Vail Daily column: Businesses lead valley toward sustainability
March 26, 2014
The countdown to the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships has begun and four Vail Valley businesses have already crossed the finish line to become Actively Green 2015. The locals involved in these businesses may not race down the slopes as fast as Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn, but they're innovators and game changers — leading the Vail Valley on our journey to become a sustainable destination.
One of those community leaders is Derek Schmidt, general manager of The Wren at Vail and co-chair of East West Resorts' Eco-Cares team. Derek and his team began working on sustainability in 2008, and since then they have laid the foundation for creating a culture of sustainability in many properties throughout the valley.
"For me personally, leaving our valley in better shape than when we found it and having our public more conscious and aware of the environment is exciting work" Derek said.
One of the biggest initiatives of the Eco-Cares team is engaging all East West Resorts employees in community volunteering. At The Wren, Derek says they have a goal of 100 hours of community volunteering this year, and they'll easily meet that goal. Employees want to help improve their communities and when they do, they take greater pride in their work.
One of the ongoing projects that Derek takes special pride in is partnering with Red Sandstone Elementary, where they have a battery recycling challenge and each East West property is donating its batteries — an important part of environmental stewardship due to the mercury and other toxins that exist in batteries.
Derek says the Actively Green 2015 sustainability initiative and other certification programs such as the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program that East West Resorts participates in, are extremely beneficial.
"They help you manage your progress and take on new initiatives and they help you share your sustainability story and educate your guests and employees," he said. "It's the right thing to do."
Other sustainability projects that Derek and his team have implemented include: LED lighting in parking areas, rain sensors for landscaping irrigation, motion sensor lighting in maintenance closets and providing reusable cloth shopping bags and an herb garden for guests and owners at The Wren.
In just one year, East West Resorts reduced electricity use by 12 percent, decreased natural gas use by 11 percent and reduced water use 8 percent. They saved over $88,000 in just one year.
THE NEW FRONTIER
Sustainability is transforming the competitive landscape for businesses and communities. Harvard Business Review authors say "sustainability is the mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield bottom-line and top-line returns. … Smart companies now treat sustainability as innovation's new frontier."
As one of the 2015 Environment Committee initiatives, the goal of Actively Green 2015 is to elevate the Vail Valley's sustainability performance, while further solidifying our community's reputation as a world-class tourism destination and event host. Actively Green 2015 supports the training and certification of an initial 100 businesses and organizations in the Vail Valley.
Don't get left at the starting gate! Almost 50 businesses have already begun the race to Actively Green 2015. The next Actively Green 2015 training is on April 16 at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon.
The 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are scheduled for Feb. 2-15. For additional information, visit http://www.actively green2015.com.
Kim Langmaid is vice president, director of sustainability and stewardship programs at Walking Mountains Science Center. She teaches sustainability studies at Colorado Mountain College and is a member of the 2015 Environment Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-827-9725, ext. 131.