With more than 70,000 people in Vail Village this weekend for the GoPro Mountain Games, there is a lot of garbage to dispose of. While most people toss their trash away and carry on enjoying the sunshine and sports, a team of about 32 people from Walking Mountains Science Center have spent their weekend picking through the trash cans, making sure that everything that can be recycled is recycled. For the second year in a row, Walking Mountains joined the GoPro Mountain Games to ensure that the event is as eco-friendly as possible, cultivating a culture of conservation, and holding Vail to a higher, greener standard.
SUSTAINABLE DESTINATIONS & EVENTS
“People will see us out there working, sorting through the garbage, and tell us that they feel sorry for us or that we have the worst job, and we just think ‘Why?’ We love what we do,” said Sustainability Programs Director Melissa Kirr. Kirr and her team of interns and volunteers may not have the most glamorous role around, but it is certainly an important one. Keeping the town clean during this event is no easy task. Last year, 13,000 pounds of waste accumulated at the GoPro Mountain Games, 9,000 pounds of which was recyclable.
“Last year we managed to diverge about 70 percent of waste, which is really good for it being our first year at this event. This year we want to improve that, we’re aiming for 90 percent,” said Kirr. This is accomplished by supplying the event site with clearly marked waste and recycling bins, working with the event staff and vendors during set up and tear down, and what Kirr calls their “last line of defense” – sorting through the trash.
The eco effort comes on the heels of last year’s announcement that Vail has been named a Top 100 Sustainable Destination by Green Destinations, and the first Sustainable Destination in North America. The environment has been of increasing importance to the Town of Vail, and it was crucial that at the summer kickoff event, the GoPro Mountain Games achieved the stamp of green excellence and set the bar for events to come.
PARTNERS IN PLANET PROTECTION
Joining the Town of Vail in its eco promise is the Vail Valley Foundation, which also is committed to hosting a green event. Whether it’s placing Klean Kanteen Hydration Stations throughout the venues to encourage people to reuse water bottles or using only 100 percent recyclable plates and utensils at their Volunteer and VIP locations, VVF understands that any efforts to limit waste contribute to the larger goal of encouraging people to be environmentally conscious.
According to Kirr, the most important thing is environmental education and communication, whether that be with the event staff or with the public. “Our team is so passionate, we have people coming back year after year, doing all the events. There’s a feeling of accomplishment because they can see the impact they’re making, and they care about this. We’re saving the world one event at a time,” Kirr explained.
The GoPro Mountain Games is an event which celebrates active lifestyles, the outdoors, and of course, the mountains. The efforts required to make the event eco-friendly are not viewed as a hindrance by the organizers, but rather as a necessary part of making the Games what they are, and a thank you to the environment which provides such a wonderful place to live, work, and visit.
by Jaimee Rindy
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