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Greek? Try Green: The First Sustainable Olympiad

The green ring on the Olympic flag might look a bit bigger this year compared to the others: London officials are aiming to make this summer’s 2012 Olympic Games the most eco-friendly to date. With initiatives ranging from massive recycling efforts to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, the British are looking to showcase their clean technologies and set a new standard for future international competitions.

These games are the first to be planned with sustainability in mind from the very earliest stages. The London 2012 Sustainability Plan focuses on five key themes:

  • Climate change: Organizers plan to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and make sure buildings left behind are able to cope with the impacts of climate change.
  • Waste: Reducing the amount of waste generated will be paramount at every stage of the Olympics, ensuring no garbage is sent to landfills while the games are happening. New waste processing infrastructure is also being developed in East London to assist the sorting and processing of reusable and recyclable materials.
  • Biodiversity: All wildlife and habitats in areas surrounding the games will be maintained or even improved, ensuring minimal impact to the local environment.
  • Inclusion: One of our favorites, the diversity of London and the United Kingdom will be celebrated with special programs allowing maximum access to the Olympiad for all, while also creating new employment, training and business opportunities.
  • Healthy living: The focus of the Olympics is athletic competition, so what better way to encourage people to get out and exercise than through games-inspired initiatives to inspire active, healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

To date, the London organizing committee has made great strides in creating the greenest Olympic Games to date. Carbon emissions will be 58% less than comparable sites. The new stadiums were constructed with recycled and reused materials and incorporate natural light and ventilation to reduce energy usage. Rain water and equipment-cleaning water will be collected for use in irrigation and to flush toilets, helping reducing water consumption by 60%. 247 acres of new green space have been planted with over 4,000 trees and 300,000 wetland plants. Plans are for all (yes, all) spectators to arrive by foot, bicycle or public transit, with almost 50 miles of new paths built.

These are all very impressive numbers for a spectacle the size and scale of the Olympics. Future event organizers still have something to aspire to though: only 10% of the event’s energy needs are currently coming from renewable sources.

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