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Flims: green factor
- Introduction to green factor assessments
- Environmental overview of resorts
- Environmental initiatives
Is the resort ISO14001 approved?
ISO 14001 is a worldwide standard of environmental management for any organisation, created in 1996. Ski resorts on at least four continents are known to be working towards obtaining ISO 14001 certification or to have already achieved it. ISO 14001 is an environmental management system applying to those environmental issues which a ski resort business, or any company, has some control over and can be expected to influence if they want to.
The ISO 14001 standard helps any organisation to implement, maintain and improve an environmental management system; assure itself of its conformance with its own stated environmental policy and to demonstrate that it is conforming with those standards and any other environmental laws and regulations.
Does the resort recycle?
Resorts increasingly offer recycling facilities to guests, either within their accommodation and/or at special recycling points, which are hopefully convenient.
As always there's a range of how far individual resorts go. Some go as far as looking to use waste to run their communal heating systems and others make targets to recycle 100% of all waste.
Is the resort a green power user?
'Green' power (eco-friendly) typically means wind generated or other naturally produced energy such as solar cells. On the other hand, some fuel sources like bio diesel are less polluting than conventional fuels so could be considered a step in the right direction, if not the perfect answer.
Of course there is a great variation in how much (or how little!) a resort can do, from running a few snowmobiles on bio-diesel to having the entire resort operating on wind power or other renewable energies.
Does the resort have a traffic reduction policy?
Traffic reduction can take many forms. Several Swiss resorts and a few in other countries have banned cars altogether for decades. Some have never had cars on their streets.
Other approaches include pedestrianised centres and out-of-centre car parking with resort centre access only on foot or by public transport - hopefully, electrically powered buses. These, along with expensive and/or severely restricted resort centre parking, and an efficient free and cheap bus service, all help to reduce traffic problems and thus cut emissions.
Does the resort have a waste reduction policy?
The influx of winter guests to ski areas tends to bring an influx of, what's politely termed 'waste water', to the mountains as thousands of guests use the toilets on the mountain and bathroom in their accommodation.
The most environmentally forward thinking ski areas are using techniques such as composting to reduce waste from mountain restaurants. In some areas purified wastewater is also being used for snowmaking, on the one hand an eco friendly measure as it recycles, on the other it might be argued that if water is needed for snowmaking in an area of marginal precipitation, their shouldn't be a ski area there.
Does the resort have a climate policy?
If a ski resort has a climate policy it means that the 'great and the good' in the resort have got together to work out a strategy to minimise the resort's impact on climate change and global warming. This can include many different initiatives such as recycling, communal heating, ensuring new buildings cause minimal environmental impact and so on. Most important is the ethos of the community to take the potential environmental impact of all resort aspects of life into consideration now and in the future.
Does the resort have a green building policy?
Ski resorts are increasingly looking at minimising the environmental impact of their construction projects, as well as the impact of newly erected buildings and other infrastructure.
Having a green building policy means resorts put environmental concerns at the top of the list when working on new projects. This can include a myriad of things from using helicopters to reduce the damage to surrounding land when building in sensitive areas, to using natural, local materials for building and looking for maximum insulation and minimum power requirements, ideally supplied in as eco-friendly a way as possible.
The municipality of Flims has an electric power plant with a hydroelectric power plant in Laax. The communities of Laax and Falera are supplied by the local electricity provider AURAX AG with environmentally friendly electricity from hydroelectric power. With the "sinfonia d'aua" project the Weisse Arena Group produces ecological electricity together with its partners in the region. A reservoir for the piste snow machines is also used to generate energy. (See the point on Global Warming Policy).
In order to reduce the amount of garbage and to urge people to separate their garbage, there is a fee charged by the local municipalities for each garbage bag. In every municipality, there is at least one recycling station where glass, aluminium, paper and carton can be deposited free of charge. With the introduction of this fee, the garbage is being reduced.
The Weisse Arena Group supports the Summit FOUNDATION. This is an NGO based in Lausanne that promotes respect for the environment and aims to preserve the beauty of the mountains, lakes and landscapes through education, action and prevention.
Traffic Reduction Policy
During the season, the three municipalities Flims, Laax and Falera and the tourism organisation provide the Flims Laax Falera Shuttle Bus. The various lines of this shuttle connect the villages with the ski resort. People do not need a car to go to the Mountain Railway. For those that arrive by car, there is a parking spot next to every Mountain Railway station. In order to reduce the amount of traffic, a fee will be charged for parking.
Falera is a car-free village. It is only possible to drive through the village with a special authorisation.
Waste Reduction Policy
The Weisse Arena Group has created a concept which allows them to improve the management of their garbage. This concept includes the various lift stations and restaurants in the ski area.
This concept could reduce the volume of garbage from lift stations and restaurants by up to 25%. The rest of the garbage will be separated according to material and recycled if possible.
- Design does not mean you have to sacrifice environmental safety
With its hotel projects, the Weisse Arena Group is setting new trends and of course combining modern design with ecological aspects. Even when the design hotel Riders Palace was being built six years ago emphasis was put on "Minergie". This meant that the energy used for heating should not exceed 45 kWh per square metre / year. With the group's latest project, the rocksresort, the latest energy standards are met with the "Minergie" concept. The core energy supply for the resort with a total of 1,000 beds is a central wood chip furnace, which provides the entire building complex with heating and warm water. By using climate-neutral scrap wood from the Graubünden region, we are not only helping protect the environment, but we are also strengthening the local economy. The wood energy is supplemented with heat pumps and heat recovery systems, as well as many smaller measures, such as timers, electricity saving bulbs and motion detectors.
In another project, the heat rejected from the cable car has been used to heat the two mountain restaurants Elephant and Larnags since 1992. Both were heated with oil before.
Global Warming Policy
The Weisse Arena Group carries out innovative projects in the fields of generating energy for the ski area and snow conservation, which play an active role in protecting the environment.
- "sinfonia d´aua" – innovative energy and water project
With the "sinfonia d'aua" project the Weisse Arena Group uses a reservoir to supply a fully self-sufficient snow machine for ecological energy production and an ultra-modern water supply. The Nagens reservoir with a capacity of 200,000 cubic metres supplies all the water needed to put artificial snow on the pistes in the area of Mutta Rodunda, Nagens, Scansinas and Pun Gronda. At the same time the water saved is used for energy production and turbined via the network of snow machines to a small power plant. Overall approximately 5 million kilowatt hours of eco-electricity are produced, which covers around 40% of its own electrical energy needs. If the project is expanded the entire Flims Laax Falera region could be provided with hydroelectricity and in the low season energy could even be exported.
- Breaking new ground with snow farming and glacier covering
After the first successful tests in 2006 the Weisse Arena Group introduced a snow farming pilot project in collaboration with the Canton of Graubünden. At the end of April 2007 in the area of Crap Sogn Gion, snow was put in the half pipe using snow machines and covered with a compound cover. The snow saved meant that the half pipe and snow parks could be built earlier and the energy costs for snow production were also reduced.
In the summer of 2007 after tests the previous year, a section of the piste of approx. 20,000 square metres on the glacier was covered with a compound cover. This meant that 2 to 3 metres of snow could be saved during the summer and the piste machine hours could be reduced by around 40%. The projects will be evaluated ecologically and scientifically for the next five years. The results will then be incorporated into a list of criteria for snow farming and glacier covering.
Since resorts are continuously increasing and improving their environmental practices, we update the Green Resort Guide throughout the year. If you have any information about new resort environmental policies/practices or anything that you think we may have missed, please email email@example.com.
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