ENVIRONMENT
09/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Can The World's Greenest [Insert Event Here] Have Lasting Effects?

Alternately calling the recently completed Olympic Games in Beijing "The Mass Transit Olympics," "The Green Olympics" and "The High-Tech Olympics" -- and unsatisfied with most titles she found -- GreenBiz blogger Deborah Seligsohn debriefs on the games.

So will Beijing's Olympian efforts have a lasting effect? We are still in the middle of China's efforts to make drastic environmental improvements, and many daunting challenges have yet to be addressed. But the Games already have Beijing officials talking about about next steps, including monitoring and reporting a more complete set of air pollutants -- crucially small particulates (PM 2.5) and ozone. Hopefully, we will see more comprehensive air and water quality standards in China's next 5-year plan, to begin in 2011. And the best part of Beijing's "Green Olympics" goal is that it wasn't just about Beijing. China's environmental reforms are all national. New mass transit systems are under development in over a dozen cities. Energy efficient building standards are in force nationwide. Power plants now have both emissions control equipment and the monitoring equipment to ensure proper use.

The lasting success is important to consider here -- many large-scale events have cities promising to be greener, including the current Democratic National Convention in Denver and the upcoming Republican National Convention in Minnesota. If any infrastructure changes help -- as Seligsohn suggests they did in China -- and if the many local volunteers retain the knowledge and zeal for eco-friendly practices, then the promises really mean something.

I'll be curious to see if, in two weeks, more people are composting in Denver, a city where it wouldn't be hard to do. Or if recycling is better sorted around the city.