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This town has a ban on plastic bags; learn how its citizens turned it into an environmentally friendly attraction.

There are many wonderful things about Breckenridge. The mountain town receives up to 1 million visitors a year and is frequently regarded as one of the greatest ski resorts in the United States.

The actual focus is of course the mountain itself, which has five peaks and the highest chairlift in North America that soars to over 13,000 feet. Although “Breck,” as the locals call it, is attractive and walkable — a feature uncommon for many mountain towns — the mountain itself is the true attraction. The entire village is supposedly ski in, ski out, according to locals.

Thanks to its committed community, Breckenridge may also be one of the most environmentally friendly tourist destinations in the nation, at a time when other ski resorts are battling climate change that threatens their very survival.

Residents frequently come up with fresh, innovative ideas to promote stewardship education, such as Precious Plastics, which provides non-recyclable plastic a second chance and even produced an artwork called Isak Heartstone using recycled materials. The Treehugger Challenge is another programme that encourages students to leave no trace.

The 5,000-person town of Breckenridge has been attempting to maintain its viability as a tourist destination for the past ten years. However, locals definitely felt the pressure during COVID-19. During the pandemic, outdoor winter sports had a boom, but the town’s personnel shortages had an adverse effect on restaurant capacity, parking, traffic, and housing.

The majority of visitors adhere to the leave no trace philosophy. In the upcoming year, around 75 percent of travellers worldwide indicated they want to travel more sustainably and want to make housing and locations choices that reflect that.

How ecologically sound is Breckenridge?

Other mountain towns have referred to Breck as “the poster child for destination management”.

The town made a goal to become waste-free by 2030 as part of a bigger sustainability initiative by the resort’s parent company, Vail Resorts, in 2017. The town announced that as of this past April, it was ahead of schedule because of tactics like:

Breckenridge became the second city in the world to receive the Mountain IDEAL sustainable destination certification in 2021. According to Melissa Kirr, senior programmes director of sustainability at the Walking Mountain Science Centre, the certification was introduced in 2017 after the centre decided there wasn’t a certification that adequately addressed issues specific to ski towns, such as heated streets or snowmaking systems. Due of its proximity to the research centre, Vail is technically the first as a pilot.

Breck invites guests who want to explore the outdoors year-round, especially for mountain biking, even though the winter season is when the majority of visitors arrive.

In the town, Breckenridge “had a lot of work already done that helped them succeed and exceed many of the other destinations,” Kirr said.

Other ski areas use completely renewable electricity, like Big Sky Resort and Jackson Hole Mountain Resorts. Breck has stated that it is working to build the necessary infrastructure but does not yet have it.

According to Breder, the campaign’s pillars for 2022’s Be Like Breck were mostly developed by the people.

The sustainability objectives of BLB were discussed in workshops and public surveys by hundreds of inhabitants. She claimed that to kick off the campaign, the town played sustainability advice that had been recorded by locals over the radio.

In the first year of the campaign, the municipality teamed up with 25 companies that sought to incorporate the BLB theme into their daily operations, from big hotels to mom-and-pop shops.

According to Emily Kimmel, sustainability manager at Breckenridge Grand Vacations, “Hotels, we need to lead by example.” “Guests would be less likely to participate in any of these programmes if we didn’t have any already in place,” the spokesperson said. We want to demonstrate to others how much we value our community and how crucial its preservation is.

Many establishments in Breck already compost or encourage visitors to live more sustainably. Coffee is offered in glass jars for takeout at the coffee shop of the hotel Gravity Haus. Keep it if you want to save money on your subsequent cup of coffee, or return it.

“I’m proud of the leadership in our town, our town council, and the BTO that they actually take the time to listen to, and they’re really ultimately the ones who set up these programmes and make it happen,” said Jen Cawley, director of operations for Hearthstone, a fine-dining establishment in Breckenridge since 1989 and one of the neighbourhood business partners for BLB.

The ski area is one of the busiest in the world, but it still feels like a local community.

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