Vail Daily guest column: We can be proud of Vail’s sustainability efforts | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily guest column: We can be proud of Vail’s sustainability efforts

Kristen Bertuglia

This past week Vail was visited by Magdalena Muir, of Calgary, Canada, an internationally renowned auditor for Green Destinations and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Today, you should be exceptionally proud of Vail and the valley we love.

As the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships Environment Committee began to envision a legacy project in 2013, the pie in the sky idea to have Vail become a Certified Sustainable Destination was born. In the near future, thanks to the dedication of the Actively Green business community, the U.S. Forest Service, Vail Resorts, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, our residents, guests and dozens of partners and hardworking staff at Walking Mountains Science Center, we could be living in the first Certified Sustainable Destination in the U.S.

No Small feat

To achieve this honor is no small feat, and requires high levels of performance in economic strength, social responsibility, wildlife and ecosystem protection, energy and water conservation, preservation and quality, equity, arts and cultural heritage, climate change mitigation and more. Muir, a physical and social scientist with an academic focus on climate, environment and sustainable resource development and a principal in sustainable tourism businesses for Canada and the Galapagos Islands, is evaluating the town of Vail, Vail Mountain and the Gore Creek watershed for leadership, programs and plans in these areas. While the destination does not have to be perfect to achieve a certification, it must have a plan and systems in place to address gaps.

The New York Times reported that sustainable tourism — bringing global awareness to travel and putting it into action — is a top priority for the United Nations this year — so much so that the organization has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Vail is fortunate to be visited by 2.8 million guests per year from all across the world, and as Colorado has one of the fastest growing populations in the nation, that number is expected to increase.

As our economy grows and Vail expands its summer services, events and year-round attractions, we recognize the need to elevate the preservation and protection of the environment that the founders of Vail began more than 50 years ago. Thanks to the likes of Terry Minger, Diana and John Donovan, Dr. Tom Steinberg, Mauri Nottingham and many others, Vail is the only community we know of that has environmental stewardship and sustainability, including the protection of open space, in the town's charter.

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This is our Responsibility

Today, as we face the immense challenges of climate change, as members of the Vail community we have not only an opportunity, but a responsibility to lead this effort on an international scale, along with our peer resorts working diligently through our work with the Eagle County Action Plan, Colorado Communities for Climate Action and Compact of Colorado Communities.

One thing I know for sure: This community is dedicated to achieving this goal and all of the organizations working together throughout the past two years have been inspiring. If you're not already involved in Actively Green as a business, or haven't begun to get involved in local programs for restoring the Gore or want to learn more about how each of us, locals and guests alike, can contribute to the journey to become a sustainable destination, then visit http://www.lovevail.org.

Kristen Bertuglia is the environmental sustainability manager at the town of Vail, overseeing programs in energy, waste, water quality, ecosystem health, green transportation, climate change mitigation and public education.