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Coca Cola Should Be the 2010 Olympics Green Medal Winner

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By Jeffrey

coca-cola-plantbottle.jpg Were you glued to the 2010 Winter Olympics over the past couple of weeks?

Did you know that they were the greenest olympics to have ever taken place? (Even the medals were partially made from recycled electronics!)

What uber hip, eco-friendly, conservation giant do you think was leading the charge to keep the 2010 Vancouver Olympics green?

Coca Cola.

Seriously? Coke? Yes.

As a matter of fact, a recent study found that though consumers thought Coca Cola was one of the least eco-friendly companies in the marketplace, they’re actually one of the most eco-friendly.

Coca Cola got most of their environmental-based press over the compostable cups and "PlantBottles" they debuted at the 2010 Winter Olympics, but their conservation efforts went WAY beyond simple product design.

If you’re interested in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics as a whole, TreeHugger has a great run down of just how green they actually were.

The Coca Cola PlantBottle

The PlantBottle is made from 30% plant-based material and is still 100% recycleable. The plant-based material Coke is using in these bottle comes from sugar cane juice, which is a byproduct of sugar production.

I love that Coca Cola is capturing what is normally a waste product from their own product’s production and incorporating it back into the product itself, rather than sourcing it from a process all its own.

Sure, bottled water is still the biggest consumer scam in the world and plastic is still a petroleum product, but I think Coke has taken a huge step in the right direction with their PlantBottle and compostable paper cups. What do you think?

How Else Did Coca Cola Green the 2010 Olympics?

Senior communications manager for Coca Cola, Petro Kacur, said:

"Coca-Cola will deliver a net-carbon neutral sponsorship during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games – to our knowledge a first for any Olympic sponsor.  Our carbon neutral and zero waste efforts and the roll-out of our PlantBottle package comprise the most aggressive environmental protection plan every undertaken by an Olympic Games sponsor."

How exactly did the Coca Cola Company plan to accomplish the huge task of being a "net-carbon neural sponsor"?

  • Zero Waste: Through the use of sustainable packaging and ensuring 100 percent collection of all plastic containers used through the Olympic and Paralympic Villages in Vancouver and Whistler and the Olympic venues, 95 percent of all waste will be diverted from landfills
  • New Coolers and Vending Machines: 100 percent of Coca-Cola coolers and vending machines for the Games will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and electricity usage through new refrigerant technology that has never been used in North America before. The approximately 1,400 refrigeration units will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5,600 metric tons. This is equivalent to taking about 29,000 cars off the road for two weeks during the games or about 1,200 cars off the road for a year.  
  • Green Apparel: All Coca-Cola associates (includes Olympic Torch Relay, Venue Operations and Hospitality) will be wearing clothing made out of recycled (PET) bottles. This effort includes more than 33,000 wearable items.
  • Hybrid Vehicles:  85 percent of all vehicles used by Coke during the games will be hybrid or high efficiency delivery vehicles.  
  • Recycling: The company will collect and recycle 100 percent of all PET containers sold in Olympic venues. They will provide more than 1,400 recycling barrels and bin. The company estimates that it will serve 7 million bottles at Olympic venues during the Games
  • Compostable Cups and lids: Coke will offer compostable cups and lids (first time a company has made a compostable lid). Because Vancouver does not have a compostable waste stream, Coke worked with the City of Vancouver and VANOC to create a separate stream for bio degradable materials. The company also identified a local supplier to bio-degrade the materials.
  • Green Team: Coke will be mobilizing teams of volunteers to clean-up after each lunch time and evening celebration. The team will ensure 100 percent of the items distributed and sold by Coca-Cola will be recycled
  • Signage: All merchandising materials (menu boards, posters, etc) to be used in concessions at Olympic venues are produced from POST consumer recycled plastic.  All of these items will be re-used in the general market after the Games
  • Olympic Torch Relay Giveaways: All Coca-Cola giveaways along the OTR route will be made from recycled materials
  • Olympic Torchbearers: The company selected more than 2,000 torchbearers based on their making a personal environmental pledge.  Consumers were invited to submit a 250-word essay explaining how they were going to make a personal commitment to protecting the environment
  • Athletic Pledge Program: Coke ran an interactive kiosk in the athletes’ village to encourage Olympians to make a personal sustainability pledge.  Staffed by a team of past Olympic athletes, all current athletes will be invited to make a written or videotaped pledge

Well done Coca Cola Company. Some haters and eco-snobs may slap you with a "green washing" sticker, but I think you did a hell of a job. Keep it up.

What do you think? Do you feel like Coke is just trying to put off a green sheen, as it were, or are they really trying to take some steps towards being more sustainable (and helping their customers do the same)?