Spoil Sports: 7 Activities That Damage the Environment

A group of skydivers holding hands to form a circle in the blue sky.

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Not all sports were created equal--at least, not in the eyes of the environment. Some--hiking, running, swimming--represent the best of man in harmony with nature. Others--monster truck rally races, say--are just flat out environmentally offensive, and seem to be little more than a raised middle finger to our global warming-imperiled earth. To consider environmental impact, we need to examine these sports on several different levels: Basketball for example, when played as a neighborhood pickup game, can be nearly as harmless as taking a stroll. But factor in worldwide popularity, hundreds of jet flights every year, and you've got yourself one mega carbon footprint. The following seven spoil sports cause serious damage to the environment:

1. Skydiving

A white woman with instructor in freefall tandem jump.

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Yup, this is performed as a competitive sport--there are actually sanctioned skydiving competitions. You may have seen them on ESPN, in fact. Unlike its more dangerous, more sustainable cousin, Base jumping, skydiving requires a fossil fuel-spewing flight for every leg of the competition. That's a lot of fueling and refueling.

2. Soccer

A soccer player kicks a ball in an arena.

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For many, soccer is a fantastic, beautiful sport. The game unites cultures, countries, and backgrounds in a common bond of athletic competition. It requires nothing but some friends, a ball, and an afternoon full of fresh air: Unless you're one of the hundreds of thousands of people who play it professionally. Then, you'll need buses, cars, and airplanes to transport you across continents. After all, soccer (rather, football, to everyone but us stubborn Americans) is the biggest, most widely followed sport in the world --and that means players across Europe, Australia, North and South America, Africa, Asia, virtually everywhere except Antarctica are traveling from game to game, collectively creating a fossil fuel-burning storm.

3. Nascar

Cars racing on a track in front of a huge audience.

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Despite some high profile players using techniques like hypermiling to save fuel economy, there's really nothing green about NASCAR. At all. Not only does this sport--dedicated to driving around a racetrack repeatedly for 500 miles--attract huge crowds of eco-impacting people who each likely drive to the event themselves, but, oh yeah, did we mention it's a sport dedicated to driving around a racetrack repeatedly for 500 miles? And all for what? Given the only excitement is a not so green crash, watching this high speed race can actually be extremely boring. And imagine the carbon emissions that would be spared if this need-for-carbon-emittin' speed were to finally run out of gas. We can dream, can't we?

4. Hunting and Blood Sports

Two white men hunting with a dog in a field.

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We might catch some flak for this one, but let's just come out and say it: Hunting ain't green. In a perfect world, hunting would be not only be permissible, but completely sustainable as well. In our world, it threatens to throw off the balance of ecosystems and often puts a dent in already endangered species' populations. And when you have folks engaging in acts like aerial wolf hunting, it really makes you question the validity of the sport in general: Yes, there was a time when hunting was a necessary aspect of survival. For those of us living in rich, overconsuming societies, that time has passed.

5. Downhill Skiing/Snowboarding

A person in a red jacket skiing downhill.

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Skiing is fantastic. So is snowboarding. But at the moment, the downhill variation is anything but green. Resorts are resource-consuming giants, people drive and/or fly from miles away to get to ski destinations, and the amount of gear that must be manufactured to support the industry is arguably one of the highest. But skiing and snowboarding are also the sports most likely to be removed from this list-- resorts are making efforts to use renewable energy, carpooling initiatives are being implemented, and more skiers than ever are taking to the more sustainable backcountry.

6. Drag Boat Racing (Motor Boat Racing)

A motorboat racing in water.

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Okay, so consider this the polar opposite of soccer. As opposed to a sport that's beloved by all and consumes resources incrementally and as a result of mass playing, here we have a sport that's beloved by almost no one, and attempts to make up for that fact by emitting nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide. Come on, drag boat racing? We didn't even know this existed until we started researching this piece. These boats exist only to zip off in a straight line, leaving a wake of carbon-rich exhaust behind them. Ridiculous.

7. Aerobatics and Air Racing

A plane doing aerobatics in a blue cloudy sky.

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Until the day comes when planes can fly entirely on sustainable biofuels I think we have our grand champion of wasteful competition here. What could be more resource-intensive than competitively flying airplanes on a regular basis? We challenge you to find a less green sport than this.