Can the Colorado-based ski company lead the industry to a sustainable future?
In what may be a game-changer for the ski industry, Vail Resorts has announced that it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its operations to zero by 2030, a goal even more ambitious than the global targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
“Through improved business practices, capital investment and continued innovation and environmental stewardship, we are setting a goal of achieving a zero net operating footprint by 2030,” said Vail Resorts chairman and CEO Rob Katz.
As an intermediate step, VR will target a 50 percent reduction in its net emissions by 2025, based on 2016 levels.
Along with cutting emissions, the company, which operates 11 ski areas in the U.S. and Canada, also will cut its waste stream to zero and try to completely mitigate its impacts to forests and wildlife habitat by 2030.
In a press release, VR outlined its plans to reach the goals, starting by reducing electricity and natural gas use by another 15 percent on top of a 19 percent reduction achieved since 2008. It will also invest $25 million in low-energy snowmaking equipment, green building design and construction, and more efficient grooming practices and equipment.
The company will buy 100 percent renewable energy equivalent to Vail Resorts’ total electrical energy use and working with utilities and local, regional and national governments to bring more renewable energy to the grids where the Company operates its resorts. It will also invest in carbon mitigation projects to offset the use of other types of energy like gasoline and diesel. To measure progress, VR will issue an annual sustainability report following the fiscal year ending July 2018, which will follow the Global Reporting Initiative’s standard.
Vail is also aiming to divert 100 percent of the waste from its operations to more sustainable pathways. Currently at a 40 percent waste diversion rate across its entire operations, the Company has set its sights on an interim target of diverting 50 percent of its waste by 2020 by mproving its recycling and composting program, engaging with vendors to reduce packaging and to source recyclable and compostable products and working with local resort communities to increase options for reuse and diversion.
The third pillar of the new sustainability push is a zero net operating impact to forests and wildlife habitat by minimizing or eliminating the impact of any future resort development. That can be at least partly achieved by planting or restoring an acre of forest for every acre of forest displaced by the company’s operations, with the goal of achieving improved species and age diversity, resulting in healthier, more resilient forests.
For more information about Vail Resorts’ “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint”, visit www.epicpromise.com/zerofootprint.