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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Green Olympics

Air Date: Week of

Host Steve Curwood talks to Diane Conrad Gleason of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's Environment Program about programs that strive to make Winter Olympics 2002 the greenest games ever.


CURWOOD: It's official, after sport and culture, environment has taken its place as the third governing principle of the Olympic movement. Now, the Salt Lake City Olympics are billing themselves as the greenest games ever.

Diane Conrad Gleason directs the environmental program for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Diane, tell me what are some of the eco-friendly achievements that went into planning for these winter games?

GLEASON: The biggest one now is that we were just certified climate neutral by the Climate Neutral Network. It's a program we've been working on for over a year now, Olympic Cleaner and Greener. And it means we have no impact on global warming whatever. So, we're quite proud of that one.

CURWOOD: How do you pull that off?

GLEASON: Basically, what we did was quantify all of our emissions from anything associated with the games. Even air travel for the three weeks of the games and the two weeks of pair Olympics. All the transportation, chair lifts, the torch relay, torches themselves, anything you could possibly think of, we quantified. And then we asked the local and national businesses to donate emission reduction credits to us. And then we retire the credits.

So, we have a footprint of about three hundred and thirty thousand tons of CO2 and criteria pollutants, and we've offset five hundred thousand tons. So, we'll actually leave the air in Salt Lake cleaner for having hosted the games.

CURWOOD: What are some of the other programs to make these Olympics green that you have in place?

GLEASON: We have a zero waste program. Wherein we're going to be recycling and composting everything we possibly can out of the waste stream. We expect now we've just added compostable dishes back of house. So, with that addition, we expect we're going to get in the ninety percent recovery range. Basically, unheard of for an event. That's never happened before.

And then we have a very large urban forestry program. We've planted through six programs a hundred thousand trees in Utah, and eighteen million around the world.

CURWOOD: We read some press accounts that said that some folks there were dismayed that there will be so little mass transportation of spectators and athletes. That there were rather large parking lots created and that thousand of sport utility vehicles and vans are being used for this. Why does the transportation plan rely so heavily on private cars in that area?

GLEASON: Well, actually, of our SUV fleet, about thirty percent of that is compressed natural gas vehicles so they're alternative fuel vehicles. And about seventy percent of the Olympic traffic load will be handled by mass transit. We've got a transit fleet about the size of the city of Chicago. So, it's really a huge transit system.

In terms of mass transit, we're a western city. And it's pretty typical for western cities not to have very well developed mass transit. I think it's improved some over the Olympic planning years. For instance, we have light rail now, both north, south and east west. So, I think that's helped some. There will be a lot of private cars used in these Olympics. And that's one of the reasons we wanted to do the Olympic Cleaner and Greener Program to offset the use of those cars.

CURWOOD: Diane Conrad Gleason is the Director of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee Environment Program. Thanks for your time today, Ms. Gleason.

GLEASON: Thanks very much.

[MUSIC: Jim Henson as 'Kermit the Frog', "It's Hard Being Green", THE MUPPETS]



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