Believe it or not, the 2012 London Olympics sent zero waste to landfills. Through a concerted effort of recycling and composting (62% of it) plus converting the remaining waste into energy, they achieved this amazing feat. Considering the London Olympics hosted over 12 million individuals at 26 different venues throughout SE England makes their results even more remarkable.  

The International Olympic Committee did not do this alone. They had help from the European Pathway to Zero Waste, a partnership with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) which is aimed at a zero landfill approach in South East England. Together, they developed a resource plan to identify the sources and potential consequences of waste. 

For example, did you know if you throw away a plastic water bottle in a landfill it takes 450 years to completely biodegrade? And did you also know that 90% of all plastic bottles are thrown away instead of recycled? But if they were recycled, they could be turned into paint, benches and even sports uniforms! And scientists around the world are continuing to come up with creative and worthwhile uses for this type of plastic. 

Shaun McCarthy, Chair of Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 shared the following, "London 2012 has raised the bar on sustainability, not just for future Olympic and Paralympic Games but for an industry and for the organizers of major events the world over." 

Out of the London Olympics zero landfill practices, ISO 20121 an international standard for sustainable event management which aims to help organizations improve sustainability throughout the entire event management cycle was created.

What can meeting planners do to emulate the Olympics? Here are 4 ideas to consider (for more ideas, read our post on 20 simple ways to green your event)

  1. Put together an overall resource plan for your event. What items can you reduce, reuse, recycle and rent? Understand the source and potential consequence of each meeting item. If you rent audio visual equipment, your organization avoids the purchase, storage and shipping costs of said equipment. 
  2. Ask vendors to supply you with their sustainability practices. What do they do every day to meet a goal of zero waste to landfills? 
  3. Keep it simple. Replace bottled water with pitchers of water. Rent iPads, digital signage and video walls to eliminate all paper products. Eliminate trade show carpeting all together. 
  4. Poll attendees with wireless Audience Response Systems. Ask them what sustainable actions they want your event to put into practice. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of the SmartSource Rentals family, is a green audio visual partner. Give them a call at 888.249.4903 to understand the ways they can help your organization reach a goal of zero landfill waste!