My editor chose not to feature the video that inspired this MIL post, so I’ve linked to it at the bottom. Environmentalism, sports, and art–what’s not to like? Leave any comments here.
Despite having hosted the Winter Olympics twice before, only on Sunday did Canada succeed in winning a gold medal on its own snow-covered soil. The medal itself, earned by Alexandre Bilodeau, a champion mogul skier, also represented a unique environmental achievement in Olympic history, as it was made in part from recycled materials. Specifically, the medal included metal salvaged from the circuit boards of electronic devices, otherwise known as e-waste.
Bilodeau’s medal—along with the other 614 Olympic medals and 399 to be awarded at the subsequent Paralympic Games—helps to both highlight and combat the growing environmental problem posed by e-waste. Electronic devices that were once considered luxury items are becoming as commonplace and personal as toothbrushes. Because they contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and beryllium—as well as recyclable metal and plastic components—safely disposing this flood of phones, computers and televisions when they break or become obsolete is a challenge.
By teaming up with Teck Resources, a Canadian mining company, the creators of this year’s Olympic medals—Omer Arbel and Corrine Hunt, both Canadian designers—have brought new attention to the issue and prevented 6.8 metric tonnes of e-waste from ending up in landfills.
London, the site of the 2012 summer games, is expected to feature green medals modelled on Vancouver’s example. Organisers of the London games are spinning their entire “One Planet Olympics” around the idea of global sustainability (which is evidently the the third “pillar” of the Olympic Movement, along with sport and culture).
But Vancouver’s medals still leave room for improvement. Weighing in between 500 and 576 grams each, the medals are the heaviest in Olympic history. Less than 2% of each medal’s weight is derived from gold, silver and copper recycled from electronic devices. London’s medals could certainly do better (could this be another Olympic competition?), but this is a winning start.
To learn more about the aesthetic and environmental design of the Vancouver Winter Olympic medals, check out this video from Dell–which is apparently happy to see that some of the e-waste it produces is being put to good use.
Photo credit: RobMan170 (via Flickr)