Could Blue be the new green and how might sport change our view of the environment.

What started as a simple idea in 2006 – could Blue become the new green and emotionally change the way we feel about environmental issues. Sport is certainly a changemaker and has done remarkable things for social inclusion and inequality – but could it be a catalyst for making people connect with the environment?

Sportspeople have always been motivated by the environment they play in. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder, surfer and climber, in his book “Let my people go surfing, realised that Business could too. 

The environmental movement needed a rebrand – the negative images of pollution, oil spills and dead wildlife seemed to no longer be resonating. We needed a positive message, something that could nudge people into making lifestyle changes whilst we wait for Governments to act. It gave rise to the birth of Blue.

The reality is the Blue movement may not have been any more effective than the Green movement in the 1970’s – in fact one could argue, organisations like Surfers Against Sewage were more effective with their giant turd than preaching to the converted surfers who already love the waves. 

When we launched the Blue Project at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth in February 2007, I used an image of Formula1, Honda Car – “Earth Dreams” on my opening slide, with the question – “Could sport change the way people think about the environment?” The ocean loving audience at the NMA almost choked with shouts of corporate green washing. However, within two weeks of Honda’s Earth Dream launch, over 100,000 people had made a pledge for the environment. Sport has a huge reach.

Birth of Blue

I believed it could and in 2007, rebranded my own business to Sport Environment. We launched the Blue Project and created our own brand – BLUE. As a professional sailor, having competed in the 2004-5 Vendee Globe, I had some profile in the sailing world and more importantly some good friends that would agree to become Ambassadors for the Blue Project – before long sports people were approaching us to join the movement.

We needed something tangible – whilst the awareness raising was great and the media loved the positive message from active sports people, I was conscious we needed to encourage action. I loved the Comic Relief model and could see an opportunity for an evening’s entertainment of world class natural history telly, the very best of our wildlife presenting talent and a simple watersports event to get the nation actively fundraising. Sadly, my first pitch to John Lilley, regional head of BBC was met with a “sorry the environment is too political for the BBC” I was gobsmacked!

It didn’t stop us, Britain had just been awarded the Olympic and Paralympic Games and CEO, Paul Deignton had launched a UK wide legacy programme to get the UK active in the run up to 2012. We launched the Blue Mile in Plymouth at the Glass Blowing House and Paul agreed to speak along with a host of business that attended.

We set the date for the first event: World Ocean Day, 8th June 2010. It was my brilliant PA’s, Teresa Page’s birthday.