Vail honored by Green Destinations group for sustainability efforts |

Vail honored by Green Destinations group for sustainability efforts

Vail tops 'Best of The Americas' category

The town of Vail has been honored in the "Best of the Americas" category by Green Destinations, a global nonprofit group.
Jack Affleck

Vail has been honored with the 2020 “Best in Americas” award for continued progress made toward waste diversion. The award is sponsored by Green Destinations, a global nonprofit foundation promoting sustainable tourism.

Vail was to have been recognized during the annual ITB Berlin tourism conference in Germany, which is dedicated to recognizing innovation and good practices in tourism management. However, the conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Vail will now be recognized during an awards ceremony that will take place during the Global Green Destinations Days conference in October, which will be held in Bodrum, Turkey.

Category winners and finalists were selected by a panel of experts representing 12 international organizations. Through their sustainable tourism stories, available on, Vail and the other top 100 global sustainable destinations provided extensive information on efforts to make themselves more sustainable for the benefit of travelers and local communities.

Vail’s submission was prepared by the town’s environmental sustainability team, which described the challenges of waste diversion in a mountain resort community.

Vail is home to over 5,400 year-round residents and welcomes 2.4 million visitors annually. With the influx of new, seasonal employees and residents and visitors each year, providing information on effective recycling and waste diversion has been an ongoing challenge, said environmental sustainability coordinator Beth Markham.

In 2009, Vail was significantly below the national average of 34% for recycling with a 9% recycling rate. As part of the town’s Environmental Sustainability Strategic Plan, a goal was set to achieve a 25% recycling rate by the end of 2019. In order to reach this goal, the town implemented a combination of infrastructure, policy, and waste reduction initiatives including:

  • Town Council adoption of a recycling ordinance in 2014 requiring all residential and commercial entities to participate in recycling.
  • Implementation of the Love Vail marketing campaign to spread the message and offer resources to residents and the business community.
  • Plastic bag ban implemented in grocery stores.
  • Town sponsorship of free hard to recycle events twice a year, accepting items such as electronics and household hazardous waste.
  • Free recycling drop site.
  • Partnership with Vail Honeywagon Organics to bring a commercial and subscription residential compost program to town.
  • Special events hosted in Vail required to produce zero waste.

Vail has achieved the goal of the 2009 plan with a 27% recycling rate.

“It was a community effort with residents, visitors, businesses, waste haulers and community partners all playing a critical role,” Markham said. “Vail is honored and grateful to receive global recognition for this achievement and we look forward to improving upon our waste diversion numbers as we implement new programs and initiatives.”

Markham said additional initiatives are being explored to work toward exceeding the national recycling rate of 35%. These include increased enforcement measures and adoption of waste diversion standards for all construction and demolition projects.

Vail was certified as a Sustainable Destination under the Mountain IDEAL standard through the Global Sustainable Tourism Council in 2017. The town of Vail partnered with Walking Mountains Science Center, Vail Resorts and other stakeholders to achieve the certification, which requires meeting and maintaining progress on 44 sustainability criteria. Vail is currently undertaking the recertification process and will have an on-site audit later in the year.

Green Destinations, Vail’s auditor for the certification, has developed an assessment and reporting system to assess current tourism policy, management and sustainability performance on relevant sustainability themes. The Green Destinations Assessment and Certification Program is a collaborative initiative of Green Destinations, the European Centre for Eco and Agro Tourism and the Coastal & Marine Union. The system consists of the Green Destinations Standard which is a collection of criteria to assess sustainable destination management and policy and the Green Destinations Database which is a collection of sustainability and quality performance indicators fed by a variety of third-party data sources.

For more information on Vail’s Sustainable Destination certification, recycling programs or any of the Town of Vail’s other sustainability initiatives, contact Markham, 970-479-2333 or at

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