Monday, May 10, 2010

The Ecolympics Challenge for World Environment Day, June 5, 2010

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a civilization to look

after its species. Of course, the species, all thirty to one hundred

million of them, are no more ours than the wind is. But we humans

control the destiny of life on Earth and if we hold to our present course

of action, which includes high consumption of natural resources

leading to habitat destruction and pollution, not to mention climate

change, then by mid-century we’re going to have a much poorer planet: historic numbers of species will become extinct and we humans will have lost a significant part of our heritage and

quality of life.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we can each do something about it.

But I’m not an activist, you say. Fine, neither am I. At least so


However, you and I both lead active lives and each day we have

opportunities to reduce our footprint on the environment. That’s

why last month my colleague, Alex, and I, together with a

dedicated team of students, organized the Boston University’s

first-ever Ecolympics. We were hoping to get at least one

hundred people to participate in our twenty-three events like

recycling, powering down computers, turning off lights,

taking shorter showers, using re-usable cups, eating less meat,

avoiding plastic, driving less and taking the stairs more.

Our motto was “Competing for Team Earth.”

We finally signed up more than two hundred people. Most of

the participants were from Boston University, but we also had

several people compete from other universities and from

Canada and Germany. The most common comment I got

from the participants was, “I enjoyed the challenge.” I’d

love to say that each of our actions saved a species, but it

doesn’t work that way. We have, however, engaged in the

struggle – against our own habits and attitudes and against

our ignorance.

We are ignorant about the long term consequences of our

present consumption of natural resources though our situation

seems like if in the story about the flood, Noah began

burning the floorboards of the ark to keep warm at night.

There has to be an alternative.

Check out the UNEP’s site for World Environment

Day on June 5, and see that people around the world have made

hundreds of suggestions for things to do to reduce our impact

on the environment and to protect species. The motto for World

Environment Day is “Many species. One Planet. One Future.”

You can also review our Ecolympics events and partake

in one of the events that you missed on your own. Or, if

you’re looking for a real green-medal challenge, here is

something you can do on World Environment Day:

organize your own Ecolympics for your work place or

school. Use our events as a guide. All you need

are a few green prizes as incentives, or a friendly bet

always makes a good challenge.

We need more Ecolympics and more Ecolympians. Next

year, we’re going to run the Ecolympics again, probably

for two weeks instead of one. We’re hoping for at least

double the number of participants: four hundred. But if

we really want to make a difference and get serious about

saving species, then we need four hundred million participants.

We need an Ecolympics that runs year round with everybody

participating every day.

Think about what it will mean for us all to be

Ecolympics champions! Clean air, clean waterways

healthy wetlands, thriving forests and diverse ecosystems.

This is why we need to Compete for Team Earth. This is

our future. The challenge is ours to accept.



  1. "The challenge is ours to accept". Exactly!

    Ecolympics is a great idea!

  2. I'm so happy this was such a great success!! It was the perfect thing to get everyone into green habits! I've been keeping them up long after the competition is over and I plan on keeping it up forever. GO GREEN!

  3. I loved this challenge. Hopefully other institutions will follow suit. As it is all about educating us for a greener world to live in.

  4. Piffle, we're all activists. Some of us are just in sleep mode. I'm glad to hear Ecolympics was such a success -- it sounds like a great way of engendering personal responsibility in the cause of sustainable living.

  5. I'm very proud of the student body's reaction to the was well received and everyone decided to do their part. At the end of the day, that's all we (the people who don't hold positions of power) can do to help our home!

  6. The Ecolympics rocked! It was very inspiring and provided the tools to adopt green habits and a new green attitude. Well done.

  7. I loved Ecolympics, since it got me to stop using water when I'm brushing my teeth (a long time habit , and a wasteful one, since I brush about 5 times a day) & also to order more vegetarian meals when I'm out. I'm still working on my shower times; can't help it if I like a bath. And I confess I did drive a few places I didn't _need_ to...but every little helps.

  8. Ecolympics was great! I got in the habit of taking my backpack to the grocery store on my bike, so that I could avoid both cars and plastic bags. I also paid attention to how much water I used when I brushed my teeth! It was great to have everyone doing this together. Way to go, Core!

  9. While the flame may have been extinguished on this years Ecolympics, I can honestly say that I am already excited for next year's competition. BUT... That doesn't mean we have to go back to our old habits in the mean time! Calling on ALL ECOLYMPIANS to continue their events into the summer! Well done everyone! What a success this turned out to be!

  10. I kept up my 3 min showers. Yay less water!

  11. This was a great event - well organized, inviting, inspiring & eye-opening. I was definitely challenged to stick to what I chose to participate in because bad habits are hard to break, but I think I am moving toward success even if only one step at a time. I tried to push myself to speak up & open conversations, which, for me, was the most satisfying part.

  12. I am a jonny come lately, but fully support the ecolympics events and will try to tackle the tough ones for me. I'd be happy to share good vegetarian recipies as I got off the meat train back in '93. The towel down will be tugh with little kids as will be he car-free, which is impossible since both of us work 16 miles from home in different directios (so we cannot carpool) and no good public transportation! Uuuugh!. Maybe I'll go build a yurt in the woods and live there.

  13. living in a place that is already fully dependent on water conservation (australia) it was a quick change from my old-school wasteful ways to being mindful that not everyone has freshwater at the ready. as for not using a car, australians really could learn a thing or two about public transportation (and USING it!).

  14. I pledged to take the stairs for a week because I thought it would be a challenge to haul myself up 12 flights every day. It was exhausting, but it opened my eyes to how much electricity I used to waste. I convinced others to take the stairs with me and even to become vegetarians for a week. Although I cannot give up meat entirely, I have definitely cut down on red meat since the Ecolympics. All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to do it again next year!

  15. Awesome idea!! I remember Northeastern University used to have a similar contest around 1995-98 (they likely still do) between different dorms to see which one would use less energy. Glad that BU has finally joined the club. :-)

    Maybe in a year or two, there could be an inter-college ecolympics!!

    All the best.

  16. Sorry to have missed out, but certainly a fantastic concept. I'm looking for events in my area, hope to take part in next year's event as well!