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I love Aspen. The skiing is incredible, the city is fun, and the ski company is the epitome of corporate social responsibility pertaining to sustainability. While the tourism industry is commonly referred to as “the industry without smokestacks”, it is not secret that the industry is inherently polluting. The tourism industry accounts for 5-14% of global carbon emissions which is significant considering that the tourism industry employs about 5% of the global workforce and produces 7% of the world’s GDP.

I have followed Aspen for a long time because their practices towards carbon neutrality and beyond are impressive to say the least. Their most recent initiative is an underutilized tactic that uses a by-product of coal mining, methane, and puts it to god use. Traditionally in coal mining, methane is a common occurrence in the mine, and needs to be pumped out to ensure a higher level of safety for the miners. Historically, this is where the cannery practice comes from. Once the methane is pumped out, it is released into the atmosphere. Sometimes it is burned, but most of the time it is simply released. Herein lies the problem, methane is about 25X more polluting than CO2.

This is where Aspen Skiing Co. comes in. They saw that this resource was being wasted and causing environmental harm. Eventually, the company was able to work out a partnership with the mine to install a methane collection and energy generation plant costing about $3 million. Now, the methane is no longer spewed straight into the atmosphere and Aspen Ski Co. is able to power all of their operations, generating enough power that would be the equivalent of powering 2,400 homes annually.

Do you know what surprised me the most? This is ONLY THE THIRD instance of turning methane byproduct form coal mining into power in the country! Seems pretty ridiculous to me, but kudos to Aspen Ski Co.!

Here is a video they created about the operation from their “Our Story” series.

Coal Mine

I really look up to them for their environmental practices. They have proved that being a forward thinking, sustainability minded company can yield great financial results while still providing the world class experience they are known for!