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Olympic champion Flora Duffy gives fascinating insight into the environmental impacts of elite sport

Flora Duffy shares her findings from a Carbon Footprint Assessment.

Staff Reporter
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In a very meaningful and informative recent post on social media, Olympic Champion Flora Duffy gave an interesting insight into the environmental impact of elite sport.

The Bermudian, who won gold in Tokyo and if healthy will defend her title in Paris this summer, gathered data from her season in 2022 to carry out a Carbon Footprint Assessment.

The results, which showed that her environmental impact was “ten times that of a regular person in a developed society”, was as fascinating as it was worrying.

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“It has been an enlightening journey!”

Sharing the findings transparently on Instagram, the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist said that the assessment had taught her a lot and motivated her to do better.

Flora Duffy WTCS Bermuda 2022
Flora Duffy wins WTCS Bermuda in 2022 (Photo – World Triathlon).

“My partner APEX Group Ltd supported me through a Carbon Footprint Assessment based on my 2022 calendar year. It has been an enlightening journey!

“I’m sure it was entertaining for them, given they usually support mulit-national corporations with such assessments and not endurance athletes. 

“The first step, gathering all the data. This including all my travel, accommodation, listing every shoe, goggle, every bike, etc. All utilities at home, mileage driven, and then some.

“Despite having solar on our roof both in Boulder and in Stellenbosch, driving a fully electric car in Boulder, my impact is 10x that of a regular person in a developed society.”

Travel and supply chains leading culprits

For Duffy, the two leading causes of her increased impact were travel and consumerism, which she explained in detail through her post.

Flora Duffy, Taylor Knibb, Beth Potter - WTCS Bermuda 2022
[Photo credit: World Triathlon]

“Travel – air travel particularly. 2022 was an unusual year. Yokohama, Leeds, Montreal, Hamburg, Birmingham, Slovakia, Dallas, St George, Bermuda, Girona, Abu Dhabi, London, Bermuda, South Africa – mostly going back to regroup in Boulder between events!

“Supply Chain – this was almost equal to the travel. I have a lot of stuff! I get multiple bikes, wetsuits, a lot of shoes and other training gear new each year, so my level of consumerism is very high.

“However each season, I either donate, sell or give to friends when I am finished with the gear so at least the life cycle of the product lives on and it is not just discarded. 

“APEX then advised on trying to offset some of my impact. And after consultation, I supported a project via Ecologi – while I am sure imperfect, it does feel better knowing I’ve tried to make a proportionate impact.”

Despite her commendable efforts to share and address her environmental impact, Duffy’s findings open up a lot of questions about the sustainability of elite sports, with travel and consumerism embedded across the industry.

Given that the World Triathlon calendar is continually expanding to further flung locations, and the new PTO Tour and IRONMAN Pro Series is encouraging athletes to travel thousands of miles a year, is it time triathlon honestly addressed its impact on the planet?

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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