Jewish Teen Summer Olympic Games Reach for the Green

summer olympics

From organic cotton garb to reusable serving ware, they have raised the bar in San Francisco this week as more than 1,500 Jewish teen athletes from 40 U.S. cities and four international countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Israel and Canada) compete in the Maccabi Games 2009.

This year, for the first time, organizers introduced a Green Team – a committee chaired by Miriam Gordon, an environmental activist, and games director, Jackie Lewis. Their game plan: a zero-waste event that completely circumvents the dreaded landfill.

Instead of the usual bottled water and other plastic beverage containers supplied to thirsty players, the participants have been issued reusable stainless steel water bottles to be refilled throughout the week of competition.

Garbage cans at every venue, from the polo fields in Golden Gate Park for soccer matches to the ritzy Meadow Club for golf – will be called eco-stations with recycling and composting labels for dispensing with waste.

water bottle

“It’s a whole new way of doing the event,” Gordon told the Jewish News Weekly, adding that in addition to the reusable bottles, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (the event sponsor) will serve athletes kosher meals on reusable/compostable plates with reusable utensils.

Apparently, this will also cut down on a huge litter problem on fields and event sites witnessed at past games held throughout the country.

Lewis says it’s not unusual to see water bottles scattered on the ground or thrown in the garbage because the kids are so preoccupied with matches, they aren’t thinking about what they are doing (ahh, yes, those clueless days!).

But greening the event reinforces the message that the kids must learn to be the stewards of the planet and do their part to conserve resources and consume wisely. In other words, be keen green teens!

team sf

Other gold medal eco moves:

The transportation company hired to drive the teens uses buses that run on biofuels, posters have been printed on reclaimed cardboard, volunteer tees were made from organic cotton and the food served to athletes will be mostly organic and locally-produced. The organizers also made an effort to produce fewer paper programs and notices, and whatever they did print was double-sided and on post-consumer, recycled products.

San Francisco 09

Not to miss a beat, even the pins (above) that the San Francisco delegation was issued to trade with other athletes were forged of recycled PVC-plastic.

There’s also an online component that allows spectators and participants to calculate their carbon footprint during the week of games. They can offset the pounds of carbon produced by making a contribution to the Jewish National Fund or the Carbon Fund.

Images: Luanne Bradley

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.