UBC aims to make the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games among the greenest sporting events ever, with a little help from the athletes
They might not be travelling out of the country, but athletes will have passports in hand as they make their way around UBC’s Vancouver campus, host venue for the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games from July 8-12. Walk or bike instead of drive to a competition? You get a stamp for that. Take a three-minute shower? You get a stamp for that. Separate your waste into recycling and compost bins? You get a stamp for that too.
More than just a fun keepsake, these passports are designed to promote more sustainable behaviour.
UBC will host 1,300 athletes with intellectual disabilities at the 2014 national Games this July and organizers want it to be a model of how to improve the environmental, social and economic legacy of large-scale sporting events. The biggest challenge? Changing the behaviours of attendees to be more sustainable during and after the Games.
“Many sporting events are changing their operations to be better for the environment,” says Matt Dolf, director of UBC Special Olympics Initiatives who is also heading up the Sustainability portfolio for the Games Organizing Committee. “But these changes don’t allow us to call an event ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’. We need to see events as an opportunity to leverage a deeper change in society.”
When athletes arrive at UBC they will receive a passport, but unlike traditional passports with a photo ID and visa stamps, these ones contain a pledge inspiring athletes to lead more sustainable and healthier lives. As they make their way from competition venues to the Athlete’s Village, they collect stamps for each sustainable action. Athletes are also encouraged to meet and thank volunteers, learn about accessibility, and take part in an extensive health-screening program.
Promoting lasting change
Throughout the Games, a team of UBC and University of Victoria researchers will evaluate whether or not the passports encourage behaviourial changes.
“Our research investigates how to more effectively engage athletes in sustainability activities,” says Leila Scannell, a postdoctoral research fellow with UBC’s Sustainable Building Science Program. “This is the first study we are aware of that looks specifically at people with intellectual disabilities, underrepresented in literature on environmental behaviour.”
Similar research has been core to work at UBC’s Department of Psychology where a recent study showed that being in a green environment promotes green behaviour. By creating an atmosphere where sustainability is built into the Games, the evidence suggests athletes and spectators should act more sustainably.
Visitors to campus will see a bike-share program, water filling stations for reusable bottles, composting, recycling and waste stations, and mostly local food carefully packaged to minimize waste. These efforts are part of reducing the overall environmental footprint of the Games.
A green blueprint for sporting events
Dolf, who is also a PhD candidate in UBC’s School of Kinesiology and working for the Centre for Sport and Sustainability, will use the Games to conduct the first environmental life-cycle assessment of a multi-sport event, which will measure the entire environmental impact of the Games, helping organizers reduce impacts and inspire change at future events.
The Games are also aiming to comply with a new Canadian standard for sustainability event organization. Dolf is a technical committee member of this standard and, in partnership with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, co-authored the Sustainable Sport and Event Toolkit which led to the standards creation. The UBC Centre for Sport and Sustainability has taken up much of this legacy by capturing and transferring knowledge on how events can foster human and ecological wellbeing.
“Events have a unique ability to bring people together around a common cause but do we understand where these events can best leverage change?” asks Dolf. “The assessment allows us to put a number on our impact on air quality or carbon emissions so we can prioritize our efforts to reduce our footprint.”
For more information about sustainability at the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games being hosted at UBC, see http://vancouver2014.ubc.ca/sustainability/