Following VR’s lead: Where’s our 10 percent? |

Following VR’s lead: Where’s our 10 percent?

Alex Miller

Most journalists who follow the environment and topics like global warming and energy-reduction strategies (which these days means most of us) are ever on the alert for companies proclaiming they’re “green” in some way when the only evidence of such exists in the news release they sent touting their greenness. There’s a great term for this ” “greenwashing” ” and it’s a good thing to flag when we see it because it’s not just benign BS: If companies get a pass for some baloney green practice, it takes away from others who are really doing something.

Vail Resorts is a company that’s obviously struggling to figure out some ways to reduce its energy consumption while maintaining its operations at the high level its customers have come to expect. On the Vail Daily’s editorial page recently, we chided VR for not going far enough with their windmills idea (which looked like greenwashing to us) just about the same time VR CEO Rob Katz announced the company would shoot for an overall 10 percent reduction in energy use over the next two years.

In retrospect, we were a little hasty in condemning the windmill idea. Even if they don’t do that much to reduce energy use from traditional sources, it’s a small step in the right direction. Much more relevant, though, is VR’s 10 percent “energy layoff.” Katz said some might think the idea is “out there,” but I disagree. I think people are ready for this kind of thinking. Any Eagle County resident who’s bought ” or even contemplated buying ” a hybrid car, compact fluorescent light bulbs, an Energy Star appliance, etc. is going to be receptive to the idea of other ways to burn less oil, gas or coal.

Americans are slow to embrace the idea that the easiest, quickest and best way to reduce our energy consumption is simply to use less of it. Big Oil and Detroit have held our hand for almost a century, telling us it’s OK to drive huge vehicles, to live in suburbs far from our workplaces, to vacation on “The Great American Road.” As Americans, we bear the blame in the complicity, but it’s not easy to see the way out.

Leadership on a relatively small level from VR is appreciated, and there are many tiers above and below such a company-wide approach. From the Apollo Alliance ” which pushes for a moon-landing scale national effort to create jobs while freeing ourselves from foreign oil ” to the local Wal-Mart, which offers a choice of old- or new-style light bulbs, we are seeing changes in place. It seems clear ” at least from campaign rhetoric ” that whoever our next president is will be leading on a grander scale.

The question we all need to ask ourselves, taking VR’s lead, is “where is our 10 percent?” At home, I’m always running around turning off lights, turning down the thermostat and changing the furnace filter to reduce our monthly energy bill even slightly. At work, though, I don’t know where to start. Is making sure all the computers in the newsroom are turned off nightly going to make a 1 percent difference? If so, it’s worth doing. At our Gypsum plant where all the papers are printed, are there efficiencies that could be realized? I’m sure of it.

I’m going to look into what savings can be realized at our operations, while taking a closer look at what’s happening in our home. A 10-percent reduction sounds like an attainable goal, and certainly the stakes (and savings) are high enough to merit the effort.

Alex Miller is responsible for the editorial oversight of the Vail Daily, Eagle Valley Enterprise and Vail Trail. He can be reached at (970) 748-2920, or

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