By Jemma Harrison
Skiers and snowboarders: by our very nature, we love nature. But is our winter past-time killing off the environment we love? (The answer, irritatingly, is yes.)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the earth’s temperature is rapidly increasing and has gone up by 0.8 degrees celsius in the last century. In even worse news, the Alps are taking a bigger hit than most areas. If we look at the French city of Annecy for instance, a century ago the average temperature there was 9.6 degrees and now it’s 10.8 with local meteorologists saying the winters are much milder with far less snowfall.
Human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation, industrialisation and pollution are considered to be the main factors for global warming. Unfortunately, knocking down a load of trees, replacing them with lifts, building a heap of underground car parks and lux chalets and then herding in thousands of people to fill them every weekend is EXACTLY what you shouldn’t do.
It’s quite a tricky predicament for skiers with half a conscience. The only real way to be kind to the environment and still get your snow fix would be to pitch up in a tent made of hemp and make like Sir Ranulph Fiennes up to the top ridge. Only once you’d walked all the way from Heathrow, mind.
It sounds like a nice adventure to me, but tourism would plummet and I can’t see it catching on. However you’re in luck, because the ski and snowboard industry is filled with entrepreneurial, earth-loving folk who are taking on all of the hard work. So if you are green and keen, you can still hit the snow with your morals intact.
The first and biggest problem to grapple with is the “getting there”. Around 73% of the emissions we can attach to any ski break is as a result of transport. This mass-migration of snow loving holiday makers every weekend puts a tremendous strain on the Alpine environment. You may notice travelling through the valleys that speed limits are often reduced on a Saturday and Sunday to try and combat all the smog and pollution.
Handily someone over at the Ski Club of Great Britain has actually worked out how much CO2 you use for all the different types of transport from the UK. It’s a bit of a laborious read, so I’ll come straight to the point. Hopping on the train from London to Bourg St Maurice is best, but only if the train is full. A close second is to take the bus (no thanks) but after that it’s a short-haul charter airline, like Tui, but one that is full to capacity. Getting up the mountain to resort should be done in groups in an eco-friendly vehicle. Do either of these and you’ll be using less than 200kg of CO2 for the return journey apparently. The worst thing to do, according to them, would be to drive over to the Alps in a big 4×4 on your own, with a boot full of bricks or anvils or something.
It’s pretty obvious stuff, but airline carriers and transport companies in the Alps are so worried about the effects of this they’re doing all they can to help. Being fuel efficient, also means being cost efficient, after all, so it’s in their favour. Airline Jet2, for example, have recently ripped out all their heavy seats, shaving off an average of 500 kilos per flight and transfer companies in the Tarentaise Valley have formed close working relationships in order to try and cut down on the number of empty journeys their vehicles make each winter.
Once up the mountain, the companies who run the resorts are getting a handle on things, especially in our little pocket of the Alps. Paradiski (the combination of Les Arcs and La Plagne) became one of the world’s first ski areas to use 100% renewable energy for not only it’s 141 lifts, but also in all it’s restaurants, shops and hotels. A new bio fuel heating facility for the buildings in La Plagne Centre has reduced CO2 emissions by 4000 tons. This serious commitment to green skiing has meant it is now a member of the “QSE league” (Quality, Security and Environment League), which is a pretty big deal.
But what can you do once up in resort? Aside from making sound decisions like turning off lights, and putting on an extra jumper – you’d be surprised. Buying eco-wax for your skis and boards, buying from local clothing companies, supporting the bio-lodges rather than the mass purpose built hotels… all these things add up. We’ve done a tidy little round-up of a few of our favourite local companies who are all striving to make you look and feel cool as well as being an eco champion.
OUR ECO WARRIORS OF SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
Can you look rad AND save the planet? The answer is yes with these trailblazing companies…
Headwear brand Funi began in Bourg St Maurice in 2008, in the same house as CoolBus as it happens! Named after the funicular snow train that runs up to Les Arcs, the beanies are now knitted by a fleet of grannies in the UK. This company sources all of it’s yarn from the north of England and everything from their packaging to vegetable ink in their printers is environmentally friendly. Plus they donate £1 from every pompom sold to combating the effects of global warming and radiation. Headwear with a heart. Check them out at www.funiwear.com
A great brand, who started off in 2008 selling 100% organic cotton clothing. Since then the company has grown to be at the forefront of sustainable outerwear and has a fistful of awards for their eco-friendly outlook. Their recycled polyester jackets sell-out in weeks. Oh and they come from Annecy. www.picture-organic-clothing.com
Globally known HEAD sportswear cofounded Cool Earth, a charity organisation that protects endangered rainforests while working with local indigenous villages. Through this, HEAD has managed to save 7000 acres of rainforest each year since it began
Starting in Tignes 5 years ago, wax company Butta has a deep-rooted respect for the environment. Their eco wax is fluoro-carbon free and totally biodegradable, plus Butta also run their workshop entirely on solar power. Not only that, but it’s really very good wax, used by Olympic skiers and snowboarders. Fast and friendly. Winner. www.butta.com
STRIDING EDGE SNOWBOARDS
Selling eco-friendly, sustainable bamboo-core snowboards, this Lake-District based company promise to be carbon neutral by 2016. Quite a big and impressive call.
If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re currently sat in one of our new super-efficient T6 Cool Bus minibuses. This latest generation from Volkswagen features stop/start technology, regenerative braking and an engine that can achieve up to 47 mpg, but running super efficient vehicles is only half the story…
We have balanced all the carbon dioxide produced by our fleet of vehicles since January 2015 by paying money to Climate Care, an organisation that specialises in carbon offsetting. They are one of the leading companies in this field and have been funding projects for 18 years which have improved the lives of 6 million people worldwide and achieved a total reduction of 16.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions.
The carbon offsetting industry is a minefield to negotiate but we are convinced that in Climate Care we have found a company that are doing it right. Unlike some other companies, we don’t ask our customers if they wish to contribute towards carbon offsetting. The funds have come from our side and as such are automatically allocated for every journey we make.
As one of the few transport companies in the Alps committed to reducing their carbon footprint, every decision made at CoolBus HQ takes in to account the impact it will have on the environment.
Here’s a few more examples of small changes making big differences:
*Where legally possible, our office is paperless and any remaining waste paper and packaging is recycled and made into fire-bricks which fuel the Cool Bus house.
*We buy all of our oil and screen-wash in 200 litre drums and then siphon it into smaller containers that we use over and over again. This is saving well over 100 5litre plastic containers every winter for our screen wash alone.
*Our drivers uniforms are made by Anvil, another company dedicated to the environment who use organic cotton and polyester derived from recycled PET plastic. They own the majority of the factories where their garments are produced meaning they can ensure a minimum impact on the environment and a fair wage for all of their workers.
*Over the last 5 years we have steadily developed initiatives and relationships with the local suppliers in our area in order to help us all cut down on the empty journeys our vehicles make. For us this has resulted in a reduction of over 15% in kilometres travelled without passengers onboard.
*We’re even using our old tyres to terrace the Cool Bus garden!
Plans for next year include installing a roof load of solar panels to generate electricity and hot water at ‘The Pink House’ where a third of our staff live during the winter. Ultimately we are looking towards a day where we can viably use hybrid vehicles that run partly on electricity generated from our own solar panels. It may not be as far off as you think!