London 2012 – The Greenest Olympics to Date

With the London Olympics underway, we’d like to share what they’ve accomplished to make it the most sustainable Olympic Games yet. Not only was sustainability a major factor for any city wanting to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, but with a multi-billion price tag and the world watching, London wanted their legacy to extend past the games, parties, new venues and facilities. What London set out to achieve was the most eco-friendly Olympics ever, not only to reduce the usage and costs of energy and waste savings for years to come, but to stand as a example that all cities should follow, Olympic host or not.


London’s New Olympic Stadium

Recycling and Waste Management

Coca-Cola-Olympic-Recycle-BinsHuge goals were set for waste management and recycling, from construction, during the games and cleanup. First, existing venues and facilities were used such as Wimbledon, Excel, Lords Court and Earls Court. For many events, temporary venues were used that wouldn’t damage the iconic locations they are found in, like Hyde Park and Greenwich Park. Necessary new venues include the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Center and Velodrome. The need for space in the massive capital presented the perfect excuse to take old industrial areas, clean them up and use them for new venues and facilities.

The construction used as many reclaimed, recycled or repurposed materials as was possible in an effort to minimize the impact the games would have on the earth. Even the earth excavated during construction was reused for other building needs or for the games themselves, using soil washing machines. The target is to reuse or recycle 90% of materials for both building and demolition activities.
For waste created during and after the games, The London Olympic Committee set high goals of recycling 70% of waste created, with nothing making it directly to landfills. For the massive amount of food, drinks and products to be consumed at the games, special materials and programs were employed. For non-sponsor related packaging, Mater-Bi, a range of biodegradable and compostable bio-plastics, will be used. McDonalds is also using this for their packaging and utensils, along with other Olympic caterers. Coca-Cola, working with Heineken, is using partially-recycled PET plastic bottles for their drinks. They will be collecting all bottles to be processed and reused again. Thousands of bins are found throughout all of the venues, for composting, residual waste and recycling.

Water Management

tower bridge, london
For water conservation, low-flow appliances and options like waterless urinals are used. Some venues take advantage of rainwater-harvesting equipment as well. A big advantage in this area is thanks to a new treatment plant that opened this year, which helps curb water use exponentially. The treatment plant uses bio-membranes to clean sewage into clean (but not-drinkable) water that is used for toilets and to irrigate fields and gardens.

Power Management

Wind-TurbinesGeneral Electric continues their Olympic partnership by providing low-carbon power sources. They have installed bio-gas power plants, which produce a combination of power, heat and cooling for a synergetic effect called “trigeneration’. Trigeneration’s multi-output from one power source, ensures the power is used and applied efficiently.

GE is also looking after the energy-efficient lighting of the games. With LED bulbs used throughout, they have installed 14,000 special Streetwise lamps in and around Olympic venues. These lamps provide a more efficient and brighter light than traditional incandescent lights, but it’s also a safer light that ensures clear recordings from security cameras.

GE-DuraStationThe highlight of GE’s work is London’s famous Tower Bridge. They changed the existing 118 year old static bulbs with new LEDs and the result is really quite stunning. The expected plan is over 25 years with an energy savings of 40%. In addition to the energy savings, the LEDs also afford the ability to control the lighting letting the strength, colors and patterns be changed.

There were also initial plans to focus on wind energy with a giant wind turbine, but those plans fell through. Now, seven smaller, less obtrusive and really pretty attractive turbines have been installed by by British manufacturer Quiet Revolution. These will provide power to 40% of the high-power street lights used and help the overall renewable energy target.

GE has also provided 120 DuraStations, which are being used to charge the 200 zero-emission vehicles provided by BMW.

Because there are so many, this is just a summary of the London Olympics’ green initiatives. If you’d like to know more about how London has created the greeniest and first completely renewable Olympics, please visit and check out the video below:

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