As popular tourist destinations around the country scramble to certify their holiday hubs as one of few uniquely qualified to be considered most responsible, impactful, intentional and overall, sustainable, the greater Vail destination enters a new normal with ease. Having been pronounced the first Certified Sustainable Destination in the nation in 2017, the greater Vail destination has since been successfully recertified, awarded the title as a Top 100 Sustainable Destination by Green Destinations every year since (2021 is still TBD), and has continued to not only be the leader of American Sustainable Destinations, but also the professor of Sustainable Destination Certification with Mountain IDEAL, guiding neighboring Breckenridge to an equivalent stardom as the third Certified Sustainable Destination in the U.S.
As one of the architects of the Mountain IDEAL Standard, Melissa Kirr and other Sustainability Programs staff at Walking Mountains Science Center, have even bigger plans for expanding sustainability education from local to global, envisioning a global reach to tourist destinations and gateway communities worldwide. Lucky for them, their mission specific to sustainable destinations has become more attainable - dare I say easily accomplishable - as a result of a rather conspicuous, pervasive and unwelcome matter that has consumed us over the last 16 months.
While we can all agree the Coronavirus pandemic has imposed upon us a new way of life, or new normal; perhaps not all of what is now “new” is necessarily “bad” or negative. Though the journey to get here was undeniably difficult, in some ways society can now enjoy the fruits of our labor: We can benefit from the ways we’ve been forced to change. For example, we’ve learned that there are many advantages both for employers and employees to work from home two days a week - from improved mental health, to increased engagement and productivity, as well as reduced commuter emissions, and better efficiency.
The tourism industry has also forcibly evolved. Increased consideration for health and well-being during the pandemic was a given no matter your location, but significant attention and support was necessary for tourist economies that suffered eminently due to travel restrictions and limitations. Interestingly enough, tourism-based economies also began to shift in consideration for environmental systems as well. Not only were consumers more interested in visiting green hotels than non-green hotels during the early stages of the outbreak, hotels were also more willing to increase sustainability efforts and green business practices after the pandemic than they were prior.
This has led to an increased effort from tourism destinations to attain Certification as a recognized Sustainable Destination worldwide. Increased interest in the Mountain IDEAL Standard has come from the West Coast, East Coast, Mountain West, Europe, South America and Central America. Destinations include Lake Tahoe, California; Big Sky, Montana; Spitzingsee, Germany; and Santiago, Chile to name a few.
Needless to say, residents and visitors to the renowned greater Vail destination have a lot to be proud of and even more to protect. As we move into summer and begin to see increased visitation, these efforts to maintain our tourist economy should not go unnoticed, forgotten or erased. Instead, help spread the message, encourage responsible tourism, and contribute to your community by supporting this priority. It’s the least we can do as the current tenants of this little piece of the Rocky Mountain Range.
Sustainability Tip #1. Utilize Vail’s Sustainable Destination Certification for all the marketing advantages it offers!
Sustainability Tip #2. Whether you’re a homeowner, business owner or employee, explore how you can make a difference for our Sustainable Destination at walkingmoutains.org/sustainability
Sustainability Tip #3. Encourage friends, family and other visitors or guests to be responsible consumers of all the Eagle Valley has to offer both indoors and outdoors.
The Impacts of Fear and Uncertainty of COVID-19 on Environmental Concerns Brand Trust, and Behavioral Intentions toward Green Hotels. September 11, 2020. Sustainability 2020, 12, 8688; doi:10.3390/su12208688. www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Melissa Kirr, Senior Programs Director of Sustainability at Walking Mountains Science Center shared, “It has been wonderful to see how much progress the destination has made in sustainable initiatives since starting this journey of global certification in 2015.