How green are the ‘most sustainable Olympics ever?’
THE London Olympics has vowed to be the most sustainable games ever. So how are they doing so far?
Buildings - GOLD - Instead of being made of virgin steel, the circle around the stadium consists of old, abandoned gas pipes. Two thirds of the steel used in the entire roof is recycled, cutting construction costs by a cool half a million quid. Overall a tenth as much steel was used as its equivalent in Beijing four years ago. The velodrome used sustainably sourced timber and natural light and ventilation. But the aquatics centre is all concrete and steel and just passed sustainability standards.
Sponsorship - BRONZE - The Games could not happen at such scale without the sponsorship of big corporations like Coca-Cola and BP. But many believe taking money from businesses involved in oil, nuclear power, sugary drinks, or any one of a number of other controversial area tarnishes the spirit of the Games.It is certainly true that many companies, like Dow chemicals and Adidas, have been accused of human rights abuses. But many have used the Games to show big corporations can lead the way in terms of cutting energy, for example the hybrid BMWs used to ferry athletes around.
Recycling - SILVER - Some 97 per cent of waste from construction was diverted from landfill. For the Games itself, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) have a zero waste to landfill policy and aim to recycle, re-use of compost 70 per cent of that. At the moment they are achieving 73 per cent, which if true is very good, especially when you consider that most events have a recycling rate of about 15 per cent. However despite the funky recycling bins around the Olympic Park segregation of materials is a problem. These Games are supposed to be teaching people how to recycle more but at the moment is seems no one is listening.
Renewable energy - DISQUALIFIED - LOCOG said they would deliver 20 per cent of electricity during the Games from new local renewable sources, but have delivered very little. A wind turbine was scrapped and not enough work was done to find renewable biofuels for running the site or to invest in solar.
Carbon emissions - SILVER - The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) set a target of 50 per cent cut in carbon emissions compared to if the Olympics was built business as usual. This has been achieved to 47 per cent through a combination of energy conservation and using green electricity suppliers.
Transport - SILVER - As the first public transport games, London is doing pretty well so far with the Tube, trains and buses all running smoothly. The active travel programme is also encouraging people to walk and cycle as much as possible. However little has been done to make it easy for cyclists around London (not enough new cycle lanes or safety measures) and they have been banned from taking bikes on trains. Also the buses taking athletes around the different sites have been keeping their engines on while waiting for passengers, despite a policy of no idling. However since all the predictions were for transport chaos, London deserves congratulations for proving public transport can do it.
Food - SILVER - Much was made of the biggest McDonalds opening at the Olympics. But in fact they are providing just 10 per cent of meals with the rest from a range stalls offering everything from pork roast to Chinese. All restaurants have signed up to a ‘Food Vision’ that means they source ingredients locally. This means McDonalds has gone to some effort to use British beef, chicken and free range eggs. The fast food chain is not offering large meals and showing clearly on the menu calories in each dish. It is just a shame they do not do this in all their outlets.
Wildlife - GOLD - More than two million tons of soil have since been removed, cleaned and – mostly – reused, and covered with habitats including the largest area of wildflower meadows ever sown in Britain plus the biggest rare wet woodland in the country. Wetlands have also been brought back to life and the River Lea cleaned up. Bats, birds and butterflies are all being encouraged into the Park.
Water - SILVER - Grey water from a sewage plant has been recycled by Thames Water to be used again for irrigation and flushing the toilets. There are also rainwater harvesters and green roofs. But drinking water has been a problem, with queues at most venues to refill bottles.
Legacy - GOLD - The London Olympics is the first to set up a Legacy Development Corporation right from the start. A key part of this is to continue the commitment to sustainability in buildings, business and transport. If they keep to their word then the Games will just be a small part of a massive green regeneration project in East London. A derelict area around Stratford has been converted into a world-class sporting venue surrounded by parkland and with good transport links. It is expected new businesses will spring up. There is also support for young people in the area and the local community.