Eugene/Springfield, greater Lane Country and the University of Oregon prides itself in its commitment to sustainable practices. In 2008, our Local Organizing Committee (LOC) earned the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) first award for Sport and the Environment for its environmental and sustainability efforts during the 2008 Olympic Trials – Track and Field and Eugene08. Through a collaboration of City of Eugene staff, Lane County, Lane Transit, EWEB and others throughout the community, the event achieved a 72% recycling rate and many other accomplishments. We want to build upon the success of 2008 and make TrackTown12 even better and more sustainable.
We caught up with the LOC’s Sustainability Committee chair Ethan Nelson to update us on what the committee is doing to create an even more sustainable event in 2012. Nelson’s day job is as the Waste Prevention and Green Building Manager for the City of Eugene.
Looking back to Eugene08, the event was given the Sport and the Environment Award by the IOC, what was so special in terms of sustainability about Eugene08?
EN: The 2008 experience garnered the attention of the IOC because of one thing…..TrackTown USA being green. This event didn’t just do a green piece or focus on one or two aspects, it was about the entire performance of the event, the integration with the local community, and showing off to the world what being in TrackTown USA is about. The team that came together to support the event was wide spread and dedicated to the vision of sustainability. This was the aspect that pulled in the IOC, and what made up their minds was the performance elements. Eugene08 provided over 400 free bike valet parking each day, had over 50,000 people shuttled via public transportation, reduced the need for on-site diesel generators by upgrading the power infrastructure at Hayward Field, was 100% renewable energy supported, had over a 60% recovery rate for waste generation, had over 40% of all food provided from a local source within 150 miles, provided free tickets to youth and families, and supported the All-Comers meet during one of the dark days. Eugene08 didn’t just do a track and field meet, it was an experience for all involved. And it was done with a mind to reducing our impact on the earth and increasing the positive impact to the community.
How are the preparations in making TrackTown12 sustainable coming along?
EN: Excellent. The Sustainability Committee has been meeting for over 18 months and working on a wide variety of approaches. We are getting down to the wire here and finalizing all of the sustainability related activities in collaboration with the rest of the LOC.
Are there any new sustainable practices being implemented into TrackTown12?
EN: Yes. In addition to all of the activities identified above, which we are focusing on improving our performance in 2012, the new key items include: adoption of a sustainable procurement policy and tracking the sustainable elements of the top ten purchases for the event, BP is calculating the carbon footprint of event transportation and providing offsets in conjunction with their Target Neutral campaign, local food vendors will be tracking local foods and using all compostable materials to integrate with the City’s Love Food Not Waste program, there will be nutritional labeling for vendors foods to help fans/athletes make informed choices. There is also an increased focus on providing support services to alter-abled attendees with the intent of creating as inclusive an environment as possible; Nike has provided $100,000 to run youth and track development activities throughout the event, and we are working with the Council for Responsible Sport to attain the first ever sustainability certification of a multi-day event in North America.
What will it take to reach the levels that were attained in 2008?
EN: Focus, teamwork, and clarity of purpose. But what is really cool about some of the sustainability aspects of the program is the fact that fans get to drive the success. Without their involvement in our waste diversion efforts, we won’t make our goals. So look out for a variety of new fan engagement elements that will be highlighting the event’s efforts and how fans can make a difference.
What you excites you most about what your committee is doing for TrackTown12?
EN: We have been working on creating a system where sustainable events can become the norm and not the exception. There is a lot of momentum for this right now with collegiate athletics, professional teams, and hallmark events. We are supporting efforts with US Olympic Committee and our local Lane County Sports Commission. It is a legacy element, to use a track analogy, we are working hard to hand the baton to the next leg of the race, while making sure they are well set up for a win.