Japan is often perceived as the land of innovation, mostly from the perspective of technology. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Tokyo 2020 Japan House took innovation down to its simplest form – finding ways to effectively utilise everyday resources for everyday activities. The sustainability drive initiated by the Tokyo 2020 Japan House can be aptly titled – “Less is More”. Throughout the Olympic Games, the Tokyo 2020 Japan House endeavoured to reduce and reuse resources for daily requirements like meals, electricity, furniture, etcetera and none of these involved utilisation of high-end technology, only smart thinking and a will to make the Olympic Games more sustainable. The initiatives from the Tokyo 2020 Japan House are a good step in the right direction leading up to Tokyo 2020.
The efforts to utilise resources more efficiently originated in the House itself. All the trusses and panels used for the booths and warehouses were leased from local contractors. Also, the materials for the floor-lifting were reusable. The interior design of the House employed materials used by local contractors for previous decorating purposes and the partitions and signage were all reusable. Even the furniture inside was sourced from previous establishments. The House also strived to reduce electricity usage by installing energy-saving hot water dispensers to cook meals and LED bulbs for lighting. Moreover, part of the House was actually outdoors to make the best use of ample sunlight provided by Rio.
Every major event involves a gargantuan amount of food and the Tokyo 2020 Japan House identified that this area always leads to a lot of waste in terms of dishes and cutlery. Thus the House insisted on using reusable dishes and cutlery at the reception and hospitality room where about 100 meals were served per day. To counter food waste issues, the House tried to have appropriate order management to closely estimate the amount of food required. The food itself was served buffet-style so that there was a higher chance of people finishing what they put on their own plate.
In terms of logistics, the Japanese Olympic Committee pushed for purchasing their products from Brazil, and only products unavailable in Brazil were transported from Japan. Additionally, packaging of fragile items was done in the smartest way by using blankets to wrap the items instead of complex packaging materials.
Smart use of every-day resources helped us save money and be sustainable at the same time. As the hosts of the next Olympics, it was important that we lay down a marker at Rio and I believe we did that, in simple yet efficient ways.
Kenichiro Nakajo, Tokyo 2020 Director of Sustainability Engagement
Although these are apparently simple measures, they ended up helping the Japan NOC save money on purchasing new materials of equivalent to 235 partitions, 76 signs, 335 desks, 1,036 chairs and 5 refrigerators! It could have also encouraged the local contractors to employ more reusable resources for their own projects. Despite not having relevant figures available, it could be safely assumed that the initiatives helped save electricity and purchasing and packaging costs. It is also encouraging to see an NOC striving to reduce wastage of food, dishes and cutlery. The biggest takeaway from the initiative is, hopefully, a change in perception – sustainability is not rocket science, it is simply about keeping it smart, simple, and efficient. Currently exploring the possibility to re-use e-waste for the production of the medals, indicates that the country continues to pursue an innovative approach in their preparations for Tokyo 2020.