Photo: Nick Jonres + Big Sky Resort

The Climate Win: Big News From Big Sky and NY Says Goodbye to Plastic Bags

Sustainability News National Parks
by Tim Wenger Mar 6, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

It often seems as though each time water makes big news, it’s bad. That’s not the case this week. Also, two big steps lead the fifth installment of The Climate Win, one an announcement and the other an enactment. And, there’s now a way to not just offset your personal carbon emissions but also pull the carbon straight from the sky — and turn it into stone. From the Matador editorial team, here’s to longer days bringing an excuse to dust off those hiking boots.

A big-city farewell to the plastic bag

Our kudos this week goes to the state of New York, which implemented the first stage of its single-use plastic ban on March 1. The move will require some adjustment from people in New York City, where plastic bags are a fact of urban life — in use everywhere from bodegas to counter service restaurants. Shops and vendors have until April 1 to get their packaging in order before enforcement kicks in. Many will now offer customers a paper bag for a five-cent upcharge. According to CNN, New York state uses 23 billion plastic bags each year. If the country’s largest city, a place where plastic bags are a staple of the take-out culture, can give them up, no city — or state — has any excuse not to follow suit.

A major ski resort goes green

We also have a shout out to Big Sky Resort in Montana, which on Tuesday announced carbon offset purchases for all of its 38 lifts. Riding the tram up Lone Mountain has never sounded so good. The purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) is part of the resort’s long-term sustainability plan, The Big Picture, which aims to make the resort fully carbon neutral by 2030. The resort expects to take other big steps in the interim, though.

“Lifts are obviously essential to our business — and they are responsible for nearly a third of our total electrical consumption,” Kryn Dykema, Big Sky Resort’s sustainability specialist, said in a press release. “Our 2025 Vision has us replacing more consumptive lifts with the most efficient available… but that takes time.” Until they achieve their on-site reductions in energy use, Big Sky will buy RECs. This move, and the resort’s entire long-term plan, place Big Sky among the most active of major ski areas when it comes to sustainability. Looks like it’s time to think northward for that next ski trip.

Wind turbines are ramping up — and creating jobs

The next time someone says that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be an economic disaster, share with them this little piece of info about wind power. According to, US wind power generation is expected to more than triple between now and 2050, topping 400 gigawatts (GW). Not only can this provide power and big money for turbine producers, electric coops, and landowners, but it also means there will be a lot of new jobs in the wind industry. Between now and 2028, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 57 percent growth in the need for wind-turbine technicians, which would be the second-fastest-growing job title in the country during that time period. The fastest? Solar-photovoltaic installers. As it turns out, solar panels are expected to remain quite popular as well.

Also on the windy front, Global Fiber Glass Inc. is working to solve the issue of what to do with wind turbine blades after they’ve lived their useful life. Currently, most old blades end up in landfills. The Colorado Sun reported this week that the company is working on ways to reuse them through recycling efforts to turn them into things like railroad ties or guardrails.

A tiny bit of water, a whole lot of power

Think about the last time you shut off the faucet in your kitchen sink. Did any droplets of water trickle down after you switched off the faucet? A team at City University in Hong Kong has developed a water-to-power system that could turn each of those drops into 140 volts of power, or enough to power 100 LED light bulbs. A report published in Science Daily in February reported on the research team’s creation of a “droplet-based electricity generator,” known as a DEG, that “allows for high energy-conversion efficiency.” So efficient, in fact, that if this idea were to scale and be used for mass power, all current hydroelectric power options would be obsolete. It could, the report noted, eventually help to solve an energy crisis as we transition away from fossil fuels.

Air New Zealand taking steps to curb inflight trash production

Last week we reported on Delta’s pledge to go carbon neutral. Air New Zealand launched its “Project Green” initiative in 2017 with the goal of redirecting as much waste as possible from landfills. The program has changed what happens to unused service items. Prior to the program’s launch, food and drink items loaded onto a flight were trashed upon landing, even when unused — a completely unjustifiable practice that sounds straight out of the ‘90s. The airline now uses them on a different flight. Along with other measures to reduce single-use waste both in-flight and pre-flight, the airline has kept more than 890 tons of trash out of landfills.

This week’s resource: Turn your carbon emissions into stone

The world needs new ways to clean carbon from the air, and a company from Switzerland has a solution that could solidify our path to success — literally. Climeworks, founded in Zurich in 2009, actually removes carbon from the air, mixes it with water, and turns it into stone to be buried underground. They call it Direct Air Capture technology, and it gives you as a traveler the chance to not only offset but remove the carbon you create during a trip. Currently, monthly subscriptions for their service are available starting at just $8. That amount removes 85 kilograms (187 pounds.) of CO2 per year.

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