How Japan Plans To Make Tokyo 2020 More Eco-friendly

There is an ongoing effort by the organizers of Tokyo 2020 to make these games the most environmentally friendly Olympics to date. As one would expect from any large scale event like the Olympics, the amount of waste can be staggeringly high. However due to the Japanese having felt the effects of global warming for sometime, there has been a huge emphasis on making these upcoming Summer Games more sustainable. Let’s look at just some of the ways these goals will be reached.

If you would like to read an official draft of the sustainablilty plan released by the Tokyo Organizing Committee, it will be provided at the bottom of the page.

Illustration highlighting the sustainbility concepts for the Tokyo 2020 Games. ©The Tokyo Organising Committee Of The Olympic and Paralympic Games

It has been announced that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will attempt to use only renewable energy to power the games. This includes powering all electronics in the venues, the athletes village and media centers. The government is continuing to install solar panels all across Japan’s country side. The organizers will also look to private businesses in which they can purchase renewable energy from.

A Solar Panel Farm In The Japanese Country Side.

Some of the venues themselves will include self generating energy sources as noted on page 37 and 38 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Sustainability Plan. It is a 143 page PDF that was published April 25th, 2018. The venues listed as having these built in features include: The Olympic Stadium, Ariake Arena and The Olympic Aquatic Center. There are three different installation plans that will be put into affect: a solar power generation system, a solar heat utilisation system and a geothermal heating/cooling system. Not all the facilities will contain every single system.

The Japanese government has been working towards more use of renewable energy for sometime now, ramping up after the Paris Agreement in 2015. Japan currently has the target of 24% of the country’s energy consumption to be from renewable resources by 2030. This coupled with the ongoing effort to push away from nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, are some major factors that went into the decision by the Tokyo Organizing Olympic Committee to create a completely renewable energy powered games.

Explaiantion video of the Paris Agreement. ©The Daily Conversation

For events such as these, spectators expect there to be food services offering a variety of tasty snacks and beverages at there request. This of course can cause the waste from all these products to be excessive. To combat this mound of plastic waste, the Tokyo organizing committee has set a goal of 65% reusable materials. This would be the highest set to date. You can expect cups, cutlery and plates to all be made of reusable materials.

The use of reusable plastic however is not set to just the food consumption of the games. Any equipment that can utilize the use of reusable materials will be considered. For example, the anti doping kits used for athletes or name tags for workers and volunteers.

©REUTERS/Ben Nelms

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic’s sustainability plan is detailed on pages 49 and 50 of the PDF, as the “Specific indicators used in the field of resource management in the Tokyo 2020 Games”. These are ten target points that will be used to measure the ultimate success of the Tokyo 2020 Game’s ability to make a cleaner Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Two of these ten points (point 1 and 7) have to due with specifically food waste. Point 1 is the overall reduction of food loss at the Tokyo Games. This centers primarily on things such as proper portioning for meals and proper supply management. Point 7 is the initiative to recycle any food products that can be used in some other capacity, if not used at the games itself. It’s unclear if this means it will be donated to charity or used for other events in Tokyo, but the organizing committees goal is to have a greater amount of recycled food than wasted food.

Like many other project plans, education to the general public is a big priority. Talks about displaying the amount of food waste, so that people will be more conscious about the issue has been talked about. It’s unclear if this will be in the form of actual measurement of wasted food or simply visual effects like posters and videos.

Banner of the “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project”.©

There has been an ongoing effort by the Japanese people to donate metal to Tokyo 2020 in order to create the Olympic and Paralympic medals from strictly recycled goods. This is aptly named, the “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project”. It has the goal of creating over 5000 gold, silver and bronze medals in total. This is not the first games to use recycled material for Olympic and Paralympic medals, but it is the first in two aspects. If their target of using 100% recycled goods is achieved, it will be the first Summer Games to do so. It also differs in that they are the only Olympic Games to directly ask their citizens to participate in the donating process. It may seem like a lot to ask, but they aren’t asking people to donate their jewelry or antiques, but rather used electronics that they may not need anymore. Many mobile phones and electrical appliances contain small amounts of precious metal that can be used. The donation project is restricted within Japan only. On February 8th, it was announced by The Tokyo2020 Organizing Committee that the target number of donations would be reached.

Water is obviously an important resource for any event, and often times it can be an afterthought when it comes to thinking of wasted resources at the games. When we think of the uses that are needed for such an event, it spans far beyond simply hydration. Cleaning, venue upkeep, and gardens will all require a lot of water. Tokyo 2020 has plans to not only look how to effectively calculate the necessary ammount of water, but ways in which they can collect water. The most prominent is the catching and the use of rain water for these various jobs.

An advertisement from Asics published earlier this year. ©Asics

A smaller but still a significant project is the use of recycled clothing to create the Japanese athlete’s uniforms. The official Tokyo 2020 Olympic athlete kit is the responsibility of the sports firm Asics. They are hoping to collet 30,000 articles of clothing to make the uniforms. Originally it seemed these recycled uniforms wouldn’t be for actual competition, but rather for the ceremonies and medal presentations at the podiums. However more recent photos and publications have been showing sports wear for actual competition in the ads. There is another collection effort going on for plastics and polyester materials that can also be incorporated in the athletes wardrobe. The reasoning given by Asics is two fold, in that they believe that Japanese citizens will feel a stronger sense of attachment to the athletes, and they are attempting to uphold Tokyo 2020’s mission of hosting a more eco-friendly event.

A very intriguing prospect that may be utilized during the games is the use of an algae based fuel. Not specifically designed for the Olympics by any means, this project has been in the works by Japan Airlines Co. since 2009. Similar to the self driving cars, these will most likely be in the form of a prototype. The goal of using this algae based fuel to replace traditional jet fuel is set for roughly 2050, so to say this research is still in an infancy phase wouldn’t be inaccurate. There have been talks in displaying prototypes during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A video explaining algae based biofuel. ©

Draft Of Tokyo 2020’s Sustainability Plan

Here is a draft of the sustainability plans for Tokyo 2020.

©The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Shotaro Honda Moore

Written by

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Shotaro Honda Moore

Written by

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

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