Going for the “Green”

Rabbi's Message - July 27, 2021

Rabbi Tina Sobo

The start of the Olympics brings out the inner sports commentator in all of us.  As a former competitive swimmer, it is probably no surprise that I enjoy televised swimming during the Olympics.  It occurred to me to share my thoughts this week about some of the Jewish values that go into becoming an Olympic-caliber athlete – the “Core Values” we taught at the URJ’s 6 Points Sports Academy: intention, leadership, growth, sportsmanship, teamwork, and pride.  These values are inherent in our Judaism and by practicing them, we are better on and off the field as athletes and as human beings.

However, amid the grandiose nature of the Games there’s a fact about the Olympics that always bothered me – to put on such an enormous athletic competition, there is a lot of waste created.  Some news stories following the Rio Games highlighted the issue of trash before, and after, the Games.   The 2016 Rio Games generated an estimated 2,000 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases on top of the cost to bring the athletes and spectators there; much like previous Games, many of the facilities created for the Games are left unused as well.  Beyond the facilities themselves, I know what a pool deck and spectator area look like after a state championship meet.  I’ve heard stories of what is left behind following past Olympics to be cleaned up.

However, for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, one headline caught my attention: “This Olympics, all the medals are made entirely of recycled materials.”  Judaism highly values sustainability, and the International Olympic Committee has been increasingly focused on environmentally-conscious choices in bids for the Games.  Japan has implemented many methods to make the Games this year as Carbon-neutral as possible.  Medal podiums are made from recycled plastic, bed frames are made from cardboard, and perhaps more front and center – that the medals themselves will be made from recycled electronics, after a targeted drive to collect donations of electronics for that specific purpose.  The medal podiums were made from about 25 tons of collected plastic material and 3-D printers.  After the Games, they’ll be made into plastic bottles for toiletries and detergents.  The 5,000 medals produced came from metal salvaged from 80,000 electronic gadgets, including 6 million phones.

So as we watch our favorite athletes and sports during the Games, behind the backdrop of empty stadiums, and add our own amateur commentary from the couch – we can look for the ways we can keep our favorite pastimes more than just Gold, Silver, and Bronze – but also Green.

Learn more about some of the Jewish athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympic Games.  


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