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New VBS sustainability committee puts plans into action

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By Doug Hare EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – On Nov. 21, numerous Big Sky community leaders comprising the newly formed Visit Big Sky Sustainability Committee sat down for a presentation from Matt Elsaesser, owner of 406 Recycling based out of Helena, Montana.

Elsaesser discussed his role in helping reduce the utilization of single-use plastics and maximizing the recycling rates at events like the Peak to Sky festival and the Big Sky PBR. The meeting of minds was the second time the committee had met together in person.

“Candace [Carr Strauss] had initially approached me about starting a sustainability-oriented group to get things moving along,” said Josh Treasure, general manager of Roxy’s Market and the chairman of the committee. “Eric Morrison, Jessie Wiese and myself had been a small group working on these things for the past few years. When Candace approached us it was perfect because we were able to use some of Visit Big Sky’s existing infrastructure to get more people on board.”

Sustainability is based on a simple principle. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “most everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.” Pursuing sustainability entails creating and maintaining the conditions whereby humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support both present and future generations. Potential solutions to sustainability problems, however, are often complex—especially in popular tourist destinations like ski towns.

“Ultimately, we’ll have a 1-year plan, 5-year plan, 10-year plan and a 25-year plan that we can put together, but right now we’re focusing on some small battles that we think we can win to get some momentum going,” Treasure said of the group’s progress.

Those initial battles include establishing viable, robust composting and recycling programs throughout Big Sky and maximizing participation. Treasure hopes that eventually every Big Sky business will have a composting bin and __ recently added a recycling bin behind Roxy’s Market. Going forward, the committee will be working with Republic Services for their recycling efforts and YES Compost to handle compostable products.

Many of the committee members, which include representatives from the Yellowstone Club, the Hungry Moose Market and Deli, Big Sky Resort, the Gallatin River Task Force and Town Center, are also pursuing accreditation from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

The GSTC training program teaches baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. As a basis for certification, GSTC courses also inform about awareness-raising, policy-making for businesses, government agencies and other organization types, as well as measurement and evaluation of the effectiveness of various sustainable strategies and their results.

Treasure is optimistic about what the future holds for Big Sky and wants our mountain town to set the standard for putting environmentally conscious policies into effect for mountain towns worldwide.

“The biggest obstacle for improving sustainability right now is communication amongst local business owners and community at large,” he said. “Education and communication will be key going forward.”

The next meeting of the VBS Sustainability Committee is scheduled for Dec. 19 at the Visit Big Sky office building.

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