The planet faces great challenges such as climate change, desertification, loss of biodiversity, the degradation of ecosystems and natural disasters. All of this can be extended to the mountain areas where, as FAO affirms, their goals of sustainable development do not receive the attention and priority they deserve.

The Zero Waste movement was born from the need for a change in the industrial model. A change that puts a stop to products being made to be useless and end up as waste, polluting, little by little destroying the planet.

Hikers enjoying a zero waste lifestyle in the mountains
Image: Hikers enjoying a zero waste lifestyle in the mountains

To do this, it is necessary for society to become aware and to start establishing ecological consumption guidelines together with proper waste management. The three “R’s” of the movement are reducing consumption, reusing products and recycling them.

examples of metal trash found in the mountains
Image: examples of metal trash found in the mountains

Many cities have already implemented Zero Waste models, but it is also important to apply it globally. This need is especially urgent in the mountain environment, due to its fragility regarding climate change. That is why many ski resorts strive to protect the environment by creating initiatives that try to reduce this impact. One such initiative is the Flocon Vert label., which is awarded to ski resorts that meet sustainability challenges.

Sustainable development goals in ecological stations

There are ski resorts that take the important goal of sustainable development in the mountains very seriously. Those ski resorts are active participants in the Zero Waste movement.

There are ski resorts that apply this movement on their own, such as the new man-made Copenhill station in Copenhagen. Meanwhile, other ski resorts have modernized themselves to adapt to the movement, such as Laax in Switzerland, which runs on hydroelectric power, solar panels and biomass.

Ski resorts have made it clear that they are engaged: when President Donald Trump announced that the US would abandon the Paris Agreement, many American ski resorts signed an open letter condemning the decision. Vail Resorts company, one of the giants of the ski industry, was among the signatories. Vail Resorts is the owner of dozens of ski resorts in the United States. It also owns a large station in Canada and another one in Australia. The company’s new green initiative, “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint”, consists of a plan divided into three parts. Their objective is the total elimination of their carbon emissions, their production of waste and their environmental impact by 2030.

How can I contribute to the Zero Waste movement?

Much of the pollution produced in ski resorts can be avoided through education in reaching sustainable development goals, in caring for the environment; and through awareness of this Zero Waste movement. For example, waste of all kinds (bottles, cans, cigarette butts and even clothes or mobiles) is frequently discovered at the end of the season when the snow melts.

Image: Cigarette butts left on the mountain

This garbage is not generated by the ski resorts, but the visitors who come to them and are not careful. Most of this rubbish is not produced on purpose. It is usually just an oversight. That is why, every year, ski resorts and environmental protection associations organize awareness campaigns and waste collection. Mountain Riders, for example, tries to raise awareness by organizing cleaning campaigns for the ski resorts. Through their efforts, tons of garbage is collected.

Children practicing the zero waste movement
Image: Children practicing the zero waste movement

Plogging: Bringing sport to Zero Waste

One of the original waste collection initiatives seen at stations is “plogging”. The term plogging is the fusion of the English word running and the Swedish expression plocka upp, which means “pick up”.

The sport, invented by Swedish Eric Ahlstrom, combines running with picking up trash from the ground. Although, the sport started in the Swedish resort of Are, it is now spreading all over the world. Its goal is to fight environmental pollution. At the same time it is another great way to raise awareness and support for better sustainable development of the environment we enjoy.

goals of sustainable development: picking up rubbish from the snow
Image: goals of sustainable development: rubbish reduction

Taking care of the planet is everyone’s responsibility, and this includes taking care of our beloved mountains and ski resorts is, too. Being aware, being responsible and making sure to not leave our waste behind when we visit the mountains is the first step we can take to contribute to a Zero Waste movement in ski resorts.