By Damien Alexander Williamson | May 27, 2015 | Lifestyle
Aspen’s future relies on suppressing climate change and promoting sustainable practices. Here, Aspen Peak sits down with Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Company’s VP of sustainability and the author of Getting Green Done, to address the dilemma.
Aspen Peak: What exactly does it mean to be a green ski company? Given the energy use in ski resorts, the term seems almost oxymoronic.
Auden Schendler: Our goal is to minimize the impact of our business and also use it, and its infuence, as a lever to help solve big barriers to sustainability. Ski resorts get singled out [as companies that use enormous amounts of energy], but we’re just a business well-suited to a given region. Look at any business and each has its own huge impacts. If it’s UPS, it’s transportation. If it’s Google, it’s data center energy use. Since we can’t pick and choose what parts of our economy are acceptable, we have to fix the whole enchilada by advocating for smart policy.
AP: It’s easy for Aspenites, and the ski industry, to get behind climate change initiatives because we see, firsthand, the results of inaction. How do we translate that awareness to the masses?
AS: The ski community is a perfect vehicle for this. People don’t necessarily understand parts per million of atmospheric CO 2 , but they do understand snow and skiing going away, even if they’re not skiers or riders. That’s what groups like Protect Our Winters [Schendler sits on the board] are trying to do—use the ski community as a way to seed a broader social movement that will create the political will for climate solutions.
AP: Aspen is a center of excessive consumption while also serving as a model of sustainability. How do you reconcile the two?
AS: You have to move forward in the world you live in. So, I’d pose the questions: “Who ought to lead on climate change: those who have the means to do so or the very poor?” Aspen has both an obligation to lead and the ability to lead, exactly because of what it is. If there is leverage here, let’s use it.
AP: How do you rate the effcacy of the Canary Initiative, town’s main environmental directive?
AS: Along with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, they’ve done a great job of making Aspen a model for how a city can pursue climate solutions. Aspen has a great green building code, a carbon tax, is 100 percent powered by clean energy, and has a model transit system. I think there’s room to use Aspen’s leverage for broad change, not just local change.
AP: What are specific initiatives enacted by the Aspen Skiing Company to offset its carbon footprint? Are they enough?
AS: We’ve done all the things smart businesses do: energy efficiency in the form of green building and retrofits of lighting, heating, cooling, and controls; clean energy development; and aggressive policy advocacy, locally and nationally. We’ve worked with our utility to increase clean power supply, backed state clean energy standards, and supported the EPA carbon rules, among many other policy stances. Are they enough? No.
AP: In the face of so much scientific evidence, why do you think climate change is still framed as a “debate?”
AS: Because huge sums of money have been spent on misinformation to ensure that the public and elected officials still question the science. The goal: enable fossil fuel companies to monetize the reserves currently in the ground before society catches on to the danger of doing that. This is well-documented in the book, and now film, Merchants of Doubt, which we helped bring to the Wheeler Opera House in March.