Tokyo 2020 Hopes to Inspire a More Sustainable Future - By Elizabeth Jeneault
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Tokyo 2020 Hopes to Inspire a More Sustainable Future

By Elizabeth Jeneault for The J-Pop Exchange

With less than a year remaining until the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, we’re learning more about a major focus of the 2020 Games. The International Olympics Committee sees Tokyo 2020 as the perfect opportunity to teach people about the impact of climate change and how sustainability initiatives can help. The hope is that the Tokyo Games will inspire people to think twice about what they waste.

“The Olympics are a big event that attracts large audiences as well as athletes,” said Tokyo 2020 Senior Director for Sustainability Yuki Arata. “We think that it is a huge opportunity to tackle the issue of sustainability.”

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals, Olympic torch, parts of the Olympic Village, and even the staff and volunteer uniforms will all be made from recycled materials. The public helped make several of those things possible. For example, all the gold, silver, and bronze needed to make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals was collected from nearly 80,000 tons of mobile phones and other devices the public donated. The public also donated shampoo bottles which will be used in the podiums. Tokyo 2020 partnered with company P&G on that initiative. P&G is also using shampoo bottles that were recovered from the oceans to make those podiums.

Sustainability collides with history with the 2020 Olympic torch. It was produced using aluminum waste from temporary housing that was built in the wake of the deadly Great East Japan Earthquake, the largest earthquake ever to hit the country. Nearly 20,000 people died in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. By using materials in the torch that were once used to help rebuild lives after that horrible event, organizers hope to spread a message of hope and recovery.

As for other sustainability initiatives, recycled plastic bottles collected by Coca Cola will be used in the uniforms of the Olympic torchbearers. Staff and volunteer uniforms will also include sustainable materials. Additionally, parts of the Olympic Village will be built using sustainably-sourced timber that will be returned once the 2020 Games are over. The wood will be used in public works projects.

“We hope that the approach we are taking for these Olympics, for example reutilizing timber to make benches for public facilities for local areas as well as having the mindset of ‘Let’s not waste but reuse it,’ will remain in [people’s] minds as a good memory of these Olympics to be passed on to the next generation,” said Arata.

Since people will obviously need to get around Tokyo during the 2020 Olympic Games, Toyota will be providing a wide range of zero-emission vehicles. Fuel cell electric vehicles will be among them, in line with Japan’s carbon reduction goals.

While the IOC has the aim of achieving a carbon-neutral Summer Olympics, that could prove difficult. Japan was hit this July with a crippling heat wave, for example, that claimed about a dozen lives and put thousands of others in the hospital. It has renewed questions about Japan’s weather during the summer, and how organizers will be able to keep people cool. While electricity used during the Olympic Games will be supplied by renewable sources like solar, biomass, and hydropower, a lot of it will be needed. Organizers are working with company partners on some new and innovative ways to save people from the excessive heat, though. We can expect more details about that soon!

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