The Olympic Games. Every two years, nations around the world come together to watch their most elite athletes battle it out to prove who comes out on top. They are an amazing sight to behold, and millions of people – from athletes, to media, to spectators – gather en masse to watch these inspiring competitions.
So as the world so closely watches the Games, we in turn must closely watch the world: How can we ensure the Games minimize their impact on the environment?
In Pursuit of Sustainability
In 1996, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “acknowledged its particular responsibility in terms of promoting sustainable development,” leading it to make a significant modification to the Olympic Charter. The Olympic Movement expanded its fundamental objectives into a powerful trifecta: Sport, Culture and Environment.
Thus began the efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the Games, as the Organizing Committees sought to reduce and partially offset their emissions with carbon credits. This action represented a substantial step forward, but more than 15 years later, there was still ground to be gained in Sochi. Could the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games actually mitigate their impact by eliminating the equivalent CO2 emissions in Russia?
A Milestone in Carbon Neutrality
Eighteen years after the introduction of the environment as an Olympic pillar, the Olympic Games can now celebrate another milestone in its pursuit of sustainability. For the first time ever, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mitigated the direct carbon footprint of the Games – including emissions associated with the travel and accommodation of athletes, staff, and volunteers; the operation of the sports venues during Games time; and the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee’s activities from 2007 (when Russia received the right to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games) until the Paralympic Games’ Closing Ceremony, on March 17, 2014 – by pursuing energy-efficiency and low-carbon measures. This innovative approach goes beyond previous efforts and represents a ground-breaking initiative in Russia.
In addition to this technology program in Russia, Dow for the first time in Olympic history offset 100 percent of the estimated emissions from travel of all spectators and media to the Games. This was achieved by retiring carbon credits from projects in the current and future Olympic host nations and in the US.
As The Official Carbon Partner of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, The Dow Chemical Co. is proud to help advance the sustainability of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are excited about the record breaking results we have delivered in Russia and are even more thrilled about the unique opportunity to show the world how innovation in sustainability can be achieved.
Mitigating CO2 Emissions with Energy-Efficiency Measures
Energy-efficiency projects have been kicked off all around Russia to mitigate the CO2 emissions from the Games and minimize their impact on climate – including initiatives involving insulation for buildings, carbon fiber for infrastructure projects and seeds for sustainable farming.
Did you know, for example, that buildings contribute nearly 40 percent of manmade greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? According to a study by McKinsey & Co., energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to make large-scale reductions in the carbon footprints of countries and regions. In a separate study focused specifically on the opportunities in Russia, McKinsey & Co. has also demonstrated that implementing energy-efficiency measures alone could reduce the nation’s energy consumption by 23% – and thus GHG emissions by 19% – with the largest opportunities in the building and construction, fuel and energy, industry and transport, as well as agriculture and forestry.
As part of the Official Carbon Partnership with the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, more energy-efficient, less GHG-intensive insulation products and techniques have been used in construction projects throughout Russia – resulting in at least 300,000 MT CO2e emissions over the next 10 years.
As the nation looks to both renovate existing and building new infrastructure projects in advance of the 2014 Games, carbon fiber-based composites have also been used as a more sustainable alternative. These locally produced, low-weight, high-strength composite materials have helped reinforce buildings in a way that enhanced structural integrity and construction quality, while also reducing environmental impact.
Finally, sustainable farming practices, such as low tillage, in combination with seeds for corn, sunflower and rapeseed (canola) crops have been used to mitigate carbon emissions. Sustainable farming practices and efforts to promote healthier food choices have helped reduce impact on the environment and also deliver healthier, more sustainably produced crops for the Russian market.
More Sustainable Games
By pursuing innovative ways to reduce GHG emissions, the Olympic Games have achieved yet another milestone in pursuit of sustainability in Sochi in 2014.
What will be the next? Can you imagine a day where we could eliminate the climate impact of the largest events in world history? What if that day were closer than you might think?