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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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sustainable business

#VoteTheOutdoors

The outdoor recreation community is huge. The outdoor recreation industry is equally large, employing many thousands of people and generating billions of dollars of economic activity each year (the Australian ski industry alone generates more than $1.8 billion a year and employs more than 18,000 people).

Yet the outdoor industry, taken as a whole, remains curiously silent on key issues like park protection, threats to wild areas and climate change. There are a few standouts, like Patagonia, but generally they’re missing in action on the key issues of our time.

Not so in the USA, where the election of the anti environment Trump administration has radically heightened the already active outdoor sector. With the mid term elections happening soon, which will have enormous implications for the balance of power in both houses of federal government (and hence Trump’s ability to implement his negative agenda), the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has launched an impressive  #VoteTheOutdoors campaign to mobilise people concerned about climate and protecting wild nature.

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REI: ‘our electricity has been 100% renewable since 2013’

In terms of outdoor retail stores in the USA, REI has an enormous influence. This is both good and bad: it’s ubiquitous presence and huge buying power can threaten smaller, locally owned businesses. On the other hand, it is a co-op which shares benefits back to members, supports some good outdoors initiatives, and provides affordable gear to millions of people.

REI has also taken some significant steps to reduce its environmental impact and has recently released an interesting update on it’s efforts to source all it’s electricity from renewable sources.

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Thredbo Dedicates a Weekend to Environmental Awareness, Sustainability & Education

Some significant announcements from Thredbo resort:

  • Thredbo Announces 100% of its lifting and snowmaking electricity will be offset for winter 2018 thanks to a unique partnership with Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project (ALFA)
  • POW Australia to launch with a Hike to Kozzie and an information night lead by international free-skiing legend and POW board member Chris Davenport in Thredbo
  • To support National Tree Day (Sunday 29 July) Thredbo will be encouraging all guests to offset their journey emissions by matching all guest tree purchases / donations over the weekend thanks to Thredbo’s vehicle offset partnership with Greenfleet

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Hike for POW with Chris Davenport

Thredbo, Protect Our Winters and Chris Davenport present a day of raising awareness around POW and the importance of protecting our beautiful and unique environment.

You can join a hike to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko  on friday 27 July at Thredbo, followed by a discussion night with Chris.

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‘The outdoor industry will be the next NRA’

Reid Singer, writing for Outside Online, said recently (The Outdoor Industry Will Decide the Next Election) that the growing power of the outdoor industry was starting to influence national land politics in the USA.

“Not so long ago, the outdoor industry had essentially zero influence in state and national politics. Though individual companies played a role in conservation campaigns and other causes, there was little collective muscle to push issues … the way, say, Big Oil can fight against higher fuel-efficiency standards in cars”.

(The lack of influence has) “started to change in recent years, thanks to two developments. First, in 2006, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) began publishing an annual report detailing the massive impact of recreation on the U.S. economy, now responsible for $646 billion in annual consumer spending (twice what Americans spend on pharmaceuticals) and 6.1 million jobs (a big enough number that recently proposed legislation could require the Commerce Department to start tracking it). Second, in 2013, Sally Jewell, then CEO of REI, became secretary of the interior, instantly guaranteeing that recreation would be a part of every major discussion about the use of federal public lands”.

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Is this a game changer for sustainability in the outdoor industry?

US-based retail giant REI has just announced a new set of sustainability standards, which will apply to all 1,000-plus outdoor brands it currently sells , and all the ones it will sell in the future. The standards address a broad range of social and environmental concerns, with minimum requirements and a set of preferred or suggested practices’.

These guidelines will be implemented almost immediately. While REI only trades in the USA, many of the brands it stocks are sold here in Australia, so we have to assume these brands offerings in Australia will be manufactured to these standards.

While individual companies have been making significant advances in sustainability and workplace issues in recent years, the sheer scale of REI’s influence on the retail market in the USA could prove to be a game changer in that it could cause a ‘step change’ in the baseline operating standards of the outdoor gear sector.

Brands sold through REI include:

Arc’teryx, Deuter, Exped, Mountain Hardware, Mammut, Osprey, OR, MSR, The North Face, Columbia, Burton, ExOfficio, Helly Hansen, Kuhl, La Sportiva, Marmot, Smartwool, etc.

The full story can be found on Green Outdoor Gear.

Lake Tahoe Resort to run on 100% Renewables

Next winter, Squaw Valley Ski Corporation, who have two resorts at Lake Tahoe in California, plans to source all its electricity from solar and other renewable sources. This will make it the first ski resort in the USA to power its operations without fossil fuels.

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A new long distance walking trail for East Gippsland

The campaign for the Emerald Link park in East Gippsland aims to protect the more-or-less intact ecosystems that run from the coast to the mountains. A long distance walking trail is an integral part of the proposal. The proposed Sea to Summit Forest Trail would create a network of walking tracks linking the coastal town of Bemm River and the existing Wilderness Coast walk to the summit of Mount Ellery, the highest mountain in far East Gippsland.

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Outdoor industries ‘taking on global warming when our country isn’t’

The biannual Outdoor Retailer trade show in the USA is an enormous event. This year it has relocated to Colorado in protest at the state government of Utah supporting moves by the Trump administration to gut protection for federal conservation reserves. This shift marks a growing willingness to act to protect wild lands.

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