Source: The Energy Collective

London is trying it’s best to live up to the goal its set for itself some years back: to hold the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games. There’s no measurable standard to judge what makes something “truly sustainable” (a gold medal to be sure, rather than a bronze “somewhat sustainable”), but that hasn’t stopped the host city from spending plenty of time and money promoting its vision—and one-year legacy plan—to the public. London assures us it’s taking the challenge seriously; it even created the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 to monitor its efforts, which has already urged Olympic organisers to ensure licensed merchandise is ethically sourced. Some highlights include a walkway illuminated by footsteps and reusing over 98% of materials in demolition and construction.

Even some of the 55 Official Bankrollers of the 2012 Olympics—pitching in more than half of the original £2.4 billion budget (it went up to £9.3 billion)—are playing their part (the rest are being naughty or don’t have a good PR team).*

Check out what this Forbes article has to say about their efforts:

Early in the process, the London 2012 management team made a number of promises to the International Olympic Committee about the Sustainability of the 2012 Olympics. The organizing committee worked with BioRegional and the World Wildlife Fund to develop Towards a One Planet 2012  – a sustainable Games vision.

[…]McDonald’s, who have secured the food franchise for the Games, committed to make their food supply chain more transparent through their Open Farms program. They committed to all of the Olympic sustainability policies, including reductions in packaging and waste, which they have been trialing in their restaurants in the UK over the last 12 months.

The official food of the Olympics. Nothing says ‘healthy, sustainable future‘ quite like a Big Mac and fries. And a diet Coke, of course:

Source: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola expect to serve more than 20 million bottles of Coca-Cola products over the course of the Games, and every plastic bottle is fully recyclable and contain 25% recycled material and also renewable materials, using the companies new PlantBottle technology. Every plastic bottle disposed of will be brought to a recycling factory in Lincolnshire, which is primed to receive as much as one fifth of the consumer waste produced at the Olympic Park.

Take note: Coca-Cola is sustainable because 75% of each plastic bottle at the games is made from raw or non-renewable materials. Also note: I’m a top student because 25% of my grades are As.**

It’s nice that the corporates are trying to be less dangerous/polluting/exploitive in order to cash in on the green craze. I’ve seen the BMW EfficientDynamics VIP fleet on the streets and all the Olympic Games busses to shuttle athletes and their entourage. Even BP and EDF, two of a handful of Official Sustainable Partners, are trying to green up their act, or at least their tarnished reputations. I appreciate the incremental benefits of these efforts. Really. But the idealist in me can’t help but laugh at seeing these paltry efforts lauded as something remarkable. There’s plenty of room for improvement.

WWF UK, who had worked with London to develop its sustainable plain, lists what a ‘Sustainability Partner’ should look like, and offers its take on the good, bad, and ugly of this year’s Olympic sponsors.

The ETA Trust rates how well the city has delivered on its promise when it comes to sustainable transport. I would have rated the Barclays Bike Hire system higher, but I bike everywhere, so to me ‘ease of travel’ might mean something different than for most people.

* There’s plenty to be said about the Olympic budget and who gets to foot the rest of the bill. I won’t jump into the foray, but if you’d like some hard numbers, the Guardian’s done a bit of investigation to piece together what are the actual costs and sources of funding for the London Olympics.

**This may or may not be an accurate statement of my current state of academic achievement.