relaxing atmosphere. When I get home Saturday the tank will be filled for at least another 6 months!!!

Later all!

Von Says:

Veno: I gave a shout out to you on the other thread last night. Here’s a link to my comments:

Glad to hear you’re all filled up and will be able to survive over the next six (6) months. Enjoy the rest of your vacation.

Patrick Decelles Says:

Great stuff, Dan… I’m interested in working with the ATP to eliminate the use of single-serve plastic water bottles!! Any thoughts on where I might begin in order to present some fantastic eco friendly alternatives??

jane Says:

Patrick, that’s a great idea. I’ve cut down on that myself by installing a on-tap water filter, but I am not sure what the answer is for the players. What are you ideas; I am curious? I suppose refillable stainless steel bottles could be used, and the players could be provided ice buckets courtside to keep their drinks cold (I believe they do this for the bottled water anyhow).

jane Says:

“an” on-tap filter and “your” ideas – sorry for the typos.

Von Says:

Patrick Decelles: Again, on the Tennis Channel, I’ve seen them advertise and speak of eco-friendly water bottles, which look more like scouting and camping flasks and/or water reeptacles for on-court use. Hence, this translates to the powers that be in tennis, are aware of these new developments in which they can cut down on polluting the environment and at the same time using materials that will keep the atmosphere eco-friendly.

For several years we have been using Brita water filters for drinking water and have even installed some in the showers to help with the purification of tap water.

Patrick Decelles Says:

Jane: Reusable stainless steel bottles are certainly preferable, in my opinion, with water coolers for refill (and ice buckets for sure). We ( have recently partnered with a company that vends filtered, cold water in single serve amounts from a vending machine — something that I believe you’ll begin to see more of in the near future as well! Thanks, Jane!!

Patrick Decelles Says:

Von: Thanks for the info… if you get the chance, check out the Healthy Tap filter at! It’s the first portable “on-the-go” water filter – a bit smaller than a teabag – that you drop into your reusable container — and, it will effectively filter one gallon of water during the course of your day.

scineram Says:

Cash is needed for tournaments and bodies to grow the sport. Don’t waste it on useless shit!

Except 1. Sponsors bring money.

Von Says:

Patrick, you’re welcome! BTW, I checked out your site, e.g., water bottles, and they are similar to those shown in the ad on the Tennis Channel. The ‘green’ bottles are a very good idea and a much healthier alternative to bottled water, IMO, (considering the fact that bottled water is suspect anyway) for personal use off the court, but I doubt any of the athletes would want to lug around their own bottled water while playing on court.

tennisontherocks Says:

At Indian wells, I saw water coolers with paper cups on each practice court and players appeared to be using them. Having it on match courts is nice. But we do have some players who are superstitious about how their bottles are arranged, so they will still bring their stuff.

Dan Martin Says:

Scineram = #’s 2-4 would almost certainly be tied in with sponsors as well. The University of Kentucky basketball team generates $50 for every bank shot hit during regular season games for some scholarship fund. A local bank is the one who makes the donation and the announcers bring up the bank’s name every time a shot is banked in for points. So yeah it would be like Volvo Aces for the Earth or something. All of this would require some sponsorship, but it could be sponsorship dollars well spent.

veno Says:

Loool Vonnie!!!!! just read your shout-out on the other thread…A perfect case of great minds think alike(although mine won’t qualify in that department)

Vacation going well, almost overbut it more than served its purpose :) Talk to you soon!!!!!

Jane, thanks for the extra input about Novak’s goals. I totally agree with your assessment. Grass will be the hardest for him to conquer, I think he will be able to improve his movement, but I foresee one problem he will have great difficulty with in tackling properly and imho it’s the following:

Analysing his movement and especially his foot-placement when moving laterally, whether it be purely sideways, frontal or backwards he stretches his lower legs(almost full extension) thus “locking” himself in that position, which makes it much more difficult to transfer his weight from a centrifugal direction back to the opposite direction because thusfar he lacks the ability to redirect a lot of the centrifugal force downwards(so into theground) in order to change directions quickly enough on the grass(hence a lot of slipping and sliding)

It could be the sangria has officially taken over my brain functions, but as I read it back it makes sense to me, but it could be total nonsense in the eye of the beholder….

Guys, with all due respect, this thread is starting to become a political debate/issue and I don’t think a tennis blog is the place to discuss and elaborate on these ideas(some of which are really well-thought of)

margot Says:

Hooray!! At last a thread that doesn’t go on and on about boring boring head to heads/statistics and endless, endless GOAT arguements. Dan Martin I’m growing rather fond of you..all over again…
Sorry veno but if we don’t address Green Isssues our grandchildren aren’t ever gonna be able to watch tennis matches. My pet hates are bottled WATER for christsakes when most of the world is dieing of thirst!! and plastic bags. B—-y labour government WON’T tax them, b—-y disgrace!
von: waved to everyone I saw salmon fishing, am sure one was your uncle. What a beautiful country Scotland is, last wild bit of the UK.

Von Says:

margot: I posted to you on the other thread with respect to your fondness for the lionesses.

I didn’t think you’d remember to say hello to my Uncle and Auntie, and glad you remembered to wave to them. Yes, Scotland is very beautiful and I love the Orkneys/Kirkwall.

I trust you had a marvellous vacation and you’re eagerly looking forward to Canada, Cincy and the USO. I was actually a wee bit bored over the past two weeks due to so little tennis being played, but have been able to see some QF Indy matches yesterday on TV, and am now watching the Hamburg SF matches. Later today, I’ll be able to see the Americans in action at Indy, so all’s well.

Again, welcome back!

jane Says:

margot – returned from bonny, bonny banks of scotland eh? It is lovely. Those pet peeves are mine also. Many places in Canada now charge you if you want plastic bags for your shopping – not all, but many. So it’s a start. Still amazed by how many still use them though.

veno – the movement comments make sense; that’s an area Djoko could work to improve. On clay it seems to work, even on hard courts, though I think he risks injury to keep sliding like that on hard court. But on grass he’ll have to get some deft dancing feet to compete. It’s seems to be more important to be “light” on the feet on grass.

Von Says:

Veno: Just saw your post @ 5:55 pm. Hope you’re safely home by now and I expect to see you on line in a few days after renewing your acquaintances with all and sundry, not to mention regaling them with your Sangria stories and/or ecapades. Catch ya later.

margot Says:

jane: hi to you too! The two Andies and Djoko have been lieing low for the past few weeks. Hope they are practising hard!
Talking to you about plastic bags has made me so cross I’m off to write to my MP!

RZ Says:

Great suggestions! I especially like #3. I also think the tournaments should donate used balls to either junior tennis camps, old persons homes, or schools, where the balls would go to good use rather than be put in a landfill.

RZ Says:

Patrick, that’s a great idea. Part of it comes down to sponsorship. I see Evian sold at a lot of sporting events, and my guess is that they have some sort of sponsorship deal with tournaments or the stadium. But if Brita or Pur could become a sponsor instead, or if the designer of those stainless steel bottles became a sponsor (or if both did it in cahoots), your vision might become a reality.

Linda Says:

Hey, Dan,
We have been greening tennis for three years. We are the first company to recycle actual tennis net and tennis windscreen into tennis bags. We also make tea light candle holders out of used tennis balls. More products are in the works.

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