MONTPELIER, Vermont — In Vermont, lovingly called the Green Mountain State, one dynamic and intrinsic aspect of the local mindset is devoted to our surroundings ??вЂњ from the soil we tread on to the art we make and the air we breathe. In the Greener Mountains, it’s easy to unearth stories of caring for Ma’ Nature by gritty analysis of carbon offsets or a heartfelt grassroots project??В¦.put plainly, we dig this stuff.
Folks from all across the country are finding ways, both big and small, of protecting and improving the environment. Those fortunate enough to live and work in the Green Mountain State have a reputation for being eco-friendly and for blazing innovative paths on their journey toward carbon-neutrality. Bromley’s most recent green initiatives involve Green-wear biodegradable plastic cups ??вЂњ now used throughout the resort ??вЂњ and of all things, French fries. To wit, the vegetable oil used to cook up all of those yummy fries does double duty; once its cooking day is done, that oil goes on to fire up the waste-oil furnace that heats Bromley’s maintenance facilities all winter long. A bit further down the road, once a refining system is in place, Bromley plans to use “French Fry Power” to fuel its fleet of diesel vehicles.
Thinking of new ways to protect the environment on which we thrive is the norm. Acting green, Mount Snow already recycles spent cafeteria grease for shuttle bus fuel, re-circulates excess heat from snowmaking compressors to warm the base lodge, saves company vehicles’ used motor oil to heat buildings and purchases soy-based inks to print all on-site signs.
Straying away from fry grease and diesel shuttles, the Trapp Family Lodge offers fine Vermont maple syrup the old-fashioned way. The property’s master sugarmaker uses buckets to collect sap with a sled and a team of draft horses. They boil the sap down to syrup in the sugarhouse ??вЂњ a very large wood-fired evaporator. Today, it is very much the same way that the von Trapp family did it back in the 1940’s and ’50’s. About 1200 taps are set annually and they produce approximately 300 gallons of syrup per year. The season starts in late March and the resort offers a special sugaring package, inviting people to come see an historic and no-engine-needed, local treat.
Stratton sees the state’s maple resource as a vehicle for sustainability. The recipient of two Vermont Governor’s Awards for environmental excellence and winners of three Silver Eagle environmental awards, Stratton knows the environment is a ski and snowboard resort’s No. 1 asset. This year, Stratton’s Fresh Tracks initiative employs the services of local, green certified, Brattleboro logging company Allard Lumber to extract timber from 494 acres of land. The sugar and red maple cut from the Stratton land will be part of a pilot program initiated by Redstart Forestry and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF). The logs are cut and harvested from the Stratton lands, milled at Allard Lumber and will ultimately end up at Copeland Furniture in Bradford, Vt. They will be turned into two lines of quality Forest Stewardship Council certified hard wood furniture. The program aims to aggregate the supply of Vermont grown sustainably logged wood and maintain a chain of custody from tree to finished product.
Okemo Mountain Resort’s culture for environmental stewardship starts at the top with owners Tim and Diane Mueller and filters down to the day-to-day commitment of Okemo’s staff. Two years ago, the Muellers started offsetting 100 percent of Okemo’s electric energy use through the purchase of renewable energy certificates.
The newly formed Environmental Committee of Okemo (ECO), made up entirely of volunteer staff members, has worked to expand Okemo’s recycling program to a single-stream system. Through education and regular communication with staff members, ECO has helped lay the groundwork for a workplace culture where individuals can and do make a difference.
One of Smugglers’ Notch’s colors is green. The Resort is kept that way by many ongoing programs and initiatives from protecting bears and birds to recycling. For reducing its carbon footprint, Smuggs was recognized in Vermont with the 2006-2007 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence & Pollution Prevention.
This award was based on Smuggs’ effort to reduce its carbon footprint and establish a trend to purchase offsets. Smuggs chose to reduce rather than solely offset its carbon footprint over the years. Some of the practical ways they have done this are through construction of 5-star energy rated homes, use of an electric Club Car in the shuttle system, installation of solar hot water panels, development of a no-idling policy for resort vehicles, use of bio-diesel in off-road equipment, the purchase of an electric compressor for snowmaking and through several other initiatives.
For ways to help guests decrease their carbon footprints, Smuggs also offers the Ride Share web forum for skiers and riders to carpool, and also offers free weekend and holiday transportation that includes pick up and drop off at multiple locations in three surrounding counties. Catch a ride: http://www.smuggs.com/pages/universal/environment/index.php.
Mad River Glen, known for its environmental stewardship, is taking “going carbon neutral” to a new level. Not only does Mad River Glen offset their entire operational footprint, it also inspires skiers to voluntarily offset emissions from their commute to the ski area. Mad River Glen is working toward truly offsetting the emissions from both operations and skier commutes to the mountain.
Last season Mad River Glen, with the help of its non-profit partner, The Stark Mountain Foundation (SMF), implemented the “Ski Green If You Can” carbon offset program. Mad River Glen used an SMF grant to purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the emissions from the ski area’s already-minimal operations. What sets Mad River’s program apart from others in the ski industry is that it also tackles the impact of skiers commuting to the mountain, similar to Middlebury College Snow Bowl, which accomplished offsetting operations and transportation.
For those traveling to Ascutney Mountain Resort, taking the train is an option that makes sense, economically and environmentally. Amtrak’s Vermonter Line starts every morning from Washington, D.C. and follows the eastern seaboard through nearly every major city en route to Windsor, Vt., only five miles from Ascutney Mountain Resort’s front door.
Last year Killington Resort and Pico Mountain set out to reduce its overall carbon footprint by initiating a resort-wide co-mingled recycling program, setting a no-idling policy for all company owned vehicles, – including snowcats – and installing Freeaire systems, which uses outside winter air for cooling, on six of Killington’s walk-in coolers.
Spruce Peak at Stowe, Stowe Mountain Resort’s new base-area development, has earned two distinct honors from Audubon International, a non-profit environmental organization headquartered in New York State: Spruce Peak at Stowe is the first mountain resort development in the United States to earn Audubon’s Green Community Award and the first in Vermont to have its golf course designated as an Audubon Signature Sanctuary.
Stowe Mountain Resort, a member company of American International Group (AIG), is enjoying a dramatic resurgence fueled by Spruce Peak at Stowe, a new slopeside community, and enhancements to the ski area encompassing legendary Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak. Spruce Peak at Stowe, which is being developed by AIG Global Real Estate, features fine residences for purchase, a new luxury hotel called Stowe Mountain Lodge, a world-class spa and wellness center, an 18-hole golf course, a dining and retail esplanade, swimming pool and future performing arts center. The environmentally sound development was started in 2003, and is concentrated on only 35 of 2,000 pristine acres. Visit the web site – www.sprucepeak.com
As a small Vermont ski area, Magic Mountain is often unable to compete with larger competitors in the environmental arena. While Magic doesn’t have the means to purchase energy credits and massive fleets of new energy efficient fan guns, Magic still aims to move forward as environmentally friendly as possible. In order to accomplish this goal, Magic works on the small tasks. To start, Magic is increasing its recycling efforts mountain wide. Not only will Magic be recycling cans and bottles, but a new office paper recycling program is now cutting down on waste. Also, Magic is replacing many light fixtures with energy efficient CFL bulbs. Finally, the employees of Magic have developed a task force to examine all operations in an effort to become more energy efficient. They work for a small ski area, but they aim to make their mountain a leader in environmental stewardship in the northeast ski industry.
NUMBER-CRUNCHING THE GALLON, KILOWATT AND DOLLAR
100. That’s the percentage of power that these resorts offset with the purchase of renewable energy credits: Killington, Mad River Glen, Middlebury College Snow Bowl, Okemo Mountain Resort, Pico Mountain and Stratton.
Middlebury College Snow Bowl was the first ski area to take carbon neutrality to the level of offsetting electric, gas, propane, diesel and bio-diesel usage, as well as skier transportation to and from the ski area. In its first season, 2006-2007, the ski area offset 679.9 tons.
Mount Snow’s 251 new fan guns require 1/3 the energy of traditional air/water guns. Each fan gun has its own onboard air compressor that eliminates the need for diesel-powered air compressors and saves an average of 200,000 gallons of fuel per year. Vermont already has the lowest carbon footprint of any state, and Mount Snow aims to help keep it that way.
At Killington, millions of dollars were invested into snowmaking efficiencies and Low Energy snow guns have reduced the resort’s diesel consumption by more than 30 percent and electricity by 25 percent over the past three years.
With one of its most critical operations??вЂќsnowmaking, Sugarbush is following Rule One of being green; reduce and conserve. Since installing 230 low-energy snowmaking nozzles in 2006, Sugarbush has reduced its electrical demand by over five million kilowatt hours and saved close to 200,000 gallons in fuel consumption, which has resulted in the reduction of 250,000 pounds of CO2 emissions. And it turns out being green lets a little green flow to the bottom line; total estimated savings: $300,000.
Through the several actions aforementioned, Smugglers’ Notch has kept 688 tons of CO2 emissions from reaching the atmosphere.
Okemo’s major energy savings is manifest in the resort’s efficient snowmaking system. Although the resort has used HKD tower guns for years, last year’s introduction of HKD SV10s and Genesis tower guns allowed Okemo to make the same amount of snow as in previous years using a reduced amount of energy. The result was a fuel-cost savings of $140,000. More SV10s are being added to the arsenal this year. Also, the Muellers’ purchase of wind power saved the release of approximately 18,800 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere the first year they offset the mountain and their commitment to wind energy continues today.