Opinion: Green Certification Good for Incline Tourism


Photo Courtesy Reggie Lull

In the last half-century, the need to preserve the natural environment and promote social equity has permeated global mainstream values. Great influencers of the 60s, such as Martin Luther King and Rachel Carson, brought on a new wave of progressivism that has driven policy to protect the earth’s “peace, freedom, development, and environment.” Without legislation such as the Clean Air Act of 1963 and Endangered Species Act of 1973, the world today would be a darker, dirtier place.

While laws are the most powerful roadblock to unsustainable practices, their creation process is lengthy and subject to politics. In the meantime, citizens and businesses may choose to set goals above and beyond the current laws and regulations. These personal commitments are the foundation of progress, acting as catalysts for future legislation. Such parties deserve guidance and recognition for their efforts. Third-party certification helps businesses reach set goals and achieve them by implementing the “triple bottom line,” an approach in which economic, environmental, and social aspects are included to increase efficiency and reduce ecological footprints.

Joe Hill, sustainability coordinator for the Incline Village General Improvement District, recognizes the importance of outside certification. Since 2015, Joe has been a driving force for sustainability here in Incline Village. He was involved with the Waste Not program, which provides educational resources to spread awareness of sustainable practices in the Tahoe basin, including waste management and watershed conservation.

Additionally, Hill is a major contributor to the IVGID Sustainability Framework, a living document designed to optimize sustainability efforts in Incline Village. In his latest initiative, Joe has found a green certification for IVGID’s ski resort, Diamond Peak.

The Sustainable Tourism Operator’s Kit for Evaluation is a consulting business committed to helping small surf and ski resorts create sustained economic growth while simultaneously reducing ecological footprints and preserving cultural value. Operations that subscribe to STOKE receive expert advice on marketing, project management, and overcoming obstacles. STOKE consultants use their industry expertise to connect clients with “governments, nonprofits, community leaders, investors, and property owners.” This access to networking sets subscribers on a unique path towards their sustainability goals. Additionally, consultants may help in the goalsetting process by offering advice on the feasibility and expected outcomes of each initiative. Progress is documented, and subscribing operations are “benchmarked” as they check items off their list. This offers a chance to share the journey with the public, even before a resort has reached “certified” status.

Effectively marketing a business’s dedication towards sustainability is an important part of the process. Whether they know it or not, those who enjoy coastal and mountain playgrounds are utilizing a wealth of ecosystem functions and services. This knowledge is becoming increasingly widespread, leading to the assumption that ecologically responsible businesses can expect a rise in market share. IVGID is responsible for most of the recreational and functional services in Incline Village and has noticed the growing appreciation for sustainable practices in the community and wisely committed itself towards a greener future.

In 2014, IVGID proved its commitment with the installation of four electric vehicle charging stations at the Championship Golf Course and Diamond Peak ski resort. Enterprising on the warm reception of this initiative, IVGID began the process of STOKE certifying Diamond Peak in 2016. This will ultimately help reduce a resort’s ecological footprint, or the impact it has on the environment. More efficient snow-cats, lights, and insulation are surefire ways for ski resorts to reduce their energy use and emissions of greenhouse gases. Considering the significant impact climate change will have on ski areas, it is in their best interest to lead by example and reduce their emissions as much as possible.

In addition to reducing their own footprint, IVGID has an opportunity to share its desire for a greener future with the surrounding community. As many people travel to vacation in Incline Village, this outreach is much greater than just the resident population. When people visit and notice the efforts being made towards sustainability, it leaves an impression that may carry over to their personal lives. STOKE is aware of this and requires participating resorts to share their passion with the public to reach “certified” status. They believe that “community development and cultural heritage” are the fundamental principles of running a sustainable mountain resort. Diamond Peak has met this requirement by building displays, offering interactive ski tours, and educating staff. Skiers who visit Diamond Peak can ride in peace, knowing their dollars are going to an organization that is committed to a better future.

On March 28, I had the chance to meet with Hill and STOKE co-founder Carl Kish, who coincidentally first learned to snowboard at Diamond Peak back in 2006. Despite their mellow demeanors, their competency and ambition are undeniable. Thanks to the many forms of outreach and education, Diamond Peak will officially be STOKE “certified” by the end of the season, but it doesn’t end there. The next step is to reduce the environmental footprint of the resort by sourcing renewable energy and revamping the food and beverage department.

IVGID plans to not only continue renovating Diamond Peak until it is up to the STOKE Certified Standards, but to also find a suitable certification for its Parks and Recreation department. This level of commitment to sustainability is impressive and will hopefully set a standard for small communities and mountain towns across the country.

As for STOKE, it plans to spread its vision for sustainable mountain playgrounds to the upper echelons of the ski industry.