Spruce Saddle goes green
Feeding 380,000 hungry skiers and snowboarders every year, Beaver Creek’s Spruce Saddle Lodge has been singled out by a trade organization for its efforts to get more in sync with the environment.
The restaurant, at 10,200 feet above sea level and about half-way up the slopes of Beaver Creek, is the first restaurant in the ski industry to receive certified “green status” from the Green Restaurant Association, or GRA.
“We’re thrilled to be the first ski resort to receive this recognition from the GRA,” said Zachary Tibodeau, Beaver Creek’s environmental coordinator. “Our guests are going to appreciate knowing that the restaurant they patronize is taking steps to reduce our environmental footprint.”
Seeking ways to make the on-mountain eatery more environmentally friendly, Tibodeau in December contacted the National Ski Area Association in December, a trade organization for ski area owners and operators. The group recommended having Spruce Saddle join the Green Restaurant Association to help create a more environmentally sustainable restaurant.
Tibodeau took the advice and the Green Restaurant Association named Spruce Saddle a green restaurant, Jan. 31.
The first requirement of going green is eliminating Styrofoam and using only products that are accepted by local recycling companies, Tibodeau said.
Spruce Saddle has implemented 14 of these requirements so far. The restaurant recycles and composts; serves more “sustainable food,” such as vegetarian dishes; uses recycled, tree-free, biodegradable and organic office paper and paper towels; uses chlorine-free napkins and paper towels; and is partially powered by wind energy.
Spruce Saddle also no longer uses polystyrene foam.
Beaver Creek has also signed a contract pledging to implement four new steps each year for the next three years. The three-year contract with the Green Restaurant Association – which provides resources for products and services that are healthier for the environment – costs the resort $6,000.
Many patrons, such as Mike Lyttle of Boulder, support the resort’s efforts.
“I am all about it because I’m in construction, and I’m getting into alternative building products. I’m using eco-friendly products and renewable resources. It definitely makes me warm and fuzzy inside,” Lyttle said as he gobbled up French fries at Spruce Saddle. “There’s tons of products out there and they’re very efficient. If everyone used a little bit it would make a huge difference.”
How green is green?
But not everyone is singing Spruce Saddle’s praises. Jeff Berman, executive director of Colorado Wild, an environmental group, challenged the resort’s “green’ designation.
“It’s unclear exactly what the requirements are. Recycling compost and glass – great. Sustainable food – not very impressive,” said Berman. “They might have a pasta dish that has marinara sauce. That’s all fine and dandy but that doesn’t necessarily demonstrate an environmental policy.
“What percentage of their electric consumption comes from wind power – does it go to Spruce Saddle or Beaver Creek?” he added. “It’s impossible to tell.”
Beaver Creek buys 175 “blocks’ of wind-generated electricity per month, enough to run one chair lift for 30 days. Each block represents 100 kilowatt hours and 100 pounds of coal that is not burned per month. In one year, the wind energy saves 210,000 pounds of coal and keeps 420,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, out of the air.
“We’re not really able to designate where those electrons end up. It just goes in to our resort somewhere,” Tibodeau said. “We’ve purchased the maximum amount as far as I know. Holy Cross Energy only gets so much wind energy. Vail Resorts purchases quite a bit.”
The Green Restaurant Association estimates that certified green restaurants save 10 to 20 percent on energy bills. An average-sized restaurant that expends 7,000 to 20,000 kilowatts per month saves $2,500 to $5,000 per year from the energy conservation program and $2,000 per year from the waste reduction and recycling programs.
“The restaurant is the largest consumer of electricity in the retail sector. I applaud Spruce Saddle in becoming a Certified Green Restaurant, and I look forward to other ski resort restaurants following suit,” said Michael Oshman, president of the Green Restaurant Association.
In addition to the green certification, Beaver Creek is exploring other ways to go green, Tibodeau said.
“We wanted to do it at Spruce Saddle first to see the outcome. We’d like to do it at all of our restaurants,” Tibodeau said. “We recently did an energy audit with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. They gave us a lot of good suggestions that hopefully we’ll be implementing in the next couple years.”