The 2008 Summer Olympics in China are drawing a lot of attention right now for political reasons. I’ve heard, though, that one ray of light is China’s effort to make the event as green as possible. What’s going on in that regard?
—Josh Rogers, Concord, NH
It’s true that China is using the upcoming Beijing Olympics as a sustainability showcase, going so far as to dub the event the “Green Olympics.” Through a partnership with the U.S. government and the Maryland-based International Center for Sustainable Development, China is giving Beijing a green makeover to make the city a model for net zero pollution, green building and sustainable community development.
According to China’s Technology Minister Wan Gang, the Beijing Olympics are expected to generate some 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, in large part because of the flying the world’s athletes will do to get to and from the games. To offset these potent greenhouse gases, China will take a series of measures, Wan says, including planting trees, closing 1,000 small coal mines before and during the games and banning up to a million cars from city streets.
Beijing’s Olympic Village, where the Chinese government has been busy erecting dozens of stadiums and other structures according to rigorous green standards, is emerging as quite an example of sustainable community development. The steel-looped Beijing National Stadium, for instance, includes a rainwater collection arrangement, a natural ventilation system and a clear roof with inflatable cushions made from ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene), a kind of plastic that increases light and heat penetration.