Northstar California is often asked by guests and outside agencies to report on its environmental initiatives. Below are some of the questions frequently asked, and the resort's responses:
Q: Has your ski area actively supported environmentally progressive local, state or federal polices or legislation involving forest and land management issues that impact mountain ecosystems and environments through letters of support, support of ballot initiatives or through other means? Please describe.
A: Yes. Examples include:
Additional efforts employed by the resort include:
Q: Has your ski area addressed climate change, including but not limited to a position statement or support letter for the Kyoto Agreement, the Mayor Climate Protection Agreement, the US-CAP Program, or other specific policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If yes, please explain.
A: Yes. Northstar has supported a variety of efforts to raise awareness about climate change including:
Additionally, Northstar addresses climate change through the following initiatives:
Q: Do you use biodiesel fuel in any diesel equipment or vehicles?
A: We were using biodiesel fuel in 100% of our shuttle bus fleet and all diesel company vehicles in a 5% blend from our on-site gas station until a state mandate required us to cease and desist storing biodiesel fuel in our underground tanks.
On January 7, 2009, the California Air Water Resources Control Board (CAWRCB) determined that biodiesel blends greater than B5 (5% Bio) could not be stored in underground tanks. The reason for this was their concerns about the material compatability between the Underground Storage Tanks (UST), the associated plumbing and the bio product.
After discussions between the biodiesel industry leaders and the Underwriters Laboratory who does independent testing, evaluation and recommendations for USTs, the CAWRCB agreed to allow storage of biodiesel in amounts less than B20 (20%) for 36 months. This would allow independent testing to continue, and also facilitate storage and use of biodiesel.
This action follows the guidelines set forth by the 2007 Executive Order S-01-07 signed by the Governor, calling for a reduction in GHG as serious health risk for Californians.
We stopped use of biodiesel in January as directed by Placer County acting in accordance with the state mandate. We are currently investigating biodiesel purveyors in anticipation of resuming its storage and use in all of our diesel powered “on highway” fleet.
Q: Do you generate any clean, renewable energy on-site such as wind, solar, geothermal or low impact certified hydroelectric?
Q: Do you purchase wind, solar, geothermal, or low impact certified hydroelectric energy credits to offset electrical use for ski lifts or other resort energy use?
A: Northstar purchased 180,000KWH or 180 Green Tags last year from the Bonneville Foundation, up from 154 or 154,000KWH the previous three years. Our purchase of RECs is to subsidize future infrastructure development of renewable energy facilities such as wind farms.
The resort buys power from one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to setting high standards for alternative resources (Nevada). Our consumption and portfolio is determined by Nevada Energy. Currently, Nevada Energy gets a portion of its power from 22 renewable energy sources. Those plants operate using geothermal, solar, hydro and bio-fuel resources.
In 2001, Nevada toughened portfolio standards significantly, making the overall portfolio requirement 15 percent by 2013, and 2005 lawmakers raised the bar again, requiring 20 percent by 2015.
Q: Have you implemented energy efficiency retrofits in restaurant, lodging, lift, and other facilities?
A: Yes. Examples include:
Q: Have you installed energy efficient lighting, heating, insulation, power supply, etc. in restaurant, lodging, lift and other new (newly constructed within the past 5 years) facilities that are not required by law?
A: Yes. Examples include:
Q: Have you replaced old and/or energy inefficient snowmaking guns?
A: Last year we sent 61 Ratnik (conventional air/water-type guns) snow guns back to the manufacturer to be modified for higher energy efficiency. The manufacturer estimates a 30% increase in efficiency as measured by compressed air consumption. This equates to a savings of 10,780 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of compressed air at 25oF if all 61 guns were concurrently operating. Their competitors actually claim that Ratnik underestimates the efficiency gain.
Last season we installed 73 high efficiency air/water guns and added an additional 16 fan-type snowmakers. This summer we are adding another 4 fan snow guns. This has positively affected our compressed air demand. Previously, 100% of our compressed air was needed until we reached approximately 18oF wet bulb (WB). Snowmaking is now able to start shutting down compressors between 22-24o F WB.
This summer we have increased our compressed air cooling efficiency at the Primary Pumphouse by reconfiguring the control system and installing a variable frequency drive (VFD) on the primary cooling fan. This air plant delivers approximately 12,500 CFM or 46% of our air capacity. The upcoming season should see consistent delivery temperatures of compressed air between 36o and 38oF. Last season it was common to see temperature ranges between 42o and 100+oF.
Northstar’s commitment to snowmaking automation increases our system’s ability to respond appropriately to temperature change and reduce the waste of resources found with manual snow guns. Thirty-six York automated guns were installed last season and another 19 automated stations will come back on-line this season as a result of maintenance efforts.
We are currently modifying the programming that runs our physical plants. We are introducing pump sequencing at the Primary Pumphouse this season. This will allow the VFD-driven and constant speed pumps to work in concert with one another to achieve optimal efficiency and full utilization of electric power. Software changes at the Booster Pumphouse and Compressor building will allow the four 1,250 horsepower air compressors at that site to run more efficiently. Remote start/stop and load/unload capability will eliminate many hours of needless run time.
Q: Have you retrofitted old facilities with low flow faucets, toilets, or are you engaged in other water minimization practices?
A: We are installing low-flow shower heads, toilets and urinals throughout both our lodging units and the entire facility on an as required basis. Currently:
Our building maintenance department is working with our electrical utility on further efficiency upgrades.
Q: In constructing new facilities, do you use low flow faucets, waterless urinals, or are you engaged in other water minimization practices that are not required by law?
A: Yes. 100% of new construction includes the installation of low-flow products.
Q: Does your resort have a green building policy or commitment?
A: Yes. Northstar and its development partners have adhered to green building policies. The entire Village at Northstar™ project was developed using LEED guidelines. The entire project has received LEED certification, making it the first ski resort village development to be entirely LEED certified. In addition to this, The Ritz-Carlton Highlands project is also being constructed adhering to LEED guidelines.
Q: Do you offer lift ticket discounts or free or preferred parking to guests for carpooling or use of other mass transit?
A: Yes. We provide our guests that come via tour bus a group discount lift ticket. Additionally, Northstar continues to fully subsidize internal and external shuttle services, providing multiple routes to and from the resort.
During the 2008-09 winter season, the resort hosted 376 buses or about 11,000 people that came in via tour bus from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. In addition, the Reno shuttle that operated daily free of charge for guests from December 23 through the end of March shuttled approximately 2,500 people to and from the resort.
Not only does Northstar provide lift ticket discounts for guests coming to the resort by bus, we actively promote use of this program through our marketing and sales channels.
In addition to tour bus groups and regional shuttle transportation, Northstar’s on-site shuttle service and use of the Castle Peak Park & Ride lot at the entrance to the resort saved 182,293 vehicle miles traveled (or 79.89 tons of carbon footprint reduction) from the entrance to the resort to the base area. This calculation was reached using the Carbon Footprint Calculator found at http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx, which is 3.6 miles per car @ 20mpg.
Q: Do you offer special deals or preferred parking to employees for carpooling or use of other mass transit?
A: Yes. The resort has subsidized internal and external shuttle services for more than 10 years, providing multiple routes to and from the resort, and encouraging employees and resort guests to use public transportation.
Additionally, Northstar promotes an employee carpool program that encourages staff to carpool, ride their bike, walk or run to work. Carpool, biking and miles walked/ran are logged and participants become eligible for prizes that are drawn randomly, as well as the end of season grand prize.
Q: Are you engaged in efforts to promote commuter buses, shuttles or trains from off-mountain sites to the ski area for skiers?
A: Yes. We provide transportation services from Reno, North and South Lake Tahoe, as well as Truckee for guests and employees. Most of these services are subsidized by Northstar and free of charge.
We have also been working in conjunction with local agencies to support additional mass transit routes from Kings Beach and Truckee to and from the resort for use by employees and guests through the Truckee Trolley and Tahoe Area Regional Transportation (TART). TART ridership increased by 30% this past year on these new routes, and we continue to support these initiatives for mass transportation in our community by using channels of promotions to inform and educate guests. Some financial subsidies are also used in these efforts.
Northstar also supports the shuttle from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (North Lake Tahoe Express).
This coming winter, The Highlands Gondola connecting the Village at Northstar to The Ritz-Carlton Highlands resort will provide public transportation between the two locations, eliminating vehicle traffic as guests travel between the two locations both inside and outside of the ski area’s operating hours. This lift will also provide employees with transportation to and from work at the hotel property as they’ll park in the existing parking lots provided at the ski area. In addition, when the lift is not in operation, The Ritz-Carlton Highlands resort will provide a shuttle service after hours to help reduce vehicular round-trips between the Village at Northstar and the hotel.
Q: Do you recycle customer use products (bottles, cans, aluminum, plastic, newspaper, trail maps, etc.)?
A: Yes. Through our recycling efforts, during one calendar year, we were able to divert over 49.5 tons of “blue bag” materials that were formerly destined for the landfill. In Truckee, all recyclables are combined together into blue bags.
We used 132 cases of blue recycling bags or 13,200 bags average weight 7.5 lbs per bag = 99,000 lbs or 49.5 tons diverted from landfill. In 2007, we estimated 25.55 tons diverted, so almost a 100% increase.
Q: Do you recycle non-customer use products (oil, cardboard, etc.)?
A: In the last year we recycled:
The resort has increased the recycling of these products by more than 15% in the past year.
Q: Do you use recycled building materials or reuse building materials?
A: Yes. We use recycled building materials whenever possible. We used the old lumber from our village demo to rebuild the deck at our mid-mountain day lodge. We also donated three full-size pick-up truck loads of new or slightly used building supplies to Habitat for Humanity. The value of these materials was in excess of $5,000.
Additionally, the Schaeffer’s Camp restaurant located on-mountain was built using recycled materials – mostly tressled timbers from the Salt Lake City area. The Village at Northstar project was also constructed according to LEED certification guidelines established by the U.S. Green Building Council, with lumber coming from sustainable forestry practices.
Q: Do you compost food waste or other products?
A: Yes. When the horse stable is in operation, manure is composted and used to promote revegetation of ski runs and other needed areas. Additionally, we recycle pine needles and wood chips. In the year, this number increased to 2,544 cubic yards from 2,210 the previous year.
Northstar also uses chips and pine needles from the Northstar community’s fuels management programs as part of its revegetation process, incorporating them into areas where soils have been disturbed. These materials are both scarified into the soil as an additive for improved irrigation and reduced sediment transfer, and as a final erosion control blanket on the disturbed soils.
As part of Northstar’s improvements at the beginner area in 2009, we used 300 tons of wood mulch and 100 tons of pine needles as soil additives and erosion control measures.
Q: Do you use non-disposable, food service flatware, dishes, and other items?
A: Yes. We use china, flatware, glassware and reusable plastic plates in 75% of the facilities operated by the resort. We have increased use of non-disposable items in our food service operations for 15-20% in the last year.
Additionally, Northstar has implemented a Sustainable Procurement Purchasing Policy that mandates environmentally responsible products and services whenever possible.
Q: Do you purchase recycled office and/or food service paper products?
A: Yes. In May of 2007 we went to using a 30% PCW paper for all of our 8.5 x 11 copy paper. We went through approximately 148 cases (7,600 pounds) of paper last year. Overall paper usage has stayed about the same for the last few years (considering the growth of the company/resort), but in 2002 we were using about 260 cases a year, so our quantities have decreased significantly over the years which we in part attribute to a rise in the use of e-mail, scanning and the Internet.
Approximately 90% of the food service paper products we purchase are either recyclable or made from recycled material. Our hot cups are made from 10% recycled material (due to the glue and coating on the cup to keep them from leaking). Our paper cold cups are made of renewable resources but cannot be recycled due to the wax used so that they don’t leak. Clear plastic cups are recycled. The napkins we use are made of 50% recycled material. Most of our to-go containers are recyclable. Our pizza plates are made from 100% recycled product and the liners and food trays we use are made from 40% recycled materials.
Products ordered for rental services and janitorial is all recycled product.
Q: Do you use 4-stroke snowmobiles in your resort’s fleet?
A: Yes. We have a total snowmobile fleet of 25 machines. We have had a replacement schedule of approximately 5 snowmobiles per year. With this year’s replacements, we will have 23 4-stroke snowmobiles. We have one 2-stroke machine that will be replaced next year, and one 2-stroke that is direct injection and is used by Ski Patrol for backcountry, deep snow rescues. At this time there is not a comparable 4-stroke replacement for this machine. 92% of our fleet consists of 4-stroke snowmobiles.
Q: Does your resort track its annual water, energy, waste, and other resource purchasing and consumption?
A: Yes. The resort tracks these categories and reports them in the Waste Reduction Award Program (WRAP) application annually. Northstar has been a WRAP recipient for the past 13 years.
Q: Does your resort publish an annual environmental performance report? If so, is it publicly available?
A: We report regularly in the following areas:
• Habitat Management Plan
• Water Quality
We also post Northstar’s environmental FAQ on our website for public consumption.
Q: Has your resort conducted an environmental audit?
A: Northstar has conducted a variety of environmental audits, but relies primarily on hired third parties such as Integrated Environmental Restoration Services (IERS) and Pioneer Solutions to conduct formal environmental audits and work with our employees to develop Best Management Practices for working in our mountain environment.
Additionally, Northstar participates along with the U.S. Forest Service, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board, four other local ski areas and IERS in a program to develop Best Management Practices related to revegetation of the mountain environment that are developed and tested through an adaptive management process that uses actual data to determine success criteria.
Separate from these initiatives, the Northstar Habitat Management Plan (HMP) was developed in cooperation with Sierra Watch (SW), the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation (MAPF), Northstar and East West Partners in an effort to balance resort land uses with natural resources. The environmental community (SW & MAPF) retained the services of the Conservation Biology Institute as a third party independent contractor to work with Northstar in the development of the HMP. The goal of this plan is to maintain and enhance the values of late seral habitat forests, aquatic, riparian and meadow habitats while providing for operations of a four-season resort.
The HMP will establish a large protected habitat area at the resort that is managed to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat, open space and low intensity, non-mechanized recreational use.
Q: Does your resort provide funding to a local philanthropic foundation for environmental protection/conservation/sustainability purposes?
A: Yes. Programs the resort participates in include: