EAGLE COUNTY — When McCoy’s restaurant opened at the base of Beaver Creek mountain, skiers had a common question — where are the recycling bins? The answer was the bins hadn’t arrived yet, but people asked nonetheless.
As the town of Vail works to become the first town in the valley to require residential and business recycling — something likely to happen in 2014 — valley businesses are already taking recycling steps that range from basic to extensive. While few, if any, guests make travel and lodging decisions based on how “green” a business is, many consumers appreciate, and use, whatever recycling facilities are available.
McCoys is run by the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, and hotel general manager Robert Purdy said the hotel has an active recycling program, from the offices, restaurants and bars to guest rooms. That program was going to extend to composting kitchen waste. The hotel was set up to sent compostable material to a facility in Summit County.
“Then at the 11th hour (the facility’s) rates tripled, so we didn’t do it,” Purdy said. “We really wanted to be the first hotel in the valley to do it.”
Beyond the public relations value of composting, Purdy said that more material sent to either a composting or recycling facility equates to less material sent to the Eagle County Landfill. Since the landfill charges by weight, recycling means savings on the hotel’s balance sheet.
And, Purdy said, people simply expect to see recycling when they’re on vacation.
“They recycle at home; they expect it here,” he said.
Recycling is a big project at the Antlers Lodge at Vail. The lodge has a “sustainability” coordinator, Greg Ziccardi, and the hotel is one of four in Vail working on a town-sponsored project to be “Actively Green by 2015.”
That program includes recycling everything from office paper to batteries and light bulbs.
“We’re even recycling old thermostats,” Ziccardi said, and the lodge is about to start recycling towels and sheets that were once cut up and used for rags.
But even a program that active has its limits. Ziccardi said the program stops short of buying an expensive software program that would monitor the lights and heat in all the Antlers’ units. Instead, housekeepers do that job. If a condo isn’t occupied, housekeepers make sure the lights are off and the thermostat is turned down.
But while skiers at McCoy’s asked about recycling bins when they weren’t in evidence, how big a role does it play in the perception of a resort?
Adam Savin, CEO of Avon-based Bold Property Solutions, said in that company’s experience, recycling and other environmental issues make sense on an “idealistic” level.
“But realistically, we see about 20 to 30 percent of people really do it,” Savin said.
That said, recycling is important at the Bold office.
“We’re fairly uptight about it,” Savin said, adding that the office has gone as “paperless” as possible for a company that still needs signed, paper contracts for some transactions.
And Chris Romer, president of the Vail Valley Partnership, the valley’s regional chamber of commerce and convention and tourism bureau, said environmental initiatives are important for a mountain resort.
“We do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Romer said. “People who spend money on ski vacations want to see that.” Add in the fact that places like Vail depend on the natural environment and it becomes more important to take steps like recycling and water conservation.
And current recycling efforts do have an effect on one of the valley’s limited resources — landfill space.
Ken Whitehead runs the Eagle County Landfill and its associated recycling efforts. Whitehead said right now recyclables account for a roughly 10 percent reduction in materials that are buried in the landfill. That reduction doesn’t show up in the annual budget, he said, but it does mean that recycling right now adds about one year of life to every 10 at the landfill. The current landfill’s estimated life is measured in multiple decades. But, Whitehead said, the current landfill will probably be the last facility of its kind approved for the county, so it’s crucial to extend its life as long as possible.
If recycling plays a limited role in a guest’s vacation, the life of the local landfill isn’t a blip in that person’s consciousness. Still, maintaining the environment into the next century starts with what lodges and other businesses do now.
As far as Ziccardi’s concerned, the Vail Valley is late to the party on that front.
“We’re a little behind Breckenridge, Aspen and other towns,” Ziccardi said of Vail’s move to mandate recycling. “We should have done this a long time ago.”