Spring Creek Regeneration Project – Kinross Wolaroi School, New South Wales, Australia

Spring Creek reservoir is the back-up water supply for the town of Orange in rural New South Wales, and also the home water of the Kinross Wolaroi School rowing programme. Rowing is rare in this part of the country due to the lack of water and the state is currently going through the worst drought in its history.

The land surrounding the reservoir is overrun by invasive plant species which has negative effect on the wetland environment and waterways. The health of this waterway is particularly important, as it is home to two endangered duck species.

Launched in 2019, the regeneration project is the brainchild of the Master in Charge of Rowing at the school, Tobias Wehr-Candler. Wehr-Candler, 29, who rowed for New Zealand, is passionate about conservation and came up with the idea to gradually remove all the invasive plant species from the land surrounding the reservoir and replant the area with Australian native trees, grasses and shrubs.

Wehr-Candler approached the local council with this initiative and they agreed to help fund it. The council cleared the trees, then the rowers and their parents planted over 1,000 Australian native plants.

Stage 1 has already had a significant impact, not only in terms of the positive effects on the ecosystem of the reservoir and surrounds, but also for the rowers who are learning about the importance of conservation and regeneration of their local environments. More stages are planned to further regenerate the area.

2018 World Rowing Coastal Championships – OARCA, Sidney, British Columbia, Canada

When FISA announced that the 2018 World Rowing Coastal Championships (WRCCH) would take place in Sidney, Canada, it was just 12 months away from the event date. Enter Open Aviron Rowing Coastal Association, (OARCA) – organising committee for the event made up of a determined and skilled group of local rowers, many of them ex-national team and Olympians. With minimum time and budget, OARCA approached the preparation of the event with sustainability at the core of their values and operations. They had three objectives:

1. To minimise the environmental impact of the 2018 WRCCH;

2. To host an event that highlights the local natural environment and engages participants, partners and spectators in protecting it;

3. To host an event that engages and supports the local community, including the local Indigenous community.

Sustainability initiatives were deliberately integrated into the overall budget for 2018 WRCCH. The sustainability principles and objectives guided decisions, actions and spending in all areas of the event, rather than having it as a standalone line item.

Brenda Taylor, OARCA President and Race Director for the Championships recalls, “We made a virtue of necessity: our limited budget forced us to think creatively and often the options that were most sustainable were also the least expensive, though they may have required more volunteer time. These constraints made us focus on what was most critical to the event and to the sustainability objectives.”

Although OARCA feels that they could have achieved more in terms of partnerships with businesses and organisations had they had more time, the Sidney community and Canadian rowing continues to feel the positive effects of OARCA’s efforts. The event increased awareness among participants, partners and volunteers, demonstrating how to run an event sustainably. These lessons continue to influence how local regattas are run.

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Clean air, water and solar power – Hangzhou Flying Eagle Boat Company (Wintech), China

In November 2018, the Wintech factory in Fuyang, China underwent major renovations. The result:
– no air pollution from the factory enters the atmosphere.
– all water is recycled through filters in a closed water system and cannot get back into the main water supply. Therefore, no dirty water is returned to the general water system.
– 19,000 square metres of solar panels supply 3.1 megawatts of power to the plant.

It was a costly project that required significant changes to the infrastructure at the factory, all of which had to be undertaken while causing minimum disruption to production. As stricter environmental legislation and controls are being introduced in China, it was an important project for the Hangzhou Flying Eagle Boat Company and was embraced by its management.

The project also serves to highlight that positive changes can be made in all areas of the sport of rowing to reduce the sport’s impact on the environment. Boat manufacturing is a critical component of the sport and, by its nature, holds potential for high environmental impact. The Wintech factory demonstrates some of the measures that can be taken to mitigate against this impact.

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Rowers Against Rubbish – Marlow, Great Britain

The concept for Rowers Against Rubbish (RAR) was born in 2018 following the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. It came from the realisation of the large amount of rubbish left in and along the Thames River following the race. The best course of action appeared to be to encourage the rowers themselves to act as guardians of their stretch of the rivers in Great Britain, beginning with the Thames.

Dan Tipney (a former junior British rower, who rowed for Marlow Rowing Club) and Ben Wilde (who rowed as a teenager and now works in sustainability) were passionate to get involved and became RAR’s co-founders. Goals were set.

RAR reaches out to boat clubs to encourage them to join with a simple three-point pledge:

1)      To only use reusable water bottles at training and events.

2)      To minimise the use of other single-use plastic products, wherever possible, at their clubs.

3)      To commit to spreading the word of their pledge to all boat club members and supporters and more widely (using their social media channels and influence in local communities).

The goal is to get rowing clubs to be a positive force for environmental change in their communities, leading from the front to clean up British rivers (thus saving wildlife, tackling pollution and preventing litter from reaching the world’s oceans). Also to establish a wider network of people who are committed to doing this. By rowing clubs being seen to make a change it will, hopefully, extend beyond the rowing club and encourage others in the community to either join in or be inspired to take their own action in environmental areas.

RAR has seen a reduction in litter along the river and they hope to take on a stronger educational role in the community, as witnessed in their first public event, a film screening in June 2019 of ‘A Plastic Ocean’, held at Marlow Rowing Club. The film highlighted how Marlow and other surrounding areas are ‘very much connected to the wider oceans’ and plastic entering the Thames river soon ends up in the English Channel, and beyond.

Developing Environmental Ambassadors – Japanese Rowing Association in partnership with WWF Japan

Using World Rowing’s Clean Water partnership with WWF as a catalyst, the Japanese Rowing Association (JARA) implemented an environmental policy in 2019. They then used the hosting of the 2019 World Junior Rowing Championships to implement a new project together with WWF-Japan to educate future athletes on environmental sustainability issues.

Approximately 30 primary school children signed up for the project that took place during their summer vacation. They underwent training, facilitated by 1996 Olympic rower, Noriko Noguchi Shibuta. They were designated as “JARA/WWF JAPAN Environment Ambassadors” and participated in the Championships, touring the venue to understand regatta operations undertaken to reduce plastic waste. The regatta organisers provided drinking water tanks instead of bottled water, thereby reducing the amount of plastic trash.   

The Ambassadors now understand the importance of small daily activities that can make a big difference. According to the principle of their school, they now hold their parents in check, instructing them to reduce the usage of the plastic bags when shopping.

The initiative has also sparked an enthusiastic uptake by JARA’s Athletes Commission, which now conducts a “Trash Pick-Up Caravan” – handing out trash bags at the Toda Rowing Course and encouraging athletes to pick up trash on their way home from the venue. JARA then collects the trash bags and ensures that they are disposed correctly.

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The 2019 Sustainability Award winner will be announced at the World Rowing Awards dinner on 22 November 2019. For more information on any of the projects please contact sustainability@fisa.org