As we were once told in sex education, the best way to definitely not get pregnant is to not have sex. Unfortunately the same principle is true when trying to have a green winter holiday.
But don't panic, because there are lots of ways to reduce your holiday carbon emissions, even if you're not eradicating them entirely. The ski resorts are already there so it would be a shame not to use them, and by following our ten simple steps, you can help cut down the greenhouse gas emissions of your chosen resort, give back to the local community, and still have an awesome time away.
So here are our tips on how to have the most eco-friendly snow trip possible:
Eat the Local Delicacies
Eating locally produced food means less transportation costs and less chemical additions, so it's better for your body as well as the environment!
Eating locally also contributes to the local farming industry, which is getting smaller thanks to the growing ski areas and big industry farming, so even though regional products might be a bit more expensive, it's worth the extra cash.
Things to look out for in European countries are cheeses, eggs, wine, honey, preserves and meat. Although be careful with meat, as farming animals uses around a third of the world's grain, so eating meat actually negatively impacts the environment. Eating fish in ski resorts is generally not a good thing to do, because it will generally have been transported a long way, frozen. However, most restaurants have a local river fish on the menu, which are generally oily and good for your heart!
Think About Transport
Around 57 % of greenhouse gas emissions from any ski resort come from holidaymakers driving their cars to and from the resort. And if you've ever tried to drive to a ski resort on a Saturday, you'll know why!
So if you're driving, try and make sure your car is as full as possible to avoid CO2 heavy solo journeys, and while in resort, take the bus and walk as much as possible. Most ski towns have a free shuttle bus service to the lifts, and it saves you the hassle of parking!
If you're flying, try to make it as green as possible by getting the train to the airport, offsetting your carbon emissions and then taking the train, bus or a shared minibus transfer to your chosen destination.
If you're travelling from the UK to Europe, there are heaps of train options, too. For example, you can now get the train from London to Geneva without having to travel all the way across Paris to change trains. It only takes six hours and there are no pesky baggage restrictions. You can also catch an overnight train to Moutiers or Bourg St. Maurice, which makes it really easy to travel on to most places in the Tarentaise Valley.
If you're really on a budget and you don't get car sick, try travelling by coach, it may take longer but it's way better for the planet and will get you to a larger variety of resorts.
Research Your Accommodation
A common problem in ski areas is the constant building of new developments instead of the refurbishment of existing properties. It might seem cost effective and good for the environment to build a new apartment block, but once it's finished and only houses a few permanent residents, it's no longer cost effective and is wasting energy, as well as the materials used to build it. On the flip side, these are usually the buildings that conform the best to energy saving standards, but if you can find a place that's been redeveloped to conserve heat and water or runs off renewable energy then that's a good option!
So try and stay somewhere with some kind of green stamp or association, such as a Travelife award or something similar. If a travel company or hotel is doing their bit for the environment, they'll probably be using it as a selling point, but it always helps to ask!
Choose an Eco-Friendly Resort
Lots of ski resorts are doing their bit to reduce harmful emissions and save energy, and all the information is just an internet search away. Luckily for us, there are heaps of resorts in Europe becoming more eco-friendly every year, in particular Switzerland, France and Austria.
Picking a resort with a good green rep is pretty important, because you'll be relying on their resources, such as recycling bins, heating systems and lifts. The greener the resort, the easier it makes it for people staying there to be green as well.
If you're struggling for extra information, both Mountain-riders.org and the Ski Club of Great Britain have comprehensive and free green resort guides so you can pick the resort that best suits your needs/environmental preferences!
Don't be a Litterbug
Littering on the slopes is reeeeaaallly bad for the environment, as anything that does get dropped in the snow will find its way into the surrounding rivers, polluting the water and earth when the snow melts.
Here are some frightening statistics:
+ A plastic bottle takes 100-1000 years to decompose
+ A cigarette butt can take 2-15 years to decompose
+ Orange peel takes up to 2 years to decompose
Pretty scary, huh? Even things like banana peels and apple cores take a long time to degrade and, because they're not part of the natural habitat, so could be poisonous to the indigenous wildlife. So, if you're going to take up a picnic, make sure you either hold on to the rubbish and take it down the mountain with you, or find a bin on the slopes (there's usually one next to every lift), although it's more difficult to transport rubbish off the mountain so we'd recommend taking it back to town.
If you smoke, it's a good idea to invest in a pocket ashtray; some resorts sell these or give them out for free at the ticket office so there's no excuse to drop your used cigarettes off the chairlift!
Use Eco-Friendly Wax
If you have your own skis or board, invest in some eco-friendly wax. Traditional waxes contain flurocarbons and paraffin which are transferred directly from your skis or board to the snow which is pretty bad for all the local wildlife. These chemicals are all breathed in on a regular basis by ski and board techs which has been scientifically proven to be really bad for your health.
Don't Forget to Recycle
We all make an effort to recycle at home so the mountains should be no exception. Most resorts have a really good recycling bin system on the slopes and throughout the urban areas.
Most resorts have a limited rubbish collection system so it's up to us to separate out our own recycling and take it to the bins. This is a great system for making us pay attention to what can and cannot be recycled, and clean it out properly, too. It also cuts down on emissions to not have a bin lorry going round every single property in resort!
Follow the Signs
It's always important to stay out of areas you're not supposed to go in - whether it's because of avalanche danger or because of plants and animals in that area which can't be disturbed.
Ask at the tourist office, ticket office or ski patrol if there are any places you need to stay out of or if there is anything you can do to help the local wildlife. Often, this involves being aware of the local trees and plants and making sure that they're not disturbed or broken. For example, Usnea or 'Old Man's Beard' is a common form of tree moss in mountain areas that thrives on fresh clean air. It's most common usage is for making fake beards, but this isn't a very good idea as it only grows about 1cm per year.
Try Some New Activities
It's a really good idea to spend an afternoon or evening checking out other activities you can do in the snow, which don't require the use of an engine.
There is a really long list of these, which will change depending on where you stay, but the most common ones are snowshoeing, ski touring, cross country skiing and sledding. For the most part they require you to walk as well, so they're really good for your body.
If you're looking for some untracked powder, try to stay away from activities like heli-skiing and cat-skiing because, as well as running on petrol, they also disturb the wildlife in areas which are usually quiet.
Spread the Word
If you've managed to do an eco-friendly holiday without spending too much money and had a really good time, tell people about it!
Planning a green trip can be a lot of work and people are much more likely to book or try something new on a recommendation from someone they trust, so don't be afraid to show off to your friends about how awesome your holiday was, because you might inspire them to have a eco-friendly holiday, too!