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Skico finding ways to be eco-friendly

Jeremy Heiman

Some behind-the-scenes environmental work is blossoming at the Aspen Skiing Co., and a lot of it originates from the company’s employees.

Auden Schendler, environmental manager for the company, said energy-saving and pollution-prevention ideas have been cropping up recently, and the company’s Environmental Affairs Department can’t take the credit. Schendler says Skico employees, the company as a whole, and Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell deserve the credit for making changes happen.

Some of these ideas save money, too. The measures might seem insignificant by themselves, but at the corporate scale, the resulting savings are significant.

Laurie Risk, senior buyer for the Skico, said the company is saving huge amounts of paper as a result of new policies. Though the company’s 15 copiers have the capability to print on both sides, the feature was seldom used in the past.

“It’s really educating the employees to be aware that that will make a difference,” she said. Skico fax machines have been retrofitted to print on both sides of each page, adding to the savings. Risk said she thought the overall paper savings is probably more than 25 percent.

With purchases of 12 cases of paper monthly, the company goes through perhaps 720,000 sheets of paper annually.

“I’d say a quarter of that is `duplexable,’ which is 180,000 to 200,000 sheets annually,” Risk said.

David Draves, lift maintenance manager at Snowmass, said a meeting with officials from Holy Cross Energy, the electric utility which provides Skico power, resulted in his idea to cut energy use and save huge amounts of money.

Holy Cross assesses penalty pricing to major power users such as the Skico for overtaxing the utility’s ability to produce power during peak consumption periods. By making simple changes, Draves realized, the company could make drastic reductions in power use, and avoid the penalty pricing.

One change Draves instituted was to put timers on the heaters in lift shacks. While the lifts operate about seven hours per day, the company was heating the shacks 24 hours a day. Also, electronic equipment in lift terminal buildings is now kept at working temperature by 80-watt heaters, where before

the entire buildings were heated.

“We cut our energy consumption on heat alone by 70 to 80 percent,” Draves said. “We saved probably $70,000 a month on penalties.”

Elsewhere in the company, solvent used for washing mechanical parts of snowcats and other equipment has been replaced by washers that use water and detergent, avoiding the use and disposal of hazardous materials. Schendler credits Buttermilk mechanic Don Mushet for helping bring about that change, saving perhaps $4,000 a year per machine in reduced labor, solvent disposal, and maintenance.

In one other example, Chris Kiley, a manager at the Heatherbed, a Skico employee housing building, took the lead in switching to washing machines that use two-thirds less water, saving water and the energy used to heat water for 1,560 loads of laundry per year.

“None of these things is very sexy,” Schendler said, “but they add up to significant environmental gains.”

Jim Ward, the Skico’s director of purchasing, said the company will ask its suppliers to provide information on any energy-saving or environmentally friendly products available, Ward said.

“We’re trying to make good environmental decisions that happen to be good business decisions, too,” Ward said.


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