If you’ve ever played or watched a match at Barban Hill, the home of Dromore Rugby Club, you’ve probably found yourself looking for shelter at one time or another.
he ground where Ireland’s most recent international Mike Lowry played his first rugby matches is, to say the least, exposed to the elements.
But in a generation or two that may not be the case thanks to a tree planting initiative that has taken place at the club this season. Rather than reducing exposure to the high winds blowing across the pitch, these new saplings were planted with a view to offsetting the carbon footprint of the team’s first XV while on the move.
Playing in Kukri Championship One, the County Down side racked up their fair share of miles with trips like Enniskillen and Clogher Valley on the fixture list and it was such long trips that got clubman Peter Dickson thinking the team’s impact on the environment. .
“I work for Bridgestone, who have a good relationship with rugby through their advertising at Ravenhill and things like that,” he says. “And they’ve been involved with Dromore for quite a while as well.
“At Bridgestone, we are a company very concerned about sustainable development and we invest heavily in this area. Working in the corporate world has really given me insight into the importance of companies taking their responsibilities seriously and the idea that every organization needs to do its part.
“So I was sitting in a Starbucks one day thinking about how Dromore Rugby Club could do its part and develop a sustainability program. What would it be realistic for us to do? And thinking about it, as a club where we generate most of our carbon footprint, it’s through our travels.
“I pulled out Google Maps, drove all of our miles, looked at things like average CO2 emissions per vehicle, how many people we take to games and things like that.
“And it turned out that we had a total of 548 miles in the league, which meant it looked like throughout the season we would have emissions of around six tonnes. It takes six trees to offset a ton, so we were looking for 36 trees to come out neutral and rounded that up to 50.
“I went to Bridgestone who gave us some money, and the Old Mill nursery in Dromore gave us the trees, and from there this idea was born in a cafe to where we are now.
“We put some of the trees on our land, because it all starts at the club, but whether it was farmers, guys building houses, whatever, it was so, so easy to get rid of the rest.
“You wouldn’t mind giving things to Dromore, it’s something you learn.”
Although they will look to repeat the initiative year after year to compensate for each season’s moves, it is only a small part of the club’s plans.
They have already installed LED floodlights in an effort to reduce their electricity consumption, a move that has economic benefits as well as environmental benefits, and their next project later this year will examine the carbon footprint of their clubhouse with the possibility of new heating systems under consideration.
“If you were building a pavilion 10 years ago, durability wasn’t something you would have considered,” adds Dickson. “But today, if you don’t consider sustainability, you are not responsible.”
According to the club, this responsibility extends not only to managing the numbers, but also to educating its members.
“The mini-rugby club got involved and they embraced it,” Dickson says. “It was great to take them out with a shovel while planting trees.
“It shows them what they have to do. When they grow up, in 15 years, they will also have the responsibility of looking after the next generation.
“There are kids in the community who look up to Dromore Rugby Club and see us as leaders and it’s important for us to take that responsibility and lead the way.
“We are an amateur sports club, and obviously we want to go out and win on a Saturday, but there is nothing more important to a club like ours than people and community.
“Projects like these are a big part of that.”