Professional footballers are often tarred with the same brush. At first glance, you might do the same with 25-year-old Spain and Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin. But you would be wrong.
The electric car-driving vegan has just finished a campaign with charity One Tree Planted that will see 58,617 new trees planted in the Amazon rainforest – an area deeply under threat from deforestation, so much so that a football-pitch size patch is lost every six seconds.
Keen to share his passion for the planet, the sports-come-sustainability-star recently teamed-up with carbon neutral Formula E team Envision Virgin Racing as part of its Race Against Climate Change LIVE event.
“People are always talking about how in 2050 we’ll do ‘this’ or ‘that’, but that’s not how it works. Way before that we are going to have to make big, big changes.”
Speaking to RACC LIVE host Georgie Bingham, Hector recalls where his social consciousness first began. “I’ve always lived close to the sea. In the summer I’d go to the beach every day. But there came a point when we just couldn’t get in the water because the beach was so dirty.”
“It made me think that one day my kids, or the next generation, are not going to be able to enjoy these things, like I did when I was young.
“One day the switch just flicked, and I knew I had to do my bit, so I started living more consciously, from reducing my plastics to driving an electric car.”
True on his word, Hector made the pledge earlier this year to plant 3,000 trees for every win Arsenal gained for the remainder of the season. And, with a bit a support from fans, and some unexpected support from others, the trees are already being planted – also helping to regulate the planet’s climate and ecosystems.
But Hector knows it is not just about planting trees, it is about planting ideas, especially amongst his peers. “Given the platform I have; I try to make others more conscious of this as well. I won’t lie, it is difficult to find a [eco] conscious athlete in our industry who really cares about these things, until something big really happens. It’s not just my industry though, but everywhere. My message to everyone is we have to protect the earth.”
“People are always talking about how in 2050 we’ll do ‘this’ or ‘that’, but that’s not how it works. Way before that we are going to have to make big, big changes if we don’t want the world to die on us.”
Like Envision Virgin Racing, Hector understands that sport and sustainability must co-exist and the football and motorsport industries can play a huge role in raising awareness with the next generation.
…oh, and in case you were wondering what Hector thinks of electric cars… “Since switching to an electric car I don’t ever want to go back! It is not just better for the environment, it’s also more fun to drive!”
FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT DEFORESTATION
1. 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon forest and 30% of the earth’s land is covered by forests.
2. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced by a car driven for 26,000 miles.
3. One and a half acres of forest is cut down every second. In the Amazon rainforest, the total loss is 11.9 million hectares, an area roughly three times the size of Switzerland.
4. If the current rate of deforestation continues, it will take less than 100 years to destroy all the rainforests on the earth.
5. Up to 28,000 species are expected to become extinct by the next quarter of the century due to deforestation.