VAIL — The 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships will bring a lot of people to the valley. Part of the planning for the event includes trying to reduce the ecological impact of those visitors and to show off the valley as a “green” destination.
A new program, Actively Green by 2015, is kicking off this summer in an effort to get at least 100 valley businesses certified through Sustainable Travel International.
Kim Langmaid, a member of the group working on the project, Tuesday told the Vail Town Council there are now only a handful of eco-certified businesses in the Vail Valley. The group wants 100 certified businesses in the valley by February of 2015.
Beyond helping businesses set up their own programs, Langmaid said the environmental effort will also include a drive to train people in what’s required to certify a business.
More than just programs, though, Langmaid said the Actively Green effort will also help businesses track their progress and how it affects the bottom line.
“We want them to be able to answer ‘what are we accomplishing here?’” Langmaid said.
Sustainability efforts can have a positive effect on a business’s balance sheet.
Jane Ross of Sonnenalp told the council that efforts to reduce energy and water use at the hotel have saved more than $180,000 over the course of a few years.
“At a small property like ours, that’s significant,” Ross said.
And, at least at the Sonnenalp, it’s been easy to get people involved. Ross said people from every department participate, and employees last year exceeded the number of hours hotel managers hoped people would spend on community service.
Ross said guests seem to appreciate those efforts, adding that research indicates travelers will choose a green-certified hotel if they’re choosing between two similar properties.
“This program makes it easy for businesses,” Ross said. “It makes it easy to do the right thing for the environment, it lowers costs and has raised guest perceptions of our property. It’s the logical way to go.”
In a separate presentation to the council, Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said the entire championships event will have a sustainable theme, “in everything from how we handle trash to how much paper we use.”
After the presentation, council member Kerry Donovan asked why the project isn’t more ambitious.
“Why aren’t we having discussions beyond recycling and energy use?” Donovan said. “Why aren’t we talking about global warming? We have a global audience; let’s not waste that opportunity.”
Ross said the bigger picture might get in the way of immediate goals.
“We need to make sure we don’t get confused,” Ross said. “We’re really behind the Europeans (in sustainability), so we’re trying to get ourselves up to par.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.