Aspen Skiing Co. outlines successes and failures on the environment
Ryan Summerlin December 26, 2012
ASPEN – Aspen Skiing Co. held its carbon emissions flat between 2000 and 2011 despite growing in size and boosting its revenues by 41 percent over that period, according to its 2012 sustainability report.
But Skico doesn’t spend much time blowing its own horn in the report. Instead, it continues to hammer home the point that it’s not enough for corporations and companies to reduce their own carbon emissions.
“Most businesses trying to be sustainable focus on greening their operations and products,” the sustainability report says on the opening page. “But that’s not nearly enough to stop climate change, and therefore doesn’t achieve true sustainability.
“That’s why corporations must become climate activists, pushing for big-scale solutions.”
Skico backed its talk with action in 2012 with both its in-house operations and its activism.
The company has used a meticulous process since 2000 to track its annual carbon emissions. It keeps track of everything from the electricity used to power its chairlifts to fuel consumed by its snowmobile fleet. Year-round operations of its hotels, including The Little Nell and Limelight, are calculated in the mix.
In 2000, Skico figures it emitted 31,605 tons of carbon dioxide. There have been some minor fluctuations over 12 years, but the emissions have held fairly steady. Skico figures it emitted 30,957 tons of carbon dioxide last year. A figure isn’t available yet for this year.
The report makes a subtle point that a company can increase revenues without dumping more carbon emissions into the atmosphere and contributing greater to climate change.
For observers hungry for details, Skico’s sustainability report breaks down where the emissions come from by detailing how and where it is consuming fossil fuels.
The company has avoided creation of additional carbon emissions despite growth by working on energy efficiency, said Auden Schendler, Skico vice president of sustainability.
The report highlights some of the effective if not spectacular ways:
• Over five years, Skico has replaced old boilers with high-efficiency models at Heatherbed Lodge, Snow Eagle Lodge, Skico headquarters at the Aspen Business Center, Cliffhouse, Buttermilk ski patrol, Merry-Go-Round and Snowmass Club.
• Skico invested $130,000 to replace all incandescent bulbs with more efficient types.
• It invested $5.5 million in a plant that converts methane vented from a coal plant near Paonia into electricity. By early 2013, the plant will contribute about as much electricity to the grid as Skico uses annually – about 24 million kilowatt-hours, Schendler said. Another benefit is that the plant eliminates three times as much greenhouse pollution as the company produces per year by putting methane that was wasted to beneficial use. Skico teamed with Holy Cross Energy, Vessels Coal Gas, the Oxbow Elk Creek Mine and Gunnison Energy on the project.
While the sustainability report features those steps, it covers its activism even more prominently.
“Aspen Skiing Company’s recent work recognizes the fact that operational greening won’t get us to sustainability,” the report said. “We need to mobilize bigger levers.”
To achieve that goal, Skico teamed with 350.org to stage an event that connects extreme weather with climate change. The report says it made an “internationally visible statement” by working with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association to withdraw from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “one of the most powerful advocates of climate denial in the world.”
Skico is urging ski-industry trade associations to get more involved in the climate-change debate. It is working with Colorado Ski Country USA and the National Ski Areas Association, among others, to get involved.
Skico also is acting in its backyard. It started offering full-time, year-round employees 16 hours of paid volunteer time last year. In addition, the Skico employee Environment Foundation celebrated its 15th year in 2012. The foundation, which is fueled by voluntary contributions from Skico employees, has awarded $2 million to fund 375 projects and causes dedicated to protecting the Roaring Fork Valley environment.
Skico reports on its emissions and environmental achievements every other year.