Friday, January 22, 2010

Green Olympics?

Last week my bloggy friend Ron, From Destination: Where the F is Ron? asked "I'm here covering the Olympic torch relay as it makes its way to Vancouver and I keep hearing that it will be the "greenest" games in history. I'd like to pick your brain: Do you think it's feasible to have a green Olympics--or is it just a slogan or gimmick to make people believe it's green? Would love to hear your thoughts."

It's an interesting question and got me wondering ... can any gathering, such as fairs, festivals, concerts or sporting events, ever be "green"? After all ... any time there is a large gathering of people, there are environmental issues ... things like energy and water consumption, land use, waste, transportation options and levels, accommodations ... even noise pollution. Often, buildings and structures are erected for these events ... and just as often, they are torn down after the event creating more waste.

My personal feeling is that no, if we're thinking strictly about an event's carbon footprint, I don't think they are "green". That being said, most of these events have other beneficial qualities ... the Olympics encourage civic pride and promote health and athleticism. They also give their host city an economic boost. Fairs and festivals encourage unity ... on a small scale, they are often family-friendly and encourage "wholesome" activities ... on a large scale, they have often been used to bring people together in support of others (the Live Aid concert was held in support of people in Ethiopia ... there are currently concerts being planned to help in the Haiti relief efforts). So ... it becomes a balance between their environmental impact and their social benefits.

There is another side to consider ... will these events be discontinued if they are deemed less than environmentally friendly ... or will they occur anyway? I'm reasonably sure they will occur anyway.

Do I think "green" Olympics are a gimmick? No ... not at all. Once we get beyond the fact that any gathering is going to have environmental concerns, we can focus on efforts to make them as green as possible. The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Committee has put a few things in place. They are advertising and promoting green games ... this actually gets people thinking about their environmental footprint and plants the seed in attendees' minds to look for Eco-friendly opportunities at the event (like using recycle bins and reusable drink containers). Venues were chosen based on minimizing the environmental impact of travel, accommodations and land use. LEED principals were incorporated in building construction. One of the planning committee's most impressive moves is their Buy Smart program. This program includes specific criteria when choosing suppliers ... things like their environmental programs and sustainability efforts, whether they are Aboriginal-owned or employ Aboriginal people, etc.

I have often said that living a green life takes balance. In a perfect world, none of our actions would distress the environment in any way. But, this isn't a perfect world. So, we make the best choices possible and we do what we can. The Olympics will have an environmental impact but, they are also doing their best to minimize that impact.

Doing our best ... isn't that all we can ask?

As always ... I would love to hear from you!


  1. I guess it depends on the gathering and how much technology is involved. Anything with music, light shows, and fireworks is going to be more difficult to pull off as green.
    But many festivals that are held as annual events have structures (booths for example) that they store and reuse year after year cutting down on building costs.
    If you look at it from a family outing perspective, if a family goes to a festival for the day, park their car and leave it for several hours; get their food and entertainment in one location, often outside where there isn't a building to heat/cool or emit massive carbon as opposed to: going to a movie, going to the park to let the kids play some, then going out to dinner. That's a lot of driving around, at least a couple of buildings that have to be supported. Even if you do all of that under one roof, such as a mall (or where I live in casinos), those are massive building structures to support and buildings are the worst emitters of carbon than anything. I don't know.
    As I stated at the beginning, I guess it depends on the festival.


  2. I agree with you. Some things cannot be 100% sustainable because of their nature. But like you said, there's a balance. Trying their best to truly make it more sustainable and to raise awareness about living "greener" is great since the Olympics are going to happen either way. Might as well make the best effort they can and reduce the impact as they can. You put it nicely. Great post!

  3. Excellent discussion post! Like giant football games where everything is disposable. EW! I was impressed once - last year I saw Jack Johnson at Columbia Meadows in St Helens, OR, and was SO impressed at their sustainability efforts. Jack Johnson really takes it seriously to tour sustainably and only will pick venues who meets he and his wife's strict requirements. Check it out - seriously, even by the garbage cans there were volunteers showing you which ones were for compost, recycling etc (every product on the grounds was 'green'). wow. i hate to think about the number of factory farms profiting off of bad hot dots and burgers, not to mention the exhaust from the cars, electric load, etc.

  4. I am glad to at least see that awareness is a priority and every small step counts. Great thoughts on this - I actually had not even considered the Olympics being green or not green! Hm!

  5. As usual SF you provide thought provoking comment...


  6. I am always excited tp wait for Olympics like I wait for american idol... And I hope this is not a greenwash to or gimmick. I know, that making a green olympics is a hard thing to do, but at least making a way to be green is already something to be proud of.