Vail Resorts, Inc. took major steps in its Commitment to Zero plan, as the company announced a long-term wind energy contract to purchase the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power 100 percent of its estimated fiscal year (FY) 2019 North American operations by 2020.
Additionally, Vail Resorts announced a partnership with Eco-Products to supply all of its North American restaurants with compostable and recycled-content items and to eliminate conventional single-use plastics, a process that will begin during the 2018-19 winter season.
"As a growing company, deeply connected to the outdoors, we made a commitment last year to address our most pressing global and environmental challenges and to protect our local communities and natural resources," said Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, in a statement. "Today, we are thrilled to announce significant initiatives that will help us achieve our zero net emissions and zero waste-to-landfill goals and provide a transparent look at our progress through our first EpicPromise Progress Report."
The company's multimillion-dollar wind energy virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) enables the development of the Plum Creek Wind Project, which is expected to be completed in 2020. Under the 12-year agreement, Vail Resorts is purchasing 310,000 megawatt hours (MWh) annually—enough wind energy to reduce the emissions associated with the company's estimated FY 2019 North American electricity use by 100 percent, which includes the recent acquisitions of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Stevens Pass Resort, Okemo Mountain Resort and Mount Sunapee Resort. That is also the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power 30,000 average U.S. homes each year, noted the company.
On a local level, Vail Resorts recently signed a contract with Xcel Energy in Colorado to support a new solar energy facility and is sponsoring Rocky Mountain Power's request for proposal for 308,000 MWh (megawatt hours) of renewable energy, which could lead to an increase in the amount of solar, wind and geothermal projects in Utah. Additionally, the company has invested $2.4 million in energy efficiency projects across its resorts over the last year, including low-energy snowmaking and energy-efficient building upgrades.
Achieving zero net emissions by 2030 is one pillar within the company's Commitment to Zero sustainability goal, announced by Vail Resorts in 2017. Another is to achieve zero waste-to-landfill by 2030.
In naming Boulder, Colo.-based Eco-Products its official zero waste partner, Vail Resorts is investing in sourcing sustainable guest-facing dining products at all its restaurants across its 17 North American resorts, a process that will begin this winter season. Through this partnership, the company is working to eliminate all single-use, guest-facing conventional plastic products, such as cups, straws, beverage lids, plates, bowls and cutlery, and replacing them with compostable or recycled-content products—a move that's expected to divert nearly 300 tons of waste from landfills over the next two winter seasons.
To support and accommodate this change and tp make measurable progress toward zero waste in 2030, Vail Resorts noted it is working with community partners to identify increased opportunities to recycle and compost. The company has set aside funding to build out resort-wide composting capabilities—with a full resort diversion project already underway at Park City Mountain in Utah, targeting food scraps and compostable packaging, due to be completed next season and expected to divert more than 400 tons of waste from landfills over the next two winter seasons.
Other zero waste initiatives from Vail Resorts include: expanding a Smart Straw initiative, where compostable straws will be available by request only across all the company's North American restaurants; moving to durable products where possible, such as replacing single-use wax paper cups with reusable tumblers everywhere that dishwashing is available (expected to eliminate nearly 300,000 disposable cups this season); using waste-tracking sensors to help better measure current waste streams and identify inefficiencies; and working with graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder, Masters of the Environment program to conduct waste audits and research to identify opportunities for improvement.