Why the Vail Daily is working to become certified as an Actively Green sustainable business
When I first moved to the Eagle River Valley in 2018, I was blown away by the community’s intense love for all things outdoors. I come from a place where people turn up their coats, lock their doors and hide from the winter for four to five miserable months of the year. We take walks in the park, but only a seldom few venture out of the city to climb crags or float rivers.
Coming here, I felt invigorated by the collective ferocity of love for the outdoors that spans demographics and ability levels. As someone who grew up offering tiny cups of Kool-Aid-brand lemonade to strangers and gathering quarters to “save the rainforest,” I had never felt more at home as when I joined the ranks of locals who celebrate their environment as a daily discipline.
To me, it felt like pure love. And we fight for the things we love.
At the Vail Daily, we pride ourselves on being a platform to elevate the voices of our valley. So, it’s about time we stood up and raised our own voices in support of protecting our environment for the generations that will succeed us who deserve the opportunity to grow up and explore our snow-capped mountains as we so delight in doing now.
Sustainability is about contributing to the longevity of the community we hold dear, and it is in this spirit that the Vail Daily team has decided to begin the journey of earning our Actively Green sustainable business certification with the help of the Walking Mountains Science Center.
The journey so far
The effort kicked off in September with the first meeting of our “Green Team.” The team is comprised of three spirited reporters, a powerhouse of ladies from our Vail Daily Live show, our bright marketing specialist, an experienced sales representative, and our fearless leader – Vail Daily Publisher Mark Wurzer.
“The Vail Daily has always been a strong participant in recycling, including paper and other materials used in the printing process. However, the list of 71 businesses that have achieved the Walking Mountains Actively Green certification noticeably does not include the Vail Daily,” Wurzer said. “I am pleased a group of staffers has taken the initiative to launch the certification process. We also will continue to include sustainability topics as key content pillars for Vail Daily coverage.”
Thus far, the Vail Daily Green Team has strengthened waste diversion practices at our EagleVail office by making organic materials collection or “composting” available to employees for waste generated in the office or at home.
We have begun tracking our utility usage and the carbon footprint of our commuters to identify areas for improvement. We are now in the process of implementing guidelines for more sustainable purchasing of office supplies and the like.
We are only just getting started but wanted to let the community know that we are working hard to create a culture of sustainability among our employees, which we want to extend to you, our readers.
“We’re a leading presence in this valley and, as that, we want to do our part,” said Carolyn Paletta, who covers entertainment for the Vail Daily and is on the Green Team. “If we prioritize this, maybe other people will prioritize this too.”
Our team is glad to be learning from so many others doing important work in this space.
Sustainable business training
Walking Mountains Science Center serves as the local auditing agency for Actively Green, a globally recognized sustainable business certification program. Since the nonprofit started offering structure and support in obtaining the certification, 71 local businesses have earned their bronze-level certification, Manzer said.
Even this lowest level of Actively Green certifications requires a level of time and resources that may be unattainable for some businesses. For this reason, Walking Mountains offers a second sustainable business training option that can be modified based on the capacity of your business, Manzer said.
This second option is guided by the “Green Business Trail Map,” which the organization calls “a low-hanging fruit action plan to help your business become more sustainable,” according to the program’s webpage.
“The actively green certification is so in-depth and can be too much for our smaller businesses,” Manzer said. “Since 90% of our businesses in the county have less than 10 employees … The trail map improves accessibility in trying to get more businesses engaged and even just taking baby steps.”
A total of 16 local entities are currently recognized as sustainable businesses through the Green Business Trail Map, according to Walking Mountains.
Across the two programs, businesses have completed 350 “action items” to improve the sustainability of their operations, Manzer said. Each of these action items represents a conscious choice taken in support of a cause much larger than us.
Beyond anything else, the central point is “progress, not perfection,” Manzer said.
“Rather than thinking of it as they have to take giant steps and do it quickly, or they should just give up altogether, baby steps are the way to go,” she said. “It’s the way that we will meet our climate action goals.”
Think global, act local
Many of us care, but many of us are looking to state, national or global leaders to make grand proclamations that might just be put into practice this time. If you are like me, you might be shaking your fist at the television when you see another big corporate executive pass up on an opportunity to slow or halt greenhouse gas emissions that render individual action seemingly irrelevant.
And yet, we know that governments are made up of people, elected by people, and corporations are also made up of people who must bend to the will of consumers on the free market.
In short — and I know I am not saying anything revolutionary here — we can make a difference. That difference only becomes stronger when we put our heads together around the dinner table or, in this case, around the office.
“One of the most important things to change inside of a business would just be the culture,” Manzer said. “Whereas individually each business might not feel like they’re making a huge difference, when you can see the reduction in emissions overall each year or the waste diverted altogether, it is a huge difference, and especially for a small community like ours.”
If you believe this to be true, then the question becomes: If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
“I joined the Green Team because every time I think about global warming and climate change, I get really overwhelmed and I feel like I don’t have a lot of power to invoke change,” Paletta said. “This seemed like a great opportunity in my workplace and in my community to take some concrete steps to hopefully work towards a better future that is safe and comfortable for myself, for my children and for the people around me.”
When asked why she works so hard to promote these programs, Manzer said “it comes back to having that ingrained in me at a young age – just a love of the outdoors and wanting to continue to experience the outdoors.”
“Winter is my absolute favorite, and knowing that there could not be snow one day is just not an option for me,” she said.
This is just not an option for many of us here in the mountains, including the founders of Protect Our Winters, a Boulder-based nonprofit that focuses on climate change advocacy.
Current projections are discouraging, but that does not mean the future has to be. As Protect Our Winters says, “seemingly small efforts made at just the right moments carry enough weight to tip the scale from failure to success.”
So, if not now, when?
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com