Nordic Skiing Must Become Greener

FasterSkierDecember 1, 200917

One month ago, the nordic ski world participated in an international day of action in conjunction with Some elite racers sponsored events of their own, while numerous others participated in the assorted events of the day. Couple this with the creation of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project last spring and there seems to be mounting evidence of a push for elite nordic ski racers to become more environmentally conscious. Nordic ski racers are evidently a very enlightened group. It is a hugely positive sign that we are engaged in a discussion over how best to combat climate change, instead of debating whether or not climate change is result of human actions. I honestly cannot envision this sort of discussion taking place in many other sports. However, as and the Green Racing Project help the environmental movement gain traction it is important that nordic ski racing, and all sports, not be given the opportunity to opt out of becoming greener.

Most top-level racers would probably agree that it is essential that climate change be addressed to ensure future winters of skiing. I am also sure that many elite racers have already made changes that will help to lessen the scope of climate change. Yet, my point is simply that as nordic racers make changes outside of racing which benefit the planet, the sport itself cannot be considered off-limits. As people shift from gas-guzzling SUVs to hybrid, energy efficient cars and from a diet produced in factory farms and laboratories to one produced on organic farms and sold locally, shifts must also be made in sports. Change is never easy, nor is it free of sacrifice; in this car crazy culture, many Americans struggle to bring themselves to trade in their large vehicles and I imagine it would be difficult for an elite racer to part with a pair of fast race skis. For the safeguarding of our planet, however, change is a must.

Now, I do not want to see high-level ski racing disappear. I do not want for people to have to choose between an Olympic dream and the dream of a cleaner planet. Instead, I would like to see a future in which the two dreams coexist. I see an opportunity for nordic ski racing to assume a leadership role. The Green Racing Project is a ‘green’ team, perhaps the first ‘green’ team in all sports, but let’s go a step further and make nordic skiing the first ‘green’ sport.  We’ve set limits on pollution allowed by energy producers, why not a cap on the pairs of skis allowed to each competitor? Sure, manufacturers would complain, but the sport is about the athletes, not the equipment. We’ve set goals for more fuel-efficient cars, why not set goals for more environmentally friendly waxes? If the wax companies can continually produce faster waxes, surely they can be equally innovative when it comes to making environmentally safe waxes. We encourage others to car pool and take mass-transportation whenever possible, why not a ski train to transport athletes and coaches to the various World Cup events around Europe? One train would certainly have a smaller carbon footprint than the various buses, planes and private jets now in use.  Additionally, it might also be necessary to question whether it is environmentally sustainable to hold nordic skiing events in cities like Dusseldorf, Prague or even Rome. The carbon footprint of these events cannot be small, especially when the snow must be trucked into the city. Perhaps nordic skiing should stay in areas that have consistent natural snow. Changes like these are, of course, top down mandates, and just as governments have been slow to implement climate change legislation, I would be surprised were any of these ideas to be acted on with any sort of speed. That said, agitation from below tends to cause governing bodies to pick up their pace. A few winters without snow might also do the trick.

I also know there are plenty of individual actions that could be taken by each and every elite racer. I would encourage FasterSkier, the Green Racing Project, and anybody else to brainstorm and publicize ways to make the sport greener. From homegrown snacks to replace individually wrapped bars, to ways to recycle race skis, there must be plenty of ideas floating around out there. As the nordic skiing community works to reverse climate change, let’s not turn off that mind set when we clip into our skis. The athletes and the sport can and should become greener.


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  • mattmuir

    December 1, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    You first.

    Isn’t that the problem?

  • Patrick Stinson

    December 2, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Here, here. Consciousness is key.

  • DOC

    December 2, 2009 at 9:27 am

    I actually thought the roller ski race at Soldier Hollow was a pretty ridiculous way to take part in the global day of action to bring light to climate change. Soldier Hollow is at least a 50 minute drive for anyone who lives in the Salt Lake valley. I would be willing to bet 85% of the racers that day DROVE to the race. So much for carbon fotprint reduction…

  • Tim Kelley

    December 2, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I once read on fasterskier once that NENSA was doing away with all club newsletters, and using their web site as the means of communication. The reason was because it was a greener way for Nordies to communicate. I wish this idea would catch on in Alaska. All ski clubs here have this massive monthly newsletter (or newspaper) called The Alaska Nordic Skier. This publication could easily be morphed to be a web site, and the chainsaws that are needed to cut the forests down for this skiing rag could be given a break This could have been done 15 years ago when most clubs eliminated newsletters in favor of websites. But green ideas are often slow to take root in Alaska.

    Note to author of this article: No mention of recycling wax scrapings?!

  • Andrew Gardner

    December 2, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    I think your insights are correct at the outset of this article: Nordic skiers would like to become greener & there has been a bit of a push of late. The direction that you take that impulse befuddles me. Reduce the number of skis a racer uses? (Do you have an idea of how much or little carbon that would reduce?) Or World Cup events? In the name of carbon reduction? Pish posh.

    Now I’m all for personal reduction: as the coach of the Middlebury College team, I’ve taken serious steps to avoid unnecessary travel and reduce both the team’s an my personal footprint and I’ve encouraged folks to do the same. But I have and will STOP SHORT OF REDUCTIONS THAT REDUCE THE QUALITY + VISIBILITY OF THE SPORT, which is what you’re calling for whether knowingly or not…

    Before we worry about greening and reductions, which we should, we need to keep sight of the fact that skiing needs to SURVIVE. So downtown sprints, many skis (and a healthy ski racing industry) and of course petroleum-using lycra are in the offing until we can wrangle a better option. (FYI, as of now, there aren’t any.) Sorry.

    You write that you “do not want for people to have to choose between an Olympic dream and the dream of a cleaner planet.” Yet the suggestions you make demonstrates a lack of knowledge on both points. It takes equipment to get to the dream. And eliminating that equipment would do little to stop our planet’s warming as companies are already reducing material and carbon costs as a way of gaining economic traction. Check out Fischer’s waste reduction some time- it is impressive. (And a shame that they haven’t marketed it better.)

    You suggest train travel to World Cups, but suggest eliminating the races where trains actually go- larger cities. (The closest train station to Beitostolen is 60k away for example—217k to Kuusamo. Are we going to hike in those wax boxes?) Furthermore the time added to go by train WILL reduce athlete performance and compromise “the dream.”

    Travel reduction is a good thing, however, and one already being taken. World Cup skier, Sara Renner, decided not to go to New Zealand this year, in part because of the environmental consequences of her travel. I’ve kept my team off of planes unless necessary for their improvement as athletes. It is happening out there. Travel is a tough one. Necessary and tough.

    You were right when you wrote that “agitation from below tends to cause governing bodies to pick up their pace.” Please save your agitation for the governing bodies and not xc ski community as skiing doesn’t have a lot of fat to trim as a sport. It just doesn’t.

    Sustainability and sport are an unlikely marriage, in part, because of comments like the one from DOC:

    “I actually thought the roller ski race at Soldier Hollow was a pretty ridiculous way to take part in the global day of action to bring light to climate change.”

    There seems to remain a litmus test for environmentalism that other causes don’t have: You can’t be a TRUE environmentalist if you emit any carbon, overuse anything or wear polyester. That’s shortsighted.

    OF COURSE the 350 roller ski race had a large carbon footprint. That isn’t the point! The point is there is no way for it NOT to have had a large carbon footprint. The goal of the day of action wasn’t to screw in lightbulbs or take down numbers, rather, to heighten awareness of the systematic wrongness of the things that we do as a culture. The day of action was an attempt to draw attention to these wrongs before the large intergovernmental meetings happening in Copenhagen shortly. The goal was to ask for the change since there is no way yet to be that change personally no matter how much we’d like to be.

    As we build the visibility of skiing, push for its survival and revel in the life it gives us, we need to push the industries that we need to change, we need to write letters and lobby politicians and we need to take apart the biggest issues we can. Travel schedules at the annual coaches congress should take into account the economic and environmental costs of the schedule. As for the World Cup, we need to be a bigger factor on it before we start telling it what to do. Those are just the rules of the game. In that regard, the current staff of the US Ski team has done more to push a green agenda than anyone else- they’ve brought respect to our racers internationally.

    You close by asking for suggestions. Here are mine:
    1. If you continue to write articles demanding changes in the sport on behalf of environmentalism (this is the second I’ve seen, the first on the NENSA website), take some time to learn more about both the sport and its environmental impact. I’d ask that you understand the impact of the cuts you decide skiing “must” make. Realize exactly what you are asking. Talk to more people in the sport. You can start with me. I live just down the road from you in Vermont. I’m easy to find. We went to the same college.

    2. Want to see change? The ONLY things that have changed the world in the last 100 years for the better has been grassroots activism and economic prosperity (Typically not seen together.) If you’re not selling anything here and you’re not marching or asking for marching, you aren’t changing anything.

    It is hard to face our own hypocrisy and it is unfair to demand other people do this. I’m ok with mine and I’ll hold onto it until there’s actually an option to improve skiing in the ways that you’re suggesting. Until then, I’ll march when it makes sense, reduce what’s not going to hurt the sport and post things on websites because I like doing that too.
    Always a skier, often an environmentalist,

  • DOC

    December 3, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    “OF COURSE the 350 roller ski race had a large carbon footprint. That isn’t the point! The point is there is no way for it NOT to have had a large carbon footprint.”

    Mr Gardener;
    My point was the location of the race being a good ways from the population center from where the largest majority of participants would drive from. If you are familiar with Salt Lake City, there are a variety of venues to stage a roller ski race. Shorter driving distance for the majority of an events participants is a very easy solution to not eliminating but certainly reducing the carbon foot print for an event.

  • nordic_dave

    December 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

    “Doc”, let me refresh your memory. We had a more city friendly xc venue picked out for the Olympics, it was at or near Mtn. Dell, 5 miles from SLC.

    VERY IRONICALLY extremist environmentalists clashed with the nordic community on this one. We were left to go wander to find another number of sights all of which were miles away. Now we have Soho a great training facility in a town that could care less as the ajacent tubing hill and golf course drives more revenue.

    The irony is not lost on me as your comments appear to be reactionary.

    History has a way of admiring the problem. I refer to watershed moments that have shaped our energy consumption policies, rather than expound on each point, I suggest you research the following:

    1. The Teapot Dome Scandal
    2. “Energy conservation is the moral equivelent of war” & RR’s whole sale dismantling of that policy we could have adopted 30 years ago.
    3. “Wya’s” spend, build, spend tax incentives.
    4. T Boone Pickens plan for America coming from an oilman it is pretty heady stuff.

    You know Doc I once stood up about 5 years ago in a downtown SLC business leaders meeting and asked our Gov. Leavitt, why Utah was surrounded by states who have heavily invested in Wind Energy and was actually shouted down by hecklers as an extremist environmentalist.

    Things will not change until the price points of viable economic alternatives do. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, war in Iraq and Bush’s failed economic policies have driven the price points all over the map. I am like most who trying to positively think of ways to speed our econmic recovery and I am certain that the price of gas will go back up allowing those economic alternatives to come back to the fore as real change.

    Thinking about where you drive to ski or roller ski will not!

  • Cloxxki

    December 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Google “climate gate”.

    CO2 levels in the athmosphere do NOT correllate with surface temparatures on earth. Scientific proof of that is totally absent. Computer models were programmed to tell us “how bad”. Climate scientists that DID find correllation, have been unmasked as frauds. They took out the medieval warm period, which really did exist before over-population, or any sign of industry. Even our ships were wind powered. Greenland, BTW, was nice and green, hence the name. Now, it’s a melting ice cube, so? Medieval skiing must have really sukked.

    Rather that screaming 350 (very random number, but sounds great), “don’t” such as mile longing behind a wheel, the ski community better focus on “do’s”. Because cars ARE dirty, even if the CO2 is in fact does produce is totally harmless to our climate. There’s other nasty stuff in exhaust, and although it can’t warm up our trails, it would make the snow less white.

    – Carpool! Saves race promoter parking pains also
    – Google “HHO on demand” and GET BUSY reducing you car’s fuel consumption, by dozens of per cents.
    – Boycott any government-boosted, tax-motivated initiatives, and come up with something better of your own.

    It’s bad enough that we get to make our way down the trail tail tale-trunk. Don’t blindy follow dollar-sniffing cry babies yelling “350” in chorus. Make the effort of self-research. Try to find a second opinion. The first you hear just may not be the most valid one, due to conflicting interests (guess how rich Al Gore got since he went from a top politician to a Carbon Tax and World Government lobbyist?)

    Think for yourself, and don’t believe me.

  • Erik Remsen

    December 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm


    I’m sorry if you feel I am attacking the sport of nordic skiing, your athletes or your livelihood. This is not my intention rather I simply want to include the sport itself in any discussion of greening the planet.

    However, I understand your reluctance, and that of other top-level coaches and racers, to make greater changes within the sport. As the first comment on my original piece from mattmuir pointed out, racers and coaches at the highest level are faced with a prisoner’s dilemma. If only one team or one racer makes a significant sacrifice, they will lose to others who have not sacrificed for the planet. The best possible outcome would be for all to make an equal sacrifice, but can you count on all other athletes to make that sacrifice; probably not. Therefore, nobody gives up anything. (The prisoner’s dilemma also explains why governments have been slow to act on climate change. Skiing imitating life or life imitating skiing?)

    With this in mind, and in order better “understand the impact of the cuts [I decided] skiing ‘must’ make,” I ask you this: if all competitors on the World Cup (and/or on the college circuit) were subject to the same limitations on equipment (say, one pair of classic skis and on pair of skate skis per season) would the excitement and entertainment of watching the races decrease? Would those racers who were in the best shape and had trained the hardest be at a disadvantage with these hypothetical restrictions? Granted, limitations on equipment would not make a large difference, but it could raise further awareness of climate change and it would be another small step in the right direction.

    I await your response,

    Erik Remsen

  • MiddleburyAG

    December 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I don’t feel that you’re attacking skiing, me my athletes or livelihood. If my tone is impassioned, it stems from my belief that your writing (on our country’s largest skiing website) is well intentioned, but uninformed on both a skiing and an environmental front.
    Since you don’t know me, I’ll make this clear. I have NO reluctance to change my sport with what small affect I have. If I thought it would have significant environmental impact or help our sport succeed which currently, to be frank, none of your suggestions do. Nor do I have much patience with being lumped into an amorphous group of “top-level coaches and racers” disinclined to make changes in our sport on behalf of environmentalism. I spend a lot of time, energy and money working on the problems you’ve written on; I care a lot about these things.
    Your suggestions about an “equal sacrifice” are noble and correct, were there to be such a sacrifice to be made by anyone reading this website. There isn’t. Refer to my original post: there isn’t a lot of fat to trim on the US side. You suppose that skiing is a level playing field to begin with. It isn’t. You’d be better served to write about the environmental atrocities of the new Swedish team plane. (Unfortunately, like most of us Americans, you’d never be taken seriously in Sweden.) I can assure you that the US won’t take up such an environmental affront in the name of skiing, it can’t financially afford to.
    To answer your question on skis:

    “If all competitors on the world cup were subject to the same limitations on equipment, would the excitement or entertainment of the races decrease?”

    The answer is, yes. Were you in some hypothetical universe to autocratically impose the Remsen-law of 1 ski per discipline, racing quality and entertainment would decrease. It would also decrease in a way that wasn’t uniform. You would put some countries at a huge disadvantage and some at a huge advantage. Here’s why: The variables that you’d have to address with those skis would leave the athlete with a pretty good option in few conditions and a terrible option many. The weather would determine the winner on the day more than it does. Ski fit and flex is pretty exacting as well as ski grinds and without a number of options, its unlikely that on a given race day, everyone’s skis will run the same, ergo, some country’s will be at an automatic advantage with one pair of skis. (The track usually changes significantly from the beginning of a race to the end for example) But let’s say you could magically do just that. Let’s say that by some amazing technology, you could give everyone an appropriately flexed ski, and appropriately fit ski and a perfectly waxed ski and now all skis moved at the same speed. Now the race is less entertaining and exciting because there are fewer variables to overcome. If it is about finding the fittest athlete, why not just put them on a treadmill (we could use it to power something) and see who’s fit. Skiing is more than that. Knowing how to move the ski over the snow, how to pick the right skis, how to, adjust for terrain and conditions, that’s part of the game. Races are rarely won because of a huge wax advantage, though they are often lost because of it. Those skis that you’re suggesting go away, they are a way of leveling the playing field, giving folks a chance to get in the game. Skis and wax are also a subculture in their own right and a vital part of the skiing community. I’m not alone in that my career wasn’t built on great skiing results, rather, a nerdy love of skiing, skis, wax – the whole deal. Guys like Randy Gibbs, Chris Hall and Zach Caldwell have inspired a lot of people to take up the sport, to love it, to be invested in it in a deep and meaningful way and your suggestion cuts those guys right out of the picture. So to answer your question, yes, that would be less exciting and less entertaining. Yes it is likely that racers in the best shape could be put a large disadvantage. Yes, I think it is an absurd idea.

    And to what end? Each world cup has roughly 60 to 80 starters. Let’s say they each have 20 pairs of skis which is likely more than they do. Now, allowing for gender, you’ve rid the world of 3600 pair of skis. Generously, it takes 200 tons of CO2 to make a pair of skis. You’ve reduced 72oK tons of CO2 by imposing the Remsen law. (Roughly the same as taking 25 cars off the road for one year.) Not much to build “further awareness of climate change” and certainly not enough to justify the reduction of entertainment and excitement outlined above.

    Lastly, I’ll address the “prisoner’s dilemma.” It isn’t just disadvantage that keeps us from making changes, it’s much deeper than that, it is the SURVIVAL of skiing. You seem to think that World Cup skiing is a huge enterprise and that the ski industry is rolling in cash. Not so. We have to work and support both, because the highest levels of our sport inspire this great thing that we love.

    I’m glad that you believe in environmental work and changing things for the better, but suggestions have to be holistic and plausible to make any improvement. I’m not saying that we don’t have a huge problem on our hands, we do, and again, I’ll work to make real and lasting changes like addressing transportation, lodging, food and the carbon costs of my teams. I’m happy to meet and talk or chat via email further about skiing and sustainability, though I won’t post any more here.

    (agardner at middlebury dot edu)

  • Brian Olsen

    December 14, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Erik –

    Certainly a heated discussion you have ignited — perhaps incited, to others. I must agree with AG that your interest in mitigating global climate change should be commended, but that some of your suggestions don’t hold water.

    My first suggestion for you, if you’re interested in influencing policy, would be to take AG’s suggestion and quantify the carbon-equivalent (and global warming potential) reductions of your ideas. What is the order of magnitude of those reductions? How do they compare to other reductions these same people and organizations could take?

    Second, compare these results with their qualitative impact upon cross country skiing and skisport in general. Is the benefit (of reducing the carbon footprint of the sport) worth the cost? I can tell you that it wouldn’t have been viable for me to have taken the trip to Europe by boat to compete on the World Cup.

    Truly, the decision in this case must be borne by the individual, and the first person you should ask that question of is yourself.

    Unfortunately, we as individuals can do very little on our own to mitigate global climate change. Unplugging appliances, taking shorter showers, and even buying a hybrid to replace our SUV are not viable strategies to reduce Co2-equivalent emissions. Sure, I take public transit within Salt Lake City, use CFLs, and use fabric grocery bags — but even if everyone did this in the United States, that wouldn’t be enough to reduce our footprint enough to stabilize GHG concentrations.

    The only viable solution is a structural one, in which all governments, preferably with the cooperation of industry, enact stringent limits on GHG emissions and use the proceeds to fund R&D for renewable energy technology, sequestration, and demand-side management and their quick adoption. That is the whole point of COP15. And in turn, that was the point of And so, to the Soldier Hollow Invitational.

    If you’re wondering at this point what ideas you might implement yourself:

    – put your energy into eradicating the NIMBY disease in New England that hinders wind farm development. Visit schools and educate kids about how cool renewable technology is, and perhaps they’ll share it with their parents and be less vocal against future projects.
    – study Waxman-Markey and the current debate in the Senate about a comprehensive energy bill that also tackles global climate change. Make that discussion a part of your blog.
    – keep challenging people you meet to make reductions in their environmental impact (like the ski community), to the point they feel comfortable doing so. It will increase their awareness of environmental issues and some of them might become active and share the message with others.

    Best of luck with your racing,


  • vmather

    December 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I think this article brings up some great ideas, and provoking some interesting debate. I do think there are some easy and significant changes that can be made right at the race level – from small local races to the World Cup level. The two that come to mind are 1) Idling buses should not be permitted. Not only is it a waste of gas, but the exhaust is harmful to the athletes. 2) At the finish line, there could be either reusable cups for water and Gatorade, or cups than can be (and WILL be) recycled. I’m sure there are other small gestures that can be made, and promoted by the governing bodies of skiing.

  • Jon44

    December 28, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    “To really save the planet, stop
    going green,” was the title of a great editorial in the Washington Post (link below) whose central idea applies to a lot of the suggestions that amount to “raising awareness” (e.g,, Green Racing Project)–it makes people feel good, but hasn’t had any real positive effect on the environment. And, all in all, these things make the problem worse.

    To me, the Green Racing Project is transparently self-serving, with very little substance. (As one example, they poo-poo the idea of cutting down on flights, but promote energy efficient light bulbs. Gazillion orders of magnitude of difference.) I truly can’t understand how anyone can see an effort like that as constituting “leadership.”

    I have more respect for the small changes of using reusable cups or promoting use of ski trains. There’s no free lunch, and while skiing is greatly effected by climate change, it doesn’t follow that skiing has any great contribution to climate change. Less grandiose efforts that help the local community / environment are great.

    But the one thing that’s sure to hurt efforts at political consensus for climate change is hypocritical claims to leadership by privelaged people who, fly more than the average voter (and hence have a higher than average carbon footprint), while spending most of their time in what most people would see as a recreational activity. As one example, is the average Vermonter, who works two jobs, and spends a large portion of their income on commuting expenses, going to be convinced that a higher gas tax makes sense, because a bunch of skiers at Craftsbury use squiggly light bulbs and grow their own vegetables (before jetting off to Europe to train)?


  • mneal4863

    December 31, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    My first comment is directed to “Cloxxki”…if you believe what you are writing, you should be willing to sign your actual name. Regardless whether you or I have actually read the scientific data for ourselves (not just listened to and regurgitated what was headlined on Yahoo or discussed on either version of “news” stations)…do you really think that every country in the world would be talking about climate change and how to address it or agreeing to work on reducing carbon output if there weren’t enough data??? That would be the most remarkable conspiracy theories ever. Regardless of the cause, if we are able to identify actions that may improve or take better care of this planet, why wouldn’t we take those actions??? We are given the Earth to use, not abuse. Not unlike being given brand new ski equipment. Well cared for skis can last a long time and become even faster with repeated waxing. An abused pair will either break, delaminate, or have too many scratches in the base to be fast.

    In response to the comments of Jon44…I, too, am somewhat outraged when I see hypocrisy, but my outrage is tempered somewhat by whether the person/program that I have found fit to judge is doing the best they can with their current level of knowledge. I very strongly believe that the first step to change is education and increasing awareness.

    It seems reasonable to believe that the athletes involved with the Green Racing Project would likely be skiing for a different team were this one not available. Their travel to races, etc. would be no different. Perhaps on this team are compelled to purchase carbon offsets for their travel (not a perfect solution, but better than nothing). These athletes may not be perfect leaders in your eyes, but I certainly applaud their efforts at trying to make a difference. They are using their enthusiasm and visibility to increase awareness of global issues and to promote each individual’s need and ability to make responsible choices. You discount the effect of changing light bulbs, but the fact is that if every household in the United States replaced one standard light bulb with one CFL, it would be the equivalent of removing one million cars from the road. Even small choices can make a big difference. The point I am making is that although programs like the Green Racing Project may not be reaching the highest mark, they are at least trying.

    My son believed strongly that “change begins with an individual” and I support that entirely. Climate change is one of many global issues-one that may dramatically affect the skiing community. We cannot wait for others to do the work or make the changes or be the leaders. We much each take on those responsibilities and fulfill them the best we can.

    Mary Neal

  • SUnderwoodMiller

    January 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    In my other life, I work for the Climate Crisis Coalition ( and show dogs. Since I am daily aware of what the effects our “carbon footprint” have on the planet (we publish and compile a comprehensive newsfeed on climate issues), I am constantly aware that showing dogs, much like skiing, is not entirely green 🙁 We talk a lot about the merits of carbon offsets in our government (a theory, which, on a large/governmental scale, I find particularly problematic). Yet, on an individual level, I do believe that as we become more aware of what we can do personally, if we are coincidentally aware of where we are not “green”, we really can offset, even reduce, our footprint. The impetus to mitigate our “bad” behavior may even turn out to be a good thing as it heightens our awareness.

  • Jon44

    January 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    To Mary Neal:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. First off, sorry for the somewhat glib and caustic tone of my earlier post. My comments were meant to be directed at “Green Racing’s” sponsors more than the skiers themselves.

    To clarify why “Green Racing” gets my goat: my affection for xc skiing is based, in part, on seeing the sport embrace values like independence and respect for others. To the extent that the “Green Racing Project” harnesses skiers’ enthusiasm and visibility to address an important global cause (which I also feel passionately about)–I think that’s great.

    But the sponsors of “Green Racing” have also used that visibility, and the team’s attachment to a global cause, to promote their ski area (ok, it’s a non-profit), and, worse, to promote their private company’s products (ski-erg). Blending the activism with the blatant self-interest is what I think is wrong.

    (To clarify the above point, don’t you think Jenex would love to have articles placed in websites and newspapers extolling their new recycling program, while detailing the training benefits of their newest model, which is especially green.)

    Regarding “independence,” and individual change, the scale of global warming is so huge and complex, I think new approaches are needed. Even if we accept the CFL’s = 1 million cars off the road (people argue about the increased toxicity of the CFL’s, tendency for people to keep them on longer, etc.), that’s still unfortunately a drop in the bucket on the global scale. (I know it sounds like a lot, but even Jim Hansen of NASA has made this argument.)

    So, I found Ms. Geer’s comments (in fasterskier article) saying it’s not about sacrificing a European ski trip, but more about everyday choices to be a bit off-putting. It’s just not supported by the facts–to me, major sacrifices by everyone (e.g., foregoing international flights) is the only way to address the issue (if we’re to also help those in the developing world raise their standard of living, etc., etc.)

    So, as the Washingtonpost editorial argues, the small, independent change approach is problematic , and Geer’s comments seem to reflect a perfunctory understanding of the problem (i.e., let’s just do whatever are the latest fashions in the climate change community.)

    To me, real leadership would be something like Crafsbury sponsoring a weekly eco-van from Boston, (or how about educating and persuading others directly on the need for action)–something that may take real sacrifice, but respects others by removing the self-interest, and reflects more creative thinking.

  • Jon44

    January 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm


    on the issue of self-interest, I think another point needs to be addressed. If you’re holding yourself up as a moral leader (publicizing yourself, etc.), I do think you should hold yourself to higher standards and avoid even the apparence of conflict of interest.

    In the same way that Senators are barred from receiving gifts (and that doesn’t mean we’re calling them all crooks), I think Green Racing Project should exclude family members from receiving grants.

    (Finally, on judging–I agree it’s best to avoid judging people. But once someone makes claims to leadership (and people’s limited time and attention), I think it’s fair to take their claims critically.

    E.g., if someone was out quietly building a hydro-electric dam in India, I’d be the last to say it’s not high enough, won’t make a difference, etc. But that’s not what’s happening here…

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