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Sustainability

Greenstyle in Laax

Is Laax the greenest winter resort in Europe?

In Laax sustainability isn’t just a buzzword they throw around for brownie points, they’re actually committed and dedicated to trying to create the smallest possible ecological footprint from their business activities. Laax developed the Greenstyle program in 2010 and have been steadfastly pursuing their environmental goals since then. We sat down for a green table talk with Reto Fry, the Environmental Manager at Laax to find out more about how they’re working to become the world’s first “self-sufficient alpine destination through financially viable initiatives”. Getting to the bottom of all the waffle- basically they want to be good for the environment, but not at the cost of the local economy, Laax want to focus their efforts on both of these sectors and believe that it is a feasible goal.

It would be naive to believe that Laax is spearheading these initiatives on a purely altruistic basis, of course in the end every winter resort is a business and they’ll always have their wallets in mind, but it would also be pig headed to think we can afford to pick and choose which environmental efforts we pay heed to. If financial gain (or less loss) is what will motivate these companies to move towards greener business models then thats what we’ll have to deal with for now.

Reto estimates that 90% of revenue for Laax is generated in just 4 months. So as the winters get shorter, or start to disappear all together, then the locals are going to start to suffer financially. With temperatures in the Alps rising twice as fast as the global average over the last 120 years, it’s not a case of if, but when. We as consumers have to make resorts like Laax the norm if we want to have any hope of going for a spring shred with our alien overlords in 2050.

“100% of the energy requirements for Laax come from CO2 neutral sources”

So how is Laax making moves towards becoming less of a drain on its natural resources? Already 100% of the electricity requirements for Laax come from CO2 neutral sources, and a large proportion of that is generated locally. Around 25% of their power comes from solar panels, and a lot is sourced via the “Sinfonia d’aua” in Flims which generates enough hydroelectric energy to power the areas surrounding the cable cars.

Laax have also been making efforts to reduce the amount of avoidable waste they produce, they’ve been working with Swiss company Kitro, implementing schemes to reduce the amount of edible food that is scrapped each year. From December 2017 to April 2018 The Riders Hotel produced 505.5kg of avoidable waste “an equivalent of around £1230 and 86 days of electricity for one household”. After seeing the shocking results the hotel adjusted its buying practices, and were able to reduce their waste by more than 50%.

Riders Hotel in Laax

As well as their food waste programme, Laax work with community suppliers to source local produce where possible, this reduces the amount of packaging that is used, cuts down on transportation, and supports the local economy- It’s a win-win-win situation. Laax also operate an exclusively vegetarian restaurant in the Riders Hotel (“Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent“).

When you walk around Laax, you’ll notice that it’s weirdly clean, it’s kinda like walking through a snowy Disneyland. There’s bins everywhere, and more importantly, there’s dedicated recycling bins scattered throughout the town and up on the mountain. Many of the restaurants and cafes offer ‘KeepCups’ as an alternative to a single use cup, and they’re trying to completely get rid of disposable receptacles moving forwards.

Plans are being drawn up to erect a wind farm on the Vorab glacier, which would provide energy for 5000 homes, that’s more than enough for the entire region. As well as the proposed wind harnessing, Laax has also invested heavily into solar power, and every new lift station is equipped with solar panels. As a resort, they’re blessed by the sun gods and get a lot of sunlight, so using the panels makes complete fiscal sense in the long run regardless of how much better it is for the environment.

One of the biggest problems resorts face is powering their Pistenbully’s, they’re huge gas guzzlers, and right now there isn’t really a CO2 neutral alternative. They hope to be able to invest in hydrogen/electric powered snow grooming options in the future, but as of right now they are taking pains to try to make sure that they are using them as efficiently as possible. The whole region was mapped using 3D technology, and they’re able to tell how much snow is on any piste down to the centimetre, this allows for snow grooming with maximum efficiency.

“All snow groomers in LAAX are equipped with an engine data system that indicates the optimum speed for minimal diesel consumption”

Laax is the future, and if we’re being realistic we all know that it has to be. Hopefully over the next few seasons other resorts pick up the baton, even if it’s for purely selfish money making reasons. For more information on how Laax is transforming itself into the one of the worlds greenest winter resorts, visit their Greenstyle website.

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