Vail’s biggest events more eco-friendly |

Vail’s biggest events more eco-friendly

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyHighline Sports and Entertainment, event organizers for Spring Back to Vail, saw a chance to recycle and make a green statement by turning the event's signs into gift bags. The bags were distributed to some of the event's sponsors.

VAIL, Colorado ” Spring Back to Vail sponsors wouldn’t have guessed that the gift bags they received once hung over Vail’s streets.

However, a tag on the bags explained that the brightly colored bags filled with schwag were made from plastic event banners used during Vail’s annual spring kick-off party.

Highline Sports and Entertainment, the organizers of Spring Back to Vail, saw a chance to recycle as well as make a green statement. The banners were sent to Boulder-based Ecologic Designs to be made into gift bags that were given to the event’s sponsors.

Highline produces some of the town’s biggest events, including Gourmet on Gore, Vail Oktoberfest, Vail Snow Daze, the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series, CarniVail and Spring Back to Vail. The company has taken many steps over the last couple years to make Vail’s events more environmentally friendly, including using all compostable cups, containers and utensils, and taking all the company’s cleaning to a green cleaner.

The town recently passed new “checklist” for town events that require organizers to meet certain green standards this year, which include providing recycling containers in all areas of the event and eliminating the use of Styrofoam.

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However, Highline hopes its Vail events will go above and beyond the requirements, said event director Greg Schwartz.

The company has reused old event banners and staff uniforms simply by putting a new patch over an old date or re-branding a fleece. Vail’s events also use products from eco-friendly companies, such as Honest Tea and Stoneybrook Farms.

A special focus has been placed on what is considered one of the most basic eco-friendly moves ” recycling. Highline recycles all paper and plastic from its offices and warehouses and encourages recycling at events, to the point of digging through trash cans for discarded bottles.

A few years ago, recycling bins were few at events, but now the town of Vail requires that the bins be placed next to all trash cans at events. However, event crews regularly see bottles and cans thrown into the trash cans, Schwartz said.

“I personally went through five to 10 trash cans myself at Spring Back to Vail and CarniVail,” he said. “The town and event producers can try their hardest and make every effort to make an event green but the bottom line is that it comes down to Joe Public. We have to somehow convince these people to go the extra mile ” or 10 feet ” to make a difference.”

Reminding people to recycle during announcements and via event loudspeakers might keep recyclables out of the trash, he said.

Schwartz said he still thinks some of Vail’s events can improve.

“I’d like to see increased awareness of efforts made through announcements, or cycling-specific signage made,” he said. “I’d like to see more awareness that there’s a message we’re pushing.”

Some of the efforts cost more and take up more staff time. The bags, for example, would usually be free from a sponsor. However, to get the bags made from the signs cost Highline about $12 per bag.

Also, green products and services tend to cost a more, and efforts such as picking through the trash cans cost staff time, Schwartz said.

However, Highline CEO Jeff Brausch said that the company is willing to spend the extra time and money. He added that customers and the public are beginning to expect eco-friendly events.

“People are starting to request it,” he said. “We’ll have sponsors that we do demos and expos for, and afterward they want to make sure ask us to recycle all the materials we used.”

Brausch said he hopes that Highline’s events can be an example to other organizers and other towns.

“We want to be responsible,” he said. “We live in a beautiful place and want to keep it that way. We care, and we’re willing to dedicate resources.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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