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A More Earth-Friendly Cauldron And Cardboard Beds Further Tokyo Games Sustainability

By Todd Kortemeier | Jan. 14, 2020, 12:01 a.m. (ET)


The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, with the Paralympic Games following Aug. 25-Sept. 6, and while they may be months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.


A chemist will tell you that burning copper is one reason you might see a green flame. But the kind of green that applies to the flame at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 won’t be because of burning bronze medals — made of 95 percent copper — it applies to the environmentally-friendly gas powering the cauldron.

For the first time ever, hydrogen gas will be used to light the Olympic flame. More sustainable than carbon-based fuels, the use of hydrogen is just the latest effort to make the Games as low impact on the environment as possible.

Another announcement recently concerns something that may at first glance seem like a punishment: cardboard beds in the Olympic and Paralympic villages. But to the contrary, the world’s greatest athletes will still get conventional mattresses, but the bed frames and supports will be made of cardboard. These frames can then be recycled into paper products and the mattresses will be recycled into plastic products after the Games. And the units athletes will stay in will be repurposed into apartment housing.

This is the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that all beds and bedding will be made almost entirely from renewable materials.

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A photo of the cardboard beds that will be used during the Olympic & Paralympic Game Tokyo 2020. 


Among the already-announced sustainability initiatives are the prize medals made from recycled materials donated by the Japanese public – including nearly 50,000 tons of discarded devices and 5 million cell phones – and medal stands made of recycled materials such as shampoo bottles.

Tokyo may be the first Games to put sustainability at such a forefront, but it’s becoming an Olympic-wide movement.

The Winter Youth Olympic Games going on right now in Lausanne, Switzerland, have also put an emphasis on the environment. The Games are using natural ice for speedskating, bobsled, skeleton, and luge eliminating the need for artificial refrigeration. And all athletes will use public transportation to get to events, thus reducing their carbon footprint. 

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.