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The 2010 Olympics: A Case Study in Carbon Management

By Kayla Van Egdom

On Valentine’s Day, Carbon Talks held its fourth Brown Bag Dialogue.  In recognition of the one year anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, we asked Ann Duffy, the Sustainability spokesperson for VANOC and Christopher Hakes of Offsetters to take us through the carbon management plan for the Olympics.

The 2010 Olympics was a massive enterprise, exceeding previous games in terms of spectators, participants and Facebook/Twitter followers. Creating a green, socially inclusive and innovative Games was core to the branding of the Vancouver Olympics, and cultivating environmental sustainability was one of the six primary aims of VANOC.

Carbon management at the Games was achieved through four main steps, which Duffy outlined as:

1. Know

Perpetual advances in science and technology helped the VANOC committee make carbon forecasts and measure carbon emissions.

VANOC took into account the seven-year cycle of the Olympics (from initial planning to the follow-up of the Games) and distinguished between the direct and indirect carbon footprints of the games.  VANOC focused on direct carbon footprints – the operations, facilities, air travel and accommodations of the athletes, their coaches and the staff of the Olympics.  Where possible, VANOC tried to address through education and influence, the indirect carbon footprints, which included the air travel and accommodations of spectators.

2. Reduce

Wherever possible, VANOC first adopted a reduction approach to carbon emissions. Reduced use of fuels, clean technologies and LEED venue designs all helped to reduce the carbon footprint of the Games. In addition, the 2010 Olympic Games featured a carbon neutral Torch Relay, with Bombardier ensuring that the torch itself was carbon neutral.  Where reductions were not enough to reach carbon neutrality, VANOC offsets were purchased.

3. Offset

Christopher Hakes, the manager of Client Engagement at Offsetters, covered the design and delivery of the Olympic offset program. Founded in 2005, Offsetters has been the largest supplier of carbon offsets for the Canadian government as well as the official supplier of offsets for the 2010 games.

In addition to offsetting the direct footprint of the Vancouver Olympics, Offsetters partnered with 2010 Legacies to create a portfolio that would offset the Olympics’ indirect carbon footprint. They also played a key role in the education and enabling program – the fourth step in the Olympic carbon management program.

4. Enable/Inspire

As Ann Duffy emphasized, the Olympic Games presented a once in a lifetime opportunity, to reach a wide audience and impact behavioural change. VANOC targeted athletes, partners, sponsors, media and spectators with their sustainability messaging. Through its Sustainability Star program, VANOC awarded partners like the Hydrogen Highway and Richmond’s Olympic Oval for their green innovations.

A catchy video produced by Offsetters and shown at events, was a key tool in delivering sustainability messages to captive spectators.   The Bobwheeling campaign – a fun climate change educational initiative earned global media attention and accolades for its humorous street level public engagement approach. (Check out some of the Bobwheeling and Carbon Neutral Games videos online at the Offsetter’s Youtube channel).


 

Ann Duffy and Christopher Hake presentation brought home the idea that even the largest and most elaborate events can be successful in reducing and managing carbon. With commitment from the leadership of VANOC, a clear set of principles, a well-developed strategy and creative, multi-media approaches to public participation, VANOC presented a case-study for carbon management worthy of emulation.

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