Sustainable travel

Birmingham’s bold bid to host the first carbon neutral Commonwealth Games

Here’s how to plan a sustainable visit to England’s second city as it counts down to 2022, writes Richard Franks

Friday 13 August 2021 08:28 BST
Birmingham is building up to the greenest Games ever
Birmingham is building up to the greenest Games ever (Denise Maxwell)

Birmingham has all the makings of a world-class destination, as cities go. This gritty second city once manufactured everything from whistles to cars, birthed Black Sabbath and ELO, pioneered the world-famous balti and even gave us bars of Dairy Milk. And, thanks to the stratospheric rise of Stephen Knight’s Peaky Blinders TV series, Birmingham is now recognised around the globe.

After more years of ridicule and rejection than one would like to recall (1992 Olympics; 2013 City of Culture; 2018 Channel 4 relocation, to name a few) Birmingham can soon, finally, showcase its big-hitting tourism potential on the global stage. In 12 months’ time, the 2022 Commonwealth Games will arrive in the West Midlands – and it will be the very first carbon-neutral Games.

“Birmingham 2022’s plan to stage the first-ever carbon neutral Commonwealth Games is a historic moment for Commonwealth Sport,” said Commonwealth Games Federation president, Dame Louise Martin. “It reinforces our commitment to ensure that the Games leave a positive social and environmental legacy for generations to come.”

Birmingham is preparing to take its place on the world stage (Denise Maxwell)

Birmingham 2022’s sustainability pledge is impressive. From plans to plant 2,022 acres of new forest to eliminating single-use plastic and pledging to reuse and repurpose all of its acquired assets, city bosses and partner Severn Trent Water promise a record-breaking event on the horizon.

With the main ticket ballot officially opening next month and itinerary planning in full swing, it’s a good time to get thinking of the little changes you can make to help make Birmingham 2022 the greenest Games yet.

Take greener transport

Birmingham is easily accessible via train from all major UK cities, with regular trains from London, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff arriving in less than two hours. Most events are in Birmingham, but, from there, short train journeys can also take you to the other hosts: Coventry, Wolverhampton, Cannock, Sandwell and Leamington Spa. Shuttle buses will be in operation at train stations.

It reinforces our commitment to ensure that the Games leave a positive social and environmental legacy for generations to come

Dame Louise Martin

Thanks to the progressive plans of organisers and the city council, it will be even easier to leave the car at home – every Games ticket will include free local bus, train and tram travel. “Building on the recent launch of Birmingham's clean air zone, this will help us reduce carbon emissions and air pollution around our venues – making Birmingham 2022 the cleanest and greenest Commonwealth Games ever,” said Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council.

Spectators will be also encouraged to utilise new green walking and cycling routes, with segregated cycle paths on the A34 and A38 already connecting Birmingham communities with host venues Alexander Stadium and Edgbaston Cricket Ground respectively. New rapid bus services will provide further links between venues.

Buy local

Prioritising local, independent businesses when shopping, eating and drinking is one of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental footprint while travelling; independent businesses purchase more local stock than retail chains, and local hospitality businesses also source ingredients from nearby stockists. Buying locally also cuts carbon emissions and keeps money within communities. At just £1.99 a month, an Independent Birmingham membership provides a valuable resource for eco-conscious visitors and offers exclusive discounts at some of the city’s top indie retailers, restaurants and bars.

Birmingham is counting down to the Commonwealth Games next year (Lensi Photography/Denise Maxwell)

Partake in sustainable activities

Nineteenth-century canalside stable Birmingham Roundhouse is the heart of the city’s independent sustainable boom. Backed by the Canal & River Trust and National Trust, and with vital funding secured from the National Lottery, a pioneering volunteer-led programme has enabled this horseshoe building to resurface as a green hub for locals and tourists alike. Visitors can see the city differently through new walking, cycling and kayaking tours.

“The Roundhouse is possibly our most ambitious building restoration project to date, and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to breathe new life into this wonderful building,” said Stuart Mills from the Canal & River Trust.

“Research shows that being by water makes us all happier and healthier, and I hope that many people can visit and realise the benefits of this wonderful space in the heart of this busy city.”

Book eco-friendly accommodation

Spectators can do their bit by staying at Birmingham’s greenest accommodation options, many of which have won awards for their sustainable practices. Staying Cool, a boutique aparthotel in the iconic Rotunda building, is a regular recipient of eco-tourism awards and was recently granted gold status for its locally sourced produce and a clamp-down on single-use plastics.

Roundhouse Birmingham has plenty of water-based activities to enjoy (Roundhouse Birmingham)

Responsible campers can take advantage of the West Midlands’s best campsites by sharing equipment, reusing and recycling, purchasing supplies from local shops and leaving no trace when departing the site. Most campsites are in fairly rural locations but are served by frequent buses in and out of the nearest main city. Spectators are encouraged to avoid travelling to host venues by car.

Birmingham 2022 will take place between 28 July-8 August 2022. The main ticket ballot opens in September. For tickets and more information, please visit To plan local travel, please visit

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