World’s largest op­er­a­tor vows to be clean by 2030

The com­pany is aim­ing to de­liver zero waste to land­fills and off­set im­pact.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ja­son Blevins

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.

Den­ver Post file

Vail Re­sorts, which has ac­quired ma­jor des­ti­na­tion ski re­sorts world­wide, is now big enough to in­flu­ence its own en­vi­ron­men­tal goals.

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