Guest Column: Squaw/Alpine is socially, environmentally responsible
May 8, 2014
Please consider this response to Kimball Pier's My Turn from May 2, which was critical of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, future development plans for Squaw and our snowmaking and recycling efforts.
Reasonable people may disagree over the details associated with any development plan. Our proposed project has benefited from an extensive public review and outreach process; following hundreds of meetings and extensive outreach and discussion, the current plan contains significant changes which reflect public input.
I am responsible for overseeing Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows' environmental protection and improvement initiatives, and I'd like to specifically address Ms. Pier's assertions about recycling and snowmaking, which are factually inaccurate.
Dr. Pier suggest that one of our employees told her "the recycling bins are mainly just for show… recyclables are pretty much thrown in with the non-recyclables."
In fact, it is accurate that our guests are responsible for choosing to dispose of their garbage in either cans marked " recycle" (containing "blue bags") or cans marked "trash" (containing "black bags"). Likewise, our employees choose from tcans identified "recycling" or "trash" in every location. It is also true that when full, the bags are thrown into the same Dumpsters.
Tahoe Truckee Sanitation District utilizes single-stream recycling and does not use separate collection methods for different waste streams, e.g. glass, plastic, aluminum, etc. TTSD staff manually sorts "blue bag" recyclables from "black bag" trash for the Truckee/ Tahoe area.
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The effectiveness of a recycling program starts with the initial point of disposal. In other words, we want the blue bags to contain recyclable items. This year, in an effort to improve appropriate segregation of recyclables from non-recyclables, all food and beverage receptacles were more clearly labeled with pictures of what should be disposed in each type of can.
In 2009, the resort made a significant investment for all outdoor bear-proof receptacles to include both recycling and trash — not just trash alone.
In addition to our upgraded trash receptacles, Squaw Valley has designated cardboard-only Dumpsters on-site. The cardboard from these Dumpsters is not co-mingled into the single waste stream, but separated upon arrival at the Transfer Station to be baled and shipped for recycling.
Squaw Valley Resort is also working with TTSD in order to generate data we believe will support a future commercial composting program for the region. As part of this process, Squaw segregates compostable waste at two F&B locations.
Compostable material is deposited into compost specific dumpster, TTSD transports the compost Dumpsters to the transfer station where the material is weighed and recorded prior to disposal. TTSD has agreed to use this data to examine the feasibility of a larger scale commercial compost program.
Snowmaking at Squaw uses ground water from the aquifer during winter, when supplies are plentiful, and stores it on the hillsides in the form of snow. Come spring and summer, when water is less plentiful, the snowmelt prolongs stream and creek flows.
Water that is pumped from the aquifer and stored on the hillside increases, rather than diminishes, surface water flows during spring and summer (more snow = more snow melt = more creek flows and longer duration creek flows).
In addition, water stored as snow on the hillside becomes available for domestic use during the drier spring and summer months, when it recharges the valley's aquifer.
Ninety percent of the groundwater used for snowmaking either returns to the aquifer, contributes to stream flows, or supports vegetation; 10 percent evaporates. Water is not rendered "toxic" by changing its state from liquid water, to snow, and back to water.
Taking care of our natural resources and the environment is something we take very seriously. This is not about developing a PR campaign or logo around our environmental efforts, but about something we as a company believe in. This is a statement about our values and our legacy.
As a socially and environmentally responsible company, we strive to continually improve our environmental initiatives. Dr. Pier's opinion is a simple reminder that we need to better educate our community, guests and employees about our past, current and future environmental efforts and actions.
Michael Gross is director of risk management at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.