“When the wind is bad and comes from the northeast, the air from the power plant blows right over to us,” said Eintracht Peitz chair, Sebastian Bubner, referring to the Jänschwalde coal-fired power plant. Located just a few kilometres away, it is one of the notoriously bad polluters.

The club thought addressing this was crucial “now more than ever” and forged a plan: climate neutrality by 2023.

“We wanted to be pioneers and move forward in a positive way,” Bubner explained.

Lusatia in Brandenburg, where the club is based, is one of the largest coal regions in Germany. In the immediate vicinity of the Eintracht Peitz club grounds, lignite is mined, burned and converted into electricity.

However, given the upcoming coal phase-out in 2038, the region is facing a momentous structural change. Unemployment, migration and wage cuts could affect Lusatia in the coming years. The club wants to counteract this by drawing attention to the region and its willingness to innovate.

Proactive structural change

A proactive structural change could counteract the consequences of the coal phase-out and reduce the extent of migration and unemployment.

Eintracht Peitz has decided to contribute something to the positive development of the region, together with its 200 club members. Through a variety of measures, the goal is to achieve net zero emissions – in other words, climate neutrality.

The idea came from Bubner. After a photovoltaic system was installed on the roof of the club’s facilities, members began to take a closer look at their emissions.

“We looked at what we were consuming and what we were saving with the PV system,” Bubner said. This involved counting all trips to and from the club and everything that happens on the grounds. The result: Eintracht Peitz emits 25 tonnes of CO2 per year and is currently saving 12.5 tonnes through the PV system.

Although that would be enough electricity to drive five million kilometres by Segway or 1.2 million kilometres by e-car, the balance is in the red. “Our goal is therefore to get rid of this red number in the next three years in order to be truly climate neutral,” Bubner told EURACTIV Germany.

The association’s PV system was promptly enlarged to produce even more electricity. In the meantime, the plant even feeds green electricity into the power grid in Peitz. There are already plans to expand the system even further in 2021.

With this idea, Eintracht Peitz applied for the “Great Star of Sport” award. The competition, launched by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), honours sociopolitical and honorary commitment in the sports sector.

At the state level in Brandenburg, Eintracht Peitz was already awarded the “Great Star of Sport in Silver” award in October. At the nationwide final on 18 January 2021, they were nominated for the gold star and could receive €10,000 in prize money.

Planting trees and a green minibus

The club had applied with the campaign “Peitz is green – from Easter eggs to CO2 neutrality”, which took place in the spring. As part of the initiative, the club planted trees to compensate for emissions.

Eintracht Peitz also wants to reduce its emissions directly. To this end, the club is purchasing an emission-saving minibus to be as climate-friendly as possible when the youth teams travel to away games.

“We also want to encourage our members to save CO2 at home as well and are even training them to do so,” Bubner explained.

The next big goal is a floodlight system that will be all LED and use little electricity. “These are the low-hanging fruits,” said Bubner, and should be implemented as quickly and easily as possible.

Bubner sees a long-term challenge, which also goes far beyond the three-year goal, as also integrating the children into the club and the region in the long-term. “That’s the whole idea of why we’re doing all this,” he said

The young people should not migrate but stay in the region and identify with Lusatia. “We want to make it so comfortable for our members that they stay here.” Lusatia is to shed its image of a polluter are build a reputation of being a region fit for the future.

The first step for Eintracht Peitz is to make its club climate neutral. For Bubner, this is not an unusual undertaking, “because what suits a coal region better than thinking about tomorrow?”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]