Katie Ormerod interview: How devastating injury led the snowboarder to tackle her carbon footprint

Part III: A serious crash in practice before the Pyeongchang Olympics left the 21-year-old questioning her future as an athlete, and even the future of winter sport itself. Now she hopes others will follow her lead

Changing the Game series
Kishan Vaghela
Sunday 26 May 2019 11:55
Winter Olympics: Snowboarder Katie Ormerod on her two broken bones in two days

Over the past year or so, the supremely talented snowboarder Katie Ormerod has committed more time to self-reflection than your typical 21 year old.

The devastating injury which split her right heel bone in half, just days before last February’s Pyeongchang Winter Games, not only took away her excellent chance of an Olympic medal but forced her to embark on a long road of rehabilitation with no idea where it would end. And in her bleakest moments, Ormerod began to think deeper, to question whether she still had a future as a professional athlete, and even to question the future of winter sport itself.

“I ended up having a lot of spare time to think about things I hadn’t really thought about before,” she tells The Independent. “The more I learnt about the damage things were having on the environment, the more I wanted to help.

“I became quite concerned about the future of snowboarding. I have been snowboarding since I was five and there are certain resorts I have been going to since I was really young, and I can see a difference in the snow every year, and I see the season shift a little bit.

“It feels like the season is shifting because of climate change, that is not the natural way of things. I have read that the glaciers are shrinking, but it seems more and more when I go to resorts now there is no snow or very little. This season I went to Stubai in Austria and I have been going there for years in October and November, and when I went there was no snow at all. That is a big difference.”

Ormerod was well aware of the inherent hypocrisy of a sportsperson advocating climate change, whose job took her on long-haul flights all over the world. She she began taking small steps. She started working with renewable energy company Solarplicity to chart her ‘green journey’ on social media. In between pictures of snowboarding tricks, gymnastics and the family dog were pictures of Ormerod changing her old lightbulbs to low-energy alternatives.

“There are so many little things that you can do that make a big difference, like turning off lights and having shorter showers. We need to recycle more, and one big thing for me is switching to reusable water bottles instead of buying just a load of different plastic bottles.”

Then came bigger steps, like teaming up with Mossy Earth, a social enterprise which offsets the carbon footprint of her travel.

“Travelling all over the world obviously does have an impact with all the aeroplanes that I go on,” she says. “Mossy Earth work out the amount of miles I have travelled and how much consequent pollution that causes, in order to work out how many trees would be needed to be planted to offset that carbon footprint. They then go away and plant the trees.

“I would ideally like to fly less, but a lot of my training and competitions take place in the southern hemisphere and in America. There is no way of getting around that, but I feel better knowing that I’m doing my bit.”

Ormerod also made a choice to stop eating meat, partly inspired by Kip Andersen’s documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.

“I’d learnt about the negative impacts eating meat has on the environment. I didn’t realise it before but as soon as I was made aware of it, it hit me quite hard, especially because of how much water is used in making meat. I watched Cowspiracy and I learnt so much. I went away and did even more research and realised how I could make a big impact by not eating it any more.”

Ormerod is back on her board

Ormerod is now back on her board, ready to compete again after fully recovering from her injury, but she is not finished on her green journey. She is encouraged by Beijing 2022, a Winter Games which has vowed to be radically green in its energy sourcing, and hopes more athletes and stakeholders in the world of sport will speak out and take a stand.

“It is amazing that they want to power the Olympics like that, I think if other committees and national teams do more, it will make a big difference. Everyone in general, not just sport, can do so much more as well. It would be nice to see a lot more going on.

“I just want to learn more about what I can do to positively impact the planet, every little thing I can do I want to positively change my life.”

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