Sustainability requires change at every level of government and business. The Olympic Games this year will include changes to the way food is delivered, how people travel around the city, how waste is handled, and what will remain after the games. Sustainability was the primary objective during the bidding and planning stages of the 2012 London Olympics.
London is the only city to host the Games three times and the lessons learned served as a blueprint for success in the 2012 event. The city had seven years to prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games, and several years of planning during the bidding process was focused on sustainability.
The local communities in London have donated more than 15,000 hours to transform the community, creating civic pride, and turning neighbors into friends. Committees planted trees and wildflower meadows, creating wildlife habit and reducing air pollution. A program called Transform provides grants for community groups to improve neighborhoods and implement recycling efforts city wide.
The seven-year process to prepare the city for the six-week Olympic Games includes venues that feature sustainable features that significantly reduce the carbon footprint of each project. Carbon footprints were measured in the planning stages and statistical research on footprint outcomes will be measured. Venues that are completely reusable are being erected, and will be dismantled for future use in other projects.
All food sold at the Olympic venues will have compostable packaging. An effort to achieve zero waste includes complete recycling of plastics and the use of recycled materials in construction projects.
Sustainable efforts at managing the travel needs for the Games include the development of walking and cycling routes that entwine with other modes of transport throughout the city and nearby neighborhoods. The Active Travel Champions is a nonprofit group of volunteers who assist others in learning to enjoy walking and cycling. City rail lines have been expanded and new additions to the city’s transport system include the Olympic Javelin shuttle and the Thames Gateway cable car.
The effects of sustainability efforts that directly impact local businesses and the United Kingdom in general include the greening of the food supply. Efforts to provide local and sustainable foods for the 14 million meals that will feed the Games has led to major changes in the way the United Kingdom does business locally, nationally, and internationally. Businesses have learned to implement sustainable practices or risk losing out on government contracts for the Games. These changes will create sustainable business practices that have reduced costs in the process of using environmentally friendly products. Policy changes in procurement will ensure that sustainability practices in business remain in place permanently. The policies are outlined in a report titled “The Environmental Sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
It remains to be seen if the efforts of the city planners and the Olympic Committee will be sufficient to handle the expected four nine million attendees. The sustainable efforts made by the London 2012 teams will encourage future cities to host sustainable Olympic Games events and that is a measure of success. The national policy changes are benefits are another measure of success.
Karl Stockton writes for Alternate Energy, a Hawaiian solar installer. With modern advances, a little luck, and lots of effort, we can make the world sustainable for future generations.