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Northstar wins state environmental award

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

The eighth time was the charm for Northstar-at-Tahoe.

After winning state recognition for its recycling efforts each of the past seven years, Northstar became one of only 10 businesses statewide to receive the highest California honor for reducing waste in 2004. The 10 awards are chosen from a field of more than 2,000 businesses.

By finding a second life for everything from lumber to horse manure, Northstar kept more than 275 tons of would-be waste from ending up in the landfill last year, and cut trash hauling fees by $28,000, the resort reported.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board recognized Northstar’s innovation as a primarily reason for the honor. Northstar employees collect pine needles, grass clippings and horse manure to aid in revegetation at the resort. Lumber from the deconstruction of the old Northstar Village was also milled and re-used as decking material for the Big Springs Lodge.

“You really are a model and a leader for other businesses,” said Rosalie Mule, member of the waste management board.

John Loomis, director of operations at Northstar, said the resort’s focus on waste reduction comes from an understanding that a healthy environment is essential to their success.

“We certainly recognize that the environment is our livelihood,” said Loomis. “It is probably our No. 1 sell.”

Northstar is now working with U.C. Davis soil scientists and the state water board to find science-backed methods to combat erosion, Loomis said.

Mule noted that by buying recycled materials, Northstar is also completing that loop that it starts when it recycles its own waste.

“You are not recycling unless you buy recycled,” Mule said.

The waste management board is helping California work toward its goal of keeping 50 percent of would-be trash from state landfills. In 2003, 47 percent of the state’s trash, about 35 million tons, was “diverted” from landfills.

The beginning of Northstar’s string of eight state honors coincides with the resort’s creation of an environmental action team that brainstorms ways to recycle and reduce the resort’s environmental impact.

The team has promoted recycling in lodging units, and started a new Green Tag program last year in partnership with Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Green Tags add a small charge to the resort’s lift tickets that then goes toward buying renewable energy, helping offset the emissions of traditional fuels.

“There have been a lot of people working behind the scenes for some time,” said Tom Dougherty, who heads up the environmental team. “You kind of wonder if anyone is paying attention. It is nice to know that they are.”


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