World’s largest operator vows to be clean by 2030
The company is aiming to deliver zero waste to landfills and offset impact.
Vail Resorts is launching an ambitious effort to eliminate the environmental impact of its operations by 2030.
The world’s largest resort operator is aiming to eliminate emissions, deliver zero waste to landfills and offset its overall impact to forests and habitat in the next 13 years, CEO Rob Katz announced at an employee meeting Tuesday.
The company is calling the effort: “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint.”
“We talk about an environmental goal of needing to use less, but that’s an important business goal too,” Katz said. “It means we are being smart about not only the resources we use inside the company, but also how we use any resources outside the company … particularly when the environment is both our product and our passion.”
With the acquisition of major destination ski resorts in Australia, British Columbia, California, Utah, Vermont and Colorado, Vail Resorts now is big enough to influence its own environmental goals.
When it vies to use only renewable energy by 2030, it can create new renewable energy plants to feed its network of resorts. It can convince resort industry suppliers and vendors to reduce packaging and use com-
postable products as the company aims to divert all its waste from landfills.
“Our size and scale helps,” Katz said.
Katz also announced Vail Resorts was joining the RE100, a group of global companies committed to using 100 percent renewable energy, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Coca Cola, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike and Starbucks. Vail Resorts is the first tourism business to join the group.
In 2008, Vail Resorts committed to a 10 percent reduction in energy use by 2012 and when the company hit that goal early, it aimed for another 10 percent reduction in energy use by 2020. It’s almost at that goal and the new effort attempts to trim the company’s electric and natural gas consumption by another 15 percent by continuing investment in energy-saving projects like green building design and deploying high-efficiency snowmaking systems and snow groomers.
The company will purchase renewable energy to offset its 263,000 megawatt hours of electricity usage across all its resorts and will work with local utilities and governments near its resorts to push more renewable energy options into the local grids.
That’s smart business, Katz said, noting how renewables can eliminate the roller-coaster pricing of oil and natural gas energy.
In addition to growing its recycling and composting programs and urging vendors to source recyclable products, Vail Resorts is committing to “minimizing and eliminating the impact of any future resort development” by planting or restoring an acre of forest for every acre it displaces through operations.
Geraldine Link, the policy director for the National Ski Areas Association, which has tracked ski resorts’ environmental performance through its 17year-old Sustainable Slopes program, said Vail Resorts’ zero-footprint promise exemplifies the resort industry’s commitment to sustainability.
“It is inspiring to see ski resorts voluntarily doing their part to cut emissions and waste streams and improve forest health,” she said.
Auden Schendler, the sustainability boss at the world’s greenest ski resort operator, Aspen Skiing Co., has been guiding his company’s efforts down the clean energy, zerowaste path for many years. A climate activist, Schendler has long urged his ski resort colleagues that sustainability must include political activism in addition to new lightbulbs, better recycling and green marketing.
Vail Resorts’ membership in the RE100 and Ceres Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy program, means the influential ski resort owner “will be using their voice and political power to drive change on climate,” Schendler said.
“This is major statement for our industry and it’s really important,” he said. “They are approaching clean energy in a real way that will likely make a difference by looking at buying power from new energy projects.”
As the U.S. federal government backs off efforts to address climate change or promote renewable energy, more companies like Vail Resorts and local governments — including mayors of major cities — are taking up the charge, with a promise to reduce energy use and limit impacts.
“We don’t think these things are that political. Once it’s clear there are not going to be national standards, we think it’s important to put our money where our mouth is,” Katz said. “This is not only doing the right thing, it’s doing the smart thing.”
But Schendler had a different take.
“You can sum up everything they just announced today as ‘Hey Trump, you need to take climate seriously and move on it,’ ” he said.
Vail Resorts, which has acquired major destination ski resorts worldwide, is now big enough to influence its own environmental goals.