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Big Sky Resort’s Big Plans for Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2030
“We share the environment, and our efforts will directly impact the greater Big Sky community,” Big Sky Resort’s Sustainability Specialist Amy Trad said. “We all could collectively be doing more.”

Sustainability means different things to different people, but for Big Sky Resort’s Sustainability Specialist Amy Trad and the Big Sky Resort it means Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2030. “To achieve net zero by 2030, we're first focusing on reducing our energies, then increasing the efficiency of our buildings and equipment and then we'll focus on electrifying more of our operations and advocating for a cleaner energy.” said Trad. According to Trad, the key is thinking holistically about reductions across all of your operations, “Sustainability is systems thinking, which basically means understanding our connection to and impact on the larger systems that we are a component of.”

In order to make their first priority, reducing energy possible, Trad said the Resort is using energy offsets, “We purchase renewable energy credits, so that for every one kilowatt hour of electricity that we use, from potentially carbon emitting sources, one kilowatt hour of electricity is bought from renewable sources like solar or wind,” explained Trad. The Resort is also partnered with an offset company called Tradewater to reduce the most potent form of greenhouse gases. “Our partnership with Tradewater allows any of our guests an opportunity to offset their trip to Big Sky when they purchase their tickets. On our website, we feature the Tradewater carbon calculator,” Trad said. The carbon calculator allows visitors to punch in their travel information and estimate the possible carbon emissions released for that amount of travel. “Once a guest calculates their carbon emissions, they can choose to reduce their overall impact by purchasing credits... Tradewater can then collect and destroy those refrigerants.” Tradewater destroys the gases in a kiln that heats up to temperatures between 1,800°F to 2,200°F which kills 99.99% of the harmful refrigerants.

Trad recognizes that while recycling is often seen as an important environmental approach it is not the most efficient way to dispose of plastic waste. “We're finding alternative materials that are either better recycled or composted. For instance, we sell Pathwater water bottles, and they're actually made of aluminum, which is one of the best things to recycle. And then not only are they aluminum, but they're refillable.” As for glass, “Montana doesn’t recycle glass, so we're also reducing the amount of glass bottles.”

Food waste which is a major contributor to greenhouse gases are on the radar for the Resort. “Last year, we started working with YES Compost and they will break down any of the food scraps like peelings, cores, things like that,” said Trad, who also says reducing food waste is an even more efficient approach. “The better job we do, managing our procurement processes, so basically ordering the right amount of food, the less food we waste.”

Changes to the lodges at the Resort are important to Big Sky’s efforts to reduce water and electricity usage. “We're replacing a lot of our incandescent and fluorescent lights with LEDs, they save energy by producing significantly less heat. And then as for water, it was primarily the focus on water efficiency in toilets and showerheads,” said Trad. “For instance, our toilets now use 1.4 gallons each flush rather than four gallons of water.” The resort also continues to be energy efficient with the almost invisible practice of limiting electricity use via keycards. “Until you insert that key card you can't turn on the AC and the heat isn't on, so that way it limits our energies to when guests are actually in their room rather than just using electricity to run everything when the rooms are empty.”

Though the Resort has gotten off to a great start towards achieving their goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030, “There's definitely more we can do. By no means we're not perfect, you know, we just started these initiatives, finding the data to support them and things like that. So, there's definitely more we can do. But I would say we've done a little bit in almost every area today.”

At the end of the day, Trad says the important thing is getting everyone involved in sustainability. “We share the environment, and our efforts will directly impact the greater Big Sky community,” Trad said. “We all could collectively be doing more.”

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