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Coca-Cola Puts on Green Guise for the Winter Olympics

This post was originally published on EcoSalon.

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games are going for the green, and even sponsor Coca-Cola is getting in on the sustainable action. The company is aiming to have a net-zero carbon footprint and net-zero waste at the Games, including plant-based packaging, energy conservation and a broad recycling effort.

Coke will be delivering beverages – packaged in the company’s new ‘PlantBottle’, a bioplastic made from 30% biodegradable sugar cane – via hybrid vehicles and electric carts, and will store them in coolers that run on timers to save energy.

Carbon offsets will be used to make up for CO2-producing activities like air travel related to the event, and the beverage giant is also sponsoring the first Environmental Torchbearer Program, which encourages Canadians to pledge minor green lifestyle changes for a chance to carry the Olympic Flame.

Of course, these efforts are limited to the duration of the Olympics and won’t necessarily carry over to the company’s everyday operations, which are not known for being particularly sustainable.

Like many large companies, Coca-Cola only recently began focusing on its environmental impact after realizing that, as CEO John Brock put it, “sustainability is no longer ‘niche’.” The company trumpets its green initiatives on its website, including the creation of the world’s largest plastic bottle-to-bottle recycling plant and a program that turns bottles into t-shirts.

But Coca-Cola has come under fire for all kinds of eco-sins, including gross mismanagement of water resources in India. Critics, including Corporate Accountability International, point out inconsistencies in Coke’s approach to the environment including its opposition to city efforts to support public water and to bottle recycling bills across the country.

So is Coca-Cola really trying to go green, or just painting itself with a big green brush? The company has a lot to prove and many obstacles to overcome. Time will tell whether efforts like those underway in Vancouver will blossom into truly sustainable, long-term company practices.

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