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Wildschönau: 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.
Austria prides itself on having no purpose-built ski resorts; rather each village has been carefully and sensitively developed over time, some in fact over more than 100 years, for the benefit and enjoyment of local communities as well as to attract winter tourism.
Due to much talked about, and in some cases documented changes in the climatic environment, Austria's winter resorts have (since the early 1990s) begun to closely monitor developments in order to prepare themselves for a possible reduction of snow quantities and increase in temperatures.
The main aim was to actively manage natural resources, prepare strategies to adapt to climate changes as well as to explore different sources of income in order to maintain a quality environment for rural communities. As it is still very unclear how exactly climate change will affect and interfere with winter tourism, it has been of paramount importance to develop and adapt strategies for future planning and development of winter sport centres.
47% of Austria's surface area is covered by forested land. Cable car organisations, company directors and relevant organisations, together with the general public, act very carefully to preserve the environment. Cable cars and ski slopes are, for example, not allowed to disturb flora and fauna and any developments require planning permission.
In comparison to other countries the Austrian Cable Car Industry is probably the most tightly legislated of all. The "cable car act" of 2003 ensures each and every cable car operator opts for the environmentally most sustainable and effective option, to cause minimum impact to the surrounding environment possible and strictly adheres to these legal regulations.
Only 0.3% of Austria's soil is used to enhance the ski slopes. These pastures are nurtured during the summer and have created additional land for agricultural purposes, so that any possible erosion during the winter months is counter-balanced. Ski slopes are only given permission by authorities to open if there is sufficient snow coverage.
The Austrian Cable Car Association works closely with environmental agencies, experts and scientists of various relevant fields to ensure the sustainability in all areas, and major publications are published on a regular basis. It is clear that only an ecological and economical sustainable winter tourism can ensure a healthy and attractive landscape as well as an intact living environment (also in summer of course) for communities in Alpine areas. According to Dr. Ramskogler of the Fürst Liechtenstein Trust, winter tourism is essential for the survival of the Alps and its inhabitants.
As Josef Bogensperger, CEO of the Katschberg Cable Car Association in Carinthia comments: "It usually takes a minimum of two years to gain planning permission for a new cable car or ski lift. Several local and national government bodies will challenge environmental standards and if more than 20 hectares of woodland need to be cleared, a European environmental impact assessment will take place.
In 1991, eight countries (Germany, Austria, France, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Slovenia) signed the so-called "Alpine Convention"; a framework agreement to protect and, in some cases, limit the sustainable development of the Alps. Its aim is to prevent damage to the Alpine environment by harmonising economic and environmental interests. It views the Alps as one unified plot of land, shared globally by various interdependent sectors.
This convention seeks to increase co-operation between parties in international Alpine matters, to gain support from national and international environmental-related organisations and increase public awareness.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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