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Michael Woods: I want people in pro cycling to be more environmentally conscious

QUILLAN FRANCE JULY 10 Michael Woods of Canada and Team Israel StartUp Nation Polka Dot Mountain Jersey celebrates at podium during the 108th Tour de France 2021 Stage 14 a 1837km stage from Carcassonne to Quillan LeTour TDF2021 on July 10 2021 in Quillan France Photo by Chris GraythenGetty Images
Michael Woods (Israel Start-up Nation) at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) has revealed more about how he is working to offset his carbon footprint and help the environment as the COP26 Climate Change Conference continues in Glasgow and professional cycling slowly becomes aware of the damage it causes to the planet.    

Earlier this year, the Canadian calculated that, over the course of 2019, his carbon footprint amounted to 60 tons of CO2, roughly three times that of the average person in his region. 

Typical emissions for someone living in Andorra are 12-24 tonnes per year, but Woods' footprint is much higher and is likely indicative of a typical male WorldTour rider who frequently flies around the world to race and has the support of multiple team staff and vehicles, and stays in hundreds of different hotels per season.  

"I carbon offset for all my races. I use a site called Gold Standard to find charitable organisations that help that. They help me offset my carbon footprint because it’s quite large as a racer," Woods told Cyclingnews recently.

"That’s actually my last resort; in my daily life I’m also trying to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible. I think my lifestyle was pretty good but now I’m reducing new things; I’m eating less meat and buying locally. I minimise my household waste and commute by bike whenever I can in Andorra."

Woods was inspired to take action by the former rider Christian Meier and former EF Education teammates Alex Howes and Mitch Docker. He is now using his own social media platform to push professionals and the wider public to be environmentally conscious and aware of what we can all do. A number of teams have also started to take action and accept their responsibility for the environment.

"Ultimately everything we do is a drop in the bucket compared to wider industrial pollution but if I can use my platform to inspire others and if the teams do their bit, then it all helps," Woods said.

"I want people in pro cycling to be more environmentally conscious. Then they can vote based on their beliefs. When they vote with the environment in mind, that’s when real policy change happens and we can improve things. We’ve all got to do what we can."

Woods recently spoke to Richard Abraham for a special Procycling report into pro cycling and the climate emergency and has previously written about his action in the magazine.

When Abraham’s article was published on Cyclingnews last week, Woods pushed it on social media, calling for the Tour de France and the UCI to lead by example. 

His voice has started to create some change already.

"I’ve been talking to the UCI and to Israel Start-Up Nation to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, the team is going to change its fleet of team cars for next year. We’re going to have two electric vehicles and the rest will be plug-in hybrid electric, which will reduce our carbon footprint," Woods revealed.

"We’re also talking to other sponsors and our clothing maker Jinga to find ways we can reduce the plastic packaging and shipping. I’ve always been disillusioned by how much we pollute as cyclists. We get so much product from sponsors at the start of the new season and it’s all wrapped in plastic and shipped to us. That has to change."

In the Procycling article, Woods argued that "the peloton’s opinions reflect the world", explaining: "I’ve had guys who have applauded me and asked how they can help out. Then I’ll show up on the team bus with my permanent bowl and my fork and some guys will be making fun of me, teasing me.  

"The goal for me is to normalise being environmentally friendly. I’m not gonna judge the guys that are teasing me, I just hope I can lead by example.

"If you’re hyper-focused on your racing and performance it’s easy to neglect those things like the environment and focus on your pro career. But after the birth of my children I’ve become more aware about the environment. It made me realise I had to clean up my act even more and use the platform I have as a rider to affect as much change as possible."

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