Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The greenish Olympics

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 10:44 AM

Are they the greenest Olympics ever, or what? Some say, "Or what."

From's Jonathan Hiskes, a simple solution for a greener Olympic experience:

For all the efforts to minimize the impact of the Olympics, one big solution never gets taken seriously. So much of the environmental and financial cost of the games comes from cities trying to build facilities that suit both a massive, two-week influx of athletes and spectators and also the long-term needs of locals. So you get things like Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 summer games and not paid off in full until 2006. Or the “spookily quiet, deserted” Olympic village Tom Philpott saw in Turin, Italy, two years after the games there.

The solution: Hold the Olympics in the same location every time, one spot for the summer games and one for the winter. Since the greatest concentration of athletes comes from Europe, putting the summer games in, say, Athens and the winter games somewhere in the Alps would minimize jet travel, which accounts for fully half the carbon impact of the Vancouver games.

From E-Magazine's Brita Belli, a little angst:

With such worldwide attention and grand-scale showmanship, it seems almost inappropriate to calculate the emissions and “sustainability” of the Vancouver Olympics. Each Olympics aims to be the greenest, and Vancouver is no different. As E wrote in a recent feature "Are the Games Really Green?" there‘s a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions—specifically 330,000 tons along with ecosystem and habitat damage—associated with creating and hosting the Games that’s just inevitable. When organizers do build arenas, tracks and buildings, they aim to set a green example. That includes the highly efficient Olympic Village in Vancouver, the temporary home for more than 2,000 skiers, snowboarders, figure skaters, curlers and other competitors, that has been called one of the “greenest neighborhoods in north America” by organizers and the National Resources Defense Council. When the Games have ended, the mini-city’s buildings will be turned into mixed-income housing, and aim for Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. A 64-unit building called Southeast False Creek that will later become senior housing is actually net zero—meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes.

But the Olympics are polarizing, and draw the ire of activists who see the Games as wasteful, destructive and out of step with their own agendas. Figure skater Johnny Weir—who wore a fur-trimmed outfit during the Nationals—decided to stay in the Olympic Village instead of a hotel as a result of what he describes as threatening harassment from anti-fur activists.

And now Friends of the Earth is using the Olympics to generate attention to tar sands exploitation in Canada. The group is particularly concerned that several oil companies involved in strip mining operations are also Olympic sponsors.

Green Daily writer Cat Lincoln's just happy things are getting better:

Whenever you bring together a big group of eating, drinking, trash-making humans, the green clique starts to get concerned about the environmental impact of the event.

In terms of architectural green-ness, Vancouver is pretty impressive. The Olympic Village is being built to the LEED Gold standard and they will have a LEED Platinum Community Centre. The speedskating oval is built from pine beetle damaged wood. But as Treehugger reported, some folks are disappointed because these uber-green buildings are too utilitarian. In short, they're ugly.


Aesthetics aside, official Olympics beverage sponsor, Coca Cola, is shooting for a carbon neutral Olympics. They introduced bottles made from 30 percent plant-based materials, and they're using hybrids for delivery.

Watching the green progress from two years ago gives the games an interesting added dimension for us Greeniacs at home, who worry about how many energy bar wrappers and plastic water bottles are going to wind up in the trash. This year, it sounds like that number is going to be closer to zero than every before. Now that's a reason to cheer!

See one of the sustainable innovations inVancouver's Olympic village for yourself:

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