“We have the power to save the powder!”
That has been a slogan of the A-Basin Sustainability Team for years. Now with tangible goals to achieve by 2025, it has taken on new meaning. We just released our 2019 sustainability report -- an assessment of our previous ski season -- and wanted to give you an update.
In 2018, we got together with a sustainability consulting firm to establish a new direction for both our sustainability and master development plans. We came up with seven sustainability goals to be achieved in seven years, and our ultimate mission is to become a completely carbon-free ski area by 2025.
GOAL: 100% renewable electricity
GOAL: 75% waste diversion
GOAL: Increase carpool and public transportation participation
GOAL: Ecosystem stewardship and wildlife management
GOAL: No net increase in water use
GOAL: Centralize purchasing
So, how’s it going?
Already one year into implementation, significantly more renewable electricity is flowing through the power lines that lead to the ski area, while fewer and fewer trips to the dump happen each and every month (more recycling, more composting and fewer greenhouse gas emissions).
More people are carpooling and riding the bus, while less water is needed to keep the kitchens cooking and toilets flushing. The Beavers and Steep Gullies remain a shining example of responsible ski area development and ecosystem stewardship efforts, and A-Basin’s purchasing process becomes more efficient every season.
Achieving 100% renewable electricity will get us closer to carbon neutrality than any of our other goals or initiatives. Renewable electricity has become a centerpiece of our sustainability model. Here are just a few examples of how we’re making great progress toward this goal:
The Snowplume Refuge building (patrol headquarters and the il Rifugio restaurant) features an 8.25 kW solar array that provides energy for more than 90% of the building’s needs. At 12,456 feet, it’s the highest ski area renewable energy project in the world. (The building also has no running water and utilizes composting toilets.)
A-Basin is also a partner with Xcel Energy’s renewables program. Through Xcel, we get 20% of our overall electricity needs from a solar farm in Deer Path, Colorado. That’s enough to power all of our snowmaking operations and a portion of our chairlift electricity needs.
What is centralized purchasing and why does it matter?
Most of the goals are easy to understand and you may see them happening at other ski areas. Changing our habits, installing more efficient equipment and utilizing programs that exist to reduce our emissions and energy usage are no-brainers. But we are not overlooking a single area of our operations. Many small but mighty innovations are happening in our retail store, Arapahoe Sports.
A more streamlined purchasing process reduces fuel-usage by limiting the number of delivery trucks traveling to and from the ski area. It saves on packing and shipping-related waste. And, it allows us to flex our purchasing power by pushing for more ”green” supply chains and choosing to partner with sustainable brands.
One example is Arapahoe Sports participation in the TerraCycle program, which allows us to recycle otherwise non-recyclable items like packing peanuts, bubble wrap, shrink wrap and waxy paper. This allows the shop to drastically reduce what it — and other areas of the business — put in the landfill. Even staff are encouraged to bring these items from home instead of throwing them in the trash.
And that's another big thing we're proud of -- our sustainability program isn't just a roadmap for ski area operations. All of us as staff are engaged in recycling, composting, carpooling, and reducing our energy usage both on site and at home. And through our social media and video efforts, we're working to teach skiers and riders simple ways to reduce their impacts on an everyday basis.
If you want to learn more about our holistic sustainability program, check out our newly released 2019 sustainability report. If you love charts and graphs, you can read the whole thing, here.
Or, explore our Sustainability Sunday video series.