One Weekend Event Combines Cows, Skis, and Carbon

What do alpine ski racing and cow pies have in common?

Most weeks, hopefully, the answer is “not much.” This week, however, Squaw Valley USA collaborated with Sierra Business Council to fund a project to reduce carbon emissions at a dairy farm while creating electricity from cow manure.

SBC SquawValley CarbonOffsets 2014 03This is a great example of the spirit behind carbon offset programs: Squaw Valley has been working to reduce its overall carbon emissions over the past few years, and wanted to ensure the 2014 US Alpine Championship would be a completely carbon neutral event. To accomplish this, they worked with Sierra Business Council to estimate emissions from major event activities, including spectator and athlete car travel and hotel stays, ski lifts, grooming, snowmaking, and air travel for some athletes and coaches. Sierra Business Council then facilitated the purchase of voluntary carbon offsets registered through the Climate Action Reserve.

That purchase funded a project at Joseph Farms in Merced County. The dairy farm and cheese factory used the proceeds to install an anaerobic digester that captures the methane emitted by the manure from their 500 cows. The captured methane is then burned to power a generator that produces 750 kW of electricity that powers the cheese factory. They also use the treated effluent from the digester for on-site irrigation. Without this project, the farm would be emitting methane from the cow manure, using electricity from the grid, and using more fresh irrigation water. The project followed the Climate Action Reserve’s Organic Waste Digestion Project Protocol, and you can view the project’s verification report here.

According to Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, “At Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, we are committed to being responsible environmental stewards, and we hope our actions inspire our guests and members of the community to evaluate their own impact on the environment and advocate for addressing climate change at a regional, national, and global level.”

With limited market options available, carbon offset programs are a great way to use the power of economics. They not only incentivize companies to reduce their emissions but simultaneously fund innovative carbon reduction projects like the one at Joseph Farms. The fact that this approach brought together the interests of a ski resort and a nearby dairy farm, then focused them both on running more efficiently and reducing emissions shows that this can be a powerful approach in encouraging stewardship and sustainability.