Change is coming to the mountain holiday market and businesses across our valley are leading the way when it comes to lowering the impact of our industry on the local environment. Inspired by the work of Montagne Verte, we’re seeing some innovative and excellent new sustainability initiatives, which, combined, provide quite a few good-news stories for the mountain holiday industry.
On the road
One large local airport transfer company predicts that they’ll be able to swap their diesel minibuses for electric ones in the very near future, such is the progress in eclectic vehicle (EV) technology. At Chalet Fourmiliere, Tom and Alex are negotiating with a large vehicle manufacturer to bring the first electric chalet minibus to Morzine in the coming seasons, but in the meantime, smaller in-resort vehicles such as Gitem’s delivery vans are changing to EV, a decision which owner Benoit Feuquieres doesn’t regret. “Our electric Partner van has a range of 150km, making it perfect for local deliveries and our repairs service. We’ve had the EV for one year and we have no regrets.” Over at Alpine Property, Gareth Jefferies charges his EV using power from his solar panels; they generate enough electricity to cover his annual mileage, whilst Nicole at Mobile Mountain Massage is offsetting the carbon produced when she and her team drive for treatments by planting trees. She’s also committed her business to the Mountagne Verte Pledge and encourages everyone else to do the same.
As our local roads get busier, the team at Century 21 Call Home have found a quicker and cleaner way to travel around the valley. They have a fleet of two electric bikes to use for property viewings and client meetings, whilst Lisa at Total Chalet Services encourages her team to walk to work whenever possible.
In the chalet
It’s fair to say that it’s inside your mountain accommodation that you’re able to make the biggest impact and a staggering number of ideas and initiatives have been introduced by some of our valley’s most forward-thinking chalet and apartment businesses. At AliKats Mountain Holidays, there’s an entire environmental policy, giving you the confidence and certainty that your time in the mountains is having as minimal impact as possible on your surroundings. If you’re travelling by train instead of plane and you’re vegetarian for example, you’ll get a 10% discount on your catered holiday in addition to free transfers to and from the train station. Mountain Heaven have also launched a similar 10% eco discount too. Coffee pods, takeaway coffee cups and straws can also be regular features during your holiday and at R&S Chalet Collection they’ve been replaced by biodegradable alternatives.
The entire concept of single use plastics just seems ridiculous these days, as do those disposable bathroom toiletries that we all once loved. At Chalet Fourmiliere, you’ll still find those lovely Molton Brown goodies in the bathroom, but they’ll be in refillable containers. Guest slippers are now 100% biodegradable, whilst reusable water bottles are offered to guests as they leave the chalet to ski. At Ride & Breakfast, Alexis and Joylita have sourced sustainable suppliers for their guest amenities, including bamboo toothbrushes and Q-tips; they’ve even purchased biodegradable and compostable garbage bags whilst fitting their bathrooms with water savers to reduce consumption by up to 50%. Elevation Alps are moving to refillable bathroom toilets this year, whilst also phasing out those once beloved Nespresso machines, replacing them with espresso machines that use ground coffee instead of dreaded capsules.
Of course, designing sustainability into a chalet at the moment of its conception can also make huge improvements. At Gourmet Ski, Richard and Fiona specified a biomass boiler, solar water, class-leading insulation and rainwater harvesting when they build Chalet du Chêne, whilst the pre-cut and formed SIPS panels produced a near-passive property. Matt at Chalet Roc has even installed a Tydom system this year, which automatically adjusts the heating inside his chalet based on the outside temperature.
Dom and Stef at Skiology are on a three to five year mission to become the accommodation provider in the Alps with the smallest carbon footprint and we absolutely love their commitment. They’ve already reduced the food packaging used in their chalets by 30% through clever menu optimisation and they’ve introduced a competition amongst all their chalet hosts to see who can produce the least waste. There’s a towel change charge, the takings from which are donated to CoolEarth and they’ve created a little eco army by challenging all of their suppliers on their green policies too.
At Mountain Xtra, Lorna and Dom are introducing new technology into their booking process, offering guests the chance to calculate the expected carbon impact of their mountain holiday at the time of booking, before offering them an optional carbon offset donation at the point of payment. “Their donation will then be sent to our chosen carbon offset projects which will include tree planting, reforestation, community projects and certified emission reduction projects” they explain.
By their very nature, accommodation providers have the opportunity to raise environmental awareness with the thousands of guests they host each winter, and here, we believe, lies the key to education. At Morgan Jupe, Jess and Josh provide a digital property booklet to all of their guests, explaining how they’re reducing their environmental impact and inviting guests to do the same. They’re also working to educate their team by running a season-long competition to reward the chalet team to use the least amount of energy in any of their properties. At Snow and Trek, Vicky and her team have installed recycling specific bins in each of their self-catered properties, essentially doing the hard work for their guests when it comes to sorting rubbish.
On the plate
Sarah at Chalet Chefs has come up with an entire composting initiative for our valley and with enough support, she’s hoping to turn it into a reality. Last winter she composted everything, including the tea from inside her tea bags, using two 120 litre wheelie bins placed a her back door. The resulting compost had her veg garden blooming all summer long and she’s asking chalet companies, restaurants and other local chefs to do the same or introduce a buddy system, whereby someone who needs compost takes away your food waste.
Reducing food miles is also a key focus for many local businesses. When you have so much glorious local and regional produce on your doorstep, why buy from miles away? At Chalet Fourmiliere, entire menus are constructed based on the availability of local ingredients, which change seasonally. At Dinners Direct, tasty vegetarian meals have been created to give diners a meat-free option based on locally sourced vegetables and other ingredients.
In the office
Back in the Century 21 Call Home office, Sylvie has changed all the lightbulbs to LED alternatives, coffee capsules are a thing of the past and each year the team organise a collection of unwanted or pre-loved toys, which are then donated for a second life with a children’s charity. Jo and Caroline at Geranium Immobilier have made their busy office paperless, “now we hardly print anything!” Jo tells us. Additionally, they’re also recommending green energy suppliers to their new property owners, rather than automatically going with EDF when handing over the keys to a new home.
It’s the little things…
Sustainability as a mindset is the key to making our valley as green as it can possibly be and, regardless of the size of a business, it seems the change is now infectious. Local artist Sue Neal calls her changes “small”, but she’s making her own paints using naturally occurring pigments. “I even painted a pansy with colour taken from a pansy” she explains. Morzine and Les Gets are famed for their family friendly pistes, but beginners investing in all that expensive kit should think twice. “The very essence of what we do is sustainable,” Michael at Crevasse Clothing explains. Renting your ski kit rather than buying it new every one to two years represents a massive win for the environment. They’re even removing the plastic bags from their returns process and introducing a reusable holdall instead.
And have you ever considered how your beauty regime might impact the planet? Fortunately, Carrie at Little Mountain Beauty is doing the hard word for you. Getting your legs waxed may seem fairly harmless but those strips of hairy wax will live on for a very long time. Carrie now asks clients to choose between traditional waxing and a sugar paste alternative. “It’s traditional, natural and the end product can go in the compost,” Carrie explains. The products used in other treatments are sustainably sourced too, with refillable bottles, bamboo or glass packaging whenever possible. “Beauty should be working with nature and living here in the mountains, that’s never far from my thoughts,” Carrie continues.
It’s clear that there’s a true passion for a sustainable future here in Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz. I challenge you to find a collection of mountain resorts that care more about the environment that we do. No, I really do, because protecting the mountains that we all love isn’t a competition; we all need to inspire, support and learn from each other.