Mountain resorts are heavily affected by climate change, largely due to their fragile ecosystems. This is one of the reasons why the Association Nationale des Maires de Stations de Montagne (National Association of Mayors of Mountain Resorts) has signed the national charter for the sustainable development of mountain resorts. In this way, they can put in place good practices to reduce energy consumption in the mountains.
It’s important to note, that according to a study by Nature Climate Change, human activity has contributed between 0.9 and 1.3°C to global warming. So, how can we strive to reduce our environmental impact when travelling, specifically to the mountains?
This article offers some practical advice on what action you can take to be a more eco-conscious traveller, including visitng a “Flocon Vert” or “Station Verte” resort, adopting sustainable transport practices, controlling your electricity and water consumption and choosing green activities in the mountains.
Choose a “Flocon Vert” or “Station Verte” destination
The “Station Verte” label
The “Station Verte” label is a national tourism label created in 1964 by the Fédération Française des Stations Vertes. It refers to a host area that promotes tourism that is natural, authentic, humane and respectful of the environment.
It aims to combine the development of rural tourism with the preservation of the land and economic dynamism. And as the first ecotourism label in France, its objective is to implement ecological and eco-responsible standards.
The “Flocon Vert” label
This label enables resorts to embark on a process of continuous improvement in sustainable development in the mountains and strong action is needed to meet the label’s criteria of excellence.
It was created thanks to the determination of the Mountain Riders association and its partners to promote responsible tourism since 2011.
The Flocon Vert label has 20 eligibility criteria, broken down into four themes:
- Local economy
- Sustainable resource management
- Social and cultural dynamics
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Ecological measures taken by some resorts
In 2020, the French ski resorts implemented 16 eco-commitments to protect the mountains. Various measures have been taken to tackle climate change, protect biodiversity, preserve the landscape, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water management. The aim remains to achieve carbon neutrality by 2037, which means zero CO2 emissions.
Measures are being taken in mountain resorts to reduce the electricity consumption of ski lifts, for example by reducing their speed. By going from 6 metres per second to 4 metres per second, electricity consumption is cut by half. However, the average journey time increases by just 1 minute and 30 seconds. These are all small actions which add up to sustainable practices in the mountains.
Visit Le Grand Bornand
Opting for environmentally friendly or energy efficient accommodation is essential. The materials used inside and out and the accommodation’s various facilities are good indicators of this.
Look for chalets with efficient heating and lighting systems when it comes to choosing your accommodation. According to a study, heating alone accounts for 66% of a household’s energy costs. There are a number of ways to reduce this:
- Turning down the thermostat by 1°C reduces consumption by 7% per year;
- Use thicker curtains or blinds to cut heat loss;
- Install a heating system that uses renewable energy.
In summer, air conditioning should be used sparingly. There should be a maximum difference of 8°C between the outside temperature and the inside temperature.
Private cars account for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions in France. By sharing a vehicle, you can halve the CO2 emissions from your journey.
Car-sharing is an excellent transport alternative for reducing energy consumption. It also helps to cut travel costs and limit air pollution by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Apps such as MOV’ICI can be used to arrange shared local journeys in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Replace short flights with bus or train travel
Flying is still the most polluting form of transport. According to a BBC study, aviation alone is responsible for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. A plane journey is 45 times more polluting than a train journey over the same distance… so avoid it if you can!
The train and bus are still good alternatives for reducing energy consumption. For greater speed, the train is the best choice. However, if you want to save money on your journey, the bus is ideal.
Green methods of travel at your resort
Many high mountain resorts have opted for ski lifts powered by 100% renewable energy. Châtel, La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand are just some of them. The infrastructure runs exclusively on hydroelectric, wind or photovoltaic power, for example.
When it comes to getting around the resort on a daily basis, public transport such as buses and shuttles are the best way to go. Alternative means of transport also exist, such as cycling or simply walking, to reduce your carbon footprint during your holiday in the mountains.
Use electricity wisely
Simple, eco-responsible measures
It’s easy to forget to turn off electronic devices when you’re not using them. Nevertheless, they continue to consume energy, even in standby mode. Simple gestures can have a big impact every day.
For example, take care to switch off lights when you leave a room. These are habits we often adopt at home, but which we can quickly forget on a mountain holiday.
Unplugging chargers when the batteries are full also saves electricity. A socket works continuously, so if a charger is left connected, there’s bound to be a loss of energy.
Ways to limit your energy consumption
Here are a few tips to bear in mind when it comes to reducing energy consumption in the mountains:
- Use programmable sockets: these limit the energy consumption of appliances on standby. They switch off when the task is complete.
- Make the most of natural light: lighting in France accounts for more than 10% of total national electricity consumption. There is no need to use electric lights during the day. What’s more, in the mountains, it’s easier to take advantage of the light outside. There are fewer homes and buildings blocking your light.
Use water wisely
Measure you can take yourself
The first thing to do to limit your water consumption is to take quick showers rather than baths. A shower uses an average of 40 to 60 litres of water, whereas a bath requires between 120 and 200 litres. It’s easy to do the sums: one bath compares with four to five showers…
Eco-responsible measures during your holidays
There are other things you can do to reduce energy consumption in the mountains:
- Report any water leaks at your accommodation during your stay to avoid wasting water unnecessarily. By reporting them, the problem will be solved and everyone will come out a winner.
- Reuse towels and sheets rather than having them changed every day: one machine wash cycle uses about 50 litres of water. During a seven-day holiday in the mountains, you could save 350 litres of water by keeping your sheets and towels for the week.
Choose green activities in the mountains
Hiking is a responsible leisure activity that lets you enjoy the mountain scenery while getting some exercise. It’s also a great way to get to more remote areas, for some peace and quiet. This type of activity also teaches you about the mountain environment, immersing you in nature. It’s a great way to let off steam and discover the area in a responsible way.
Discover the flora and fauna
By getting closer to nature, you’ll get to understand it better. The aim of guided tours of mountain fauna and flora is to help you understand and appreciate them so that you can protect them more effectively. It’s an activity that guests of all ages can enjoy in a way that respects the environment and the mountains.
Cycling allows you to cover longer distances while respecting the environment. It’s the ideal way to get out and about with family and friends in the mountains! There’s no need to take the car to get around, and no more parking problems. Discover the surrounding area on mountain bike trails, and enjoy nature.
Keep the mountains clear of litter
The Mountain Riders association regularly organises “Zero Waste” operations in the resorts. It’s a great way to reduce the environmental impact of your mountain holiday, by helping to clean up the mountains. It’s also a fun way to learn about biodiversity while preserving it.
Buy fresh local produce
Mountain holidays are the perfect time to try out regional cuisine. To enjoy a gourmet and responsible holiday, it’s important to choose local produce. The gastronomy of the Alps is rich and offers many possibilities, so you can enjoy a delicious meal while adopting sustainable practices.
Eat fresh produce
Opt for fresh produce bought locally, it has less impact because it’s eaten quickly, doesn’t have to travel far and minimises the need for packaging.
Support small producers
Reducing food miles is still one of the most eco-responsible ways to eat. By supporting small-scale producers we can limit industrial consumption. What’s more, goods don’t have to pass through several destinations… We know what we’re eating and where it comes from., so travel and CO2 emissions are reduced. It’s also a great way to learn more about the local culture!
All of these tips can help you reduce your energy consumption in the mountains. By taking these simple, effective steps, we can all do our bit to ensure that we continue to enjoy our holidays in the Alps. Climate change has a direct impact on human beings, so the time to act is now.
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