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Case study: Sustainability at Croke Park, Dublin Ireland: Achieving a Greener Stadium

In this blog, NTG partner TU Dublin explores the sustainability efforts at Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland. Ruth Craggs, School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, TU Dublin, talked to Míde Ní Shúilleabháin, Sustainability and Systems Officer at Croke Park, about sustainability goals and green initiatives at this Irish stadium.

Croke Park: Home to the GAA and Ireland’s Gaelic Games


Croke Park is headquarters of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), a stadium, conference and meetings centre, visitor attraction (GAA museum and tours), concert and special events venue. Sustainability is at the heart of Croke Park and in 2012, it was the first stadium in the world to be accredited to international standards ISO 14001 and ISO 20121 in Environmental Management and Sustainable Event Management. Croke Park places a commitment to environmentally progressive practices and is constantly working towards being a greener stadium. This blog explores the many initiatives and sustainability achievements of the venue.


Croke Park, Dublin, All Ireland Final 2019 (Photograph: Sportsfile)


Sustainability at Croke Park


Questions to Míde, Sustainability Officer at Croke Park, primarily focused on current green initiatives at the venue. First, Míde provided an overview of Croke Park and the sustainability objectives of the stadium.

She stated the following:

‘Croke Park is the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Ireland’s largest sporting organisation and is located in the heart of Dublin’s north inner-city. As well as playing host to the biggest days in the Gaelic Games calendar the stadium houses the headquarter offices of the Association. The stadium’s match-day capacity of 82,300 makes it the third-largest in Europe and in 2019 Croke Park welcomed over 1.25 million visitors over 28 match-days and three concert nights. The Croke Park Conference centre is one of the busiest meeting and events spaces in Dublin and the GAA Museum, which includes stadium and skyline tours, is open 360 days a year’.


Sustainability Objectives


Míde further highlighted the sustainability goals of Croke Park:

‘It is part of Croke Park’s mission as home of the GAA to reflect the Association’s values of community, integrity and respect. The stadium’s sustainability programme is a huge part of this and its aims are threefold:

  1. To mainstream sustainability across all stadium operations
  2. To encourage awareness of sustainability and respect for the community and environment among stadium staff and visitors
  3. To showcase sustainability initiatives for the wider GAA-community.

Additionally, she explained that:

‘Stadium sustainability objectives are set each year across the headings of waste management, resource management, biodiversity and outreach. Croke Park is certified to international standards ISO 14001 in Environmental Management and ISO 20121 in Sustainable Event Management and as part of this certification the implementation and achievement of sustainability actions and objectives are audited annually by a team of external auditors’.


Sustainability Initiatives and Key Achievements


We also asked about the current sustainability initiatives at Croke Park. Míde discussed key achievements over the past 12 years, including the waste management programme, reduction and removal of plastics, compostable tea and coffee cups, venue temperature monitoring and biodiversity programme:

‘The Croke Park Sustainability programme began twelve years ago with an ambitious waste management programme which culminated in Croke Park becoming a 0% waste-to-landfill site in 2014. The waste management programme remains central to the stadium’s sustainability objectives, with an increased focus on waste reduction. In 2019 reusable cups were piloted in the stadium, plastic drinking bottles were eliminated from all meeting spaces and the GAA Museum engaged with suppliers to reduce the packaging waste entering the stadium. Over the years the sustainability programme has expanded to include resource management, biodiversity and sustainability outreach. Energy sub-metering, temperature monitoring and a building management system have been installed to monitor and control the use of energy throughout the stadium while projects including LED light swap-outs and networked PC/laptop software have improved efficiency of daily operations’.

Furthermore, she highlighted that:

‘Croke Park runs a biodiversity programme not only on stadium grounds but also on the Croke Park turf farm in North County Dublin, where there are ten active beehives (with the first batch of honey produced in 2019) and a polytunnel managed by the stadium head chef’.


Beehives on Croke Park Turf Farm (Photograph: Croke Park)

Croke Park Polytunnel (Photograph: Croke Park)


Mide provided other interesting and innovative urban biodiversity initiatives:

‘On stadium grounds, the emphasis is on supporting and encouraging urban biodiversity; existing bird boxes were supplemented this year with specially-designed swift boxes to provide a much-needed habitat for this amber-listed species while the Bug B&B opened in 2015 has recently been surrounded with a new area of wildflower planting’.


The ‘Bug B&B’ (Photograph: Wildlife Services Ireland)

Swift boxes at Croke Park (Photograph: Croke Park)


Community Engagement


Social sustainability is also an important issue.  In addition to the many environmental initiatives, Croke Park works closely and communicates with the local community to try to minimise any social impacts of the stadium activities and events.  Community engagement is particularly pertinent for venues located in the city and residential areas.  For example, Míde explained that:

“As a stadium situated in the heart of Dublin’s north city, Croke Park’s relationship with the local community is a core part of its sustainable identity. Through our match-day community team, our annual community fund a yearlong calendar of initiatives & events we continue to develop stronger relations, lessen the impact of our events and help our local area thrive.”


Sustainability Skills and Training


Given the growing importance of sustainability training and education for staff in the tourism sector, we asked about the sustainability management team and skills development for staff at Croke Park.

Míde stated that:

‘The stadium’s Environmental and Sustainability Management Group, which is composed of members of all stadium departments as well as representatives of service and cleaning contractors, meets on a monthly basis to set and monitor sustainability objectives and practices. In 2019 the sustainability management group was supplemented by a new Croke Park Green Team – volunteer staff members who promote sustainability awareness among stadium staff. The Green Team coordinated the hugely successful 2019 stadium Sustainability Day and head up a host of initiatives designed to engage colleagues with sustainability in Croke Park’.

She further explained that:

‘All new staff members received sustainability induction training and in 2019 the Sustainability Management Group organised an interactive waste awareness session for all stadium staff members. Sustainability information sessions are organised for the Green Team and specialised training, including waste training and energy management training, is provided to relevant groups within the stadium’.


Sustainability Matters


Conclusively, achieving a green stadium is a team effort and sustainability best practice has been the heart of Croke Park for over ten years. This blog has highlighted the growing importance of sustainability at stadiums and visitor attractions. Additionally, it has explored some of the current initiatives and efforts in achieving a greener stadium, including innovative and creative sustainability initiatives at Croke Park.

The award-winning sustainability team at Croke Park has been recognised for achieving sustainability excellence in Ireland. The School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, TU Dublin and the Next Tourism Generation Alliance wish the team the best of luck with their future sustainability endeavours.

For more information about Croke Park and sustainability, visit the website and catch up with Croke Park News and Blogs including ‘Sustainable Food Sourcing and Food Waste Disposal at Croke Park’ and ‘Meet Croke Park Meeting and Events’ Local Fish Supplier’.


By NTG key partner TU Dublin


Follow the efforts of the Next Tourism Generation via our website, Facebook, Twitter | #NTGskillsalliance or via LinkedIn

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