GeneralNewsGreen in the Game, or Just in the Name?

Avatar November 18, 20104
Tree Hugger: Tim Reynolds works to set a post for the new compost faciltiy

When the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP) entered the nordic race scene a year ago, FasterSkier posed the question, “How Green Can A Ski Team Be?” Now, a year later, we take another look at the practice behind the theory of the CGRP.

Certainly, the word “green” in their title may give some people the impetus to judge the CGRP on how environmentally consciousness they are when it comes to ski training and racing.

But Tim Reynolds, who hatched the idea for the team as part of a senior year project, says the CGRP is meant to be “foremost a cross country ski development program.”

From a simplified overview, the CGRP supports athletes by giving them room, board, and funding for travel, coaching, and racing. In return, the athletes are required to work part-time at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, a lodge set on a grand expanse of trails and lakes in Northern Vermont .

Through this work, the athletes are expected to help further the Center’s mission statement, which includes supporting and promoting lifelong sports such as rowing and nordic skiing, using and teaching sustainable practices, and protecting and managing the surrounding land.

And though all ten of the current members were selected for the team in part because they share a desire to further this mission statement and to help preserve the natural environment around them, Reynolds will be the first to admit they will not be able to do that through ski racing.

“For me, there is some irreconcilable issues with green and sport,” says Reynolds.  “As a team, we are dedicated to getting faster at skiing.  I like to think that our work at the Center offsets the requirements of elite sport to some degree.  We will be driving a more efficient vehicle this winter, but that is a very miniscule improvement compared to what we’ve helped do at the Center.”

No one on the team denies that there are environmental concerns associated with ski racing.  Though there are small things they can do to minimize their footprint in their own ski careers, the CGRP is focused on the way they can have a bigger influence and impact through their own actions and education in the community around them.

Composting project

One such project at the Center is a compost facility for the dining hall, moving the hall in a direction toward full sustainability.  The compost will be used in the Center’s large garden, which helps stock the kitchen with fresh produce.  Reynolds says that after they finish the composting facility at the site they will be “getting very close to a no-waste dining hall, a closed circle for everything we use in there.”

Chelsea Little, a second year member of the team and New Hampshire native, explains how the Center can be a great tool for educating the public.

“Besides being good for our footprint, the new facility gives us an opportunity to educate all of our guests about composting. When they take their dirty dishes to the window, they are instructed to put all the food scraps in the compost, and can look at a poster about how composting works.”

Chelsea Little

“For every “green” change we help with at the Center,” says Little, “we try to create an educational opportunity. When we tell guests that they have the option of re-using their towels, we explain how it saves water and detergent. When we got new high-efficiency washing machines and dryers, we explained the benefits and how not to overburden them with extra detergent.”

Another major project that CGRP worked on this summer was the installation of eight 25 x25 foot solar arrays which Reynolds says are estimated to cover at least half of the entire Center’s electricity use.  The wood gathered from clearing the installation site – in addition to the wood from other trail projects –  will be used in a new high efficiency wood boiler used to heat the Center’s garage, eliminating the need to use gas for heat in that building.

Susan Dunklee, who raced for the US Biathlon team last year and is a first year member on the CGRP , adds to the examples of projects by listing the team’s practice of low-impact trail building, monitoring of lake quality, and the commission of environmental experts for on-site lectures.

“What we are hoping is that our actions on a local level at the outdoor center and with the surrounding community will help minimize our negative environmental actions while providing an example for change,” said Patrick O’Brien, new to the team this year as a recent Dartmouth  graduate.

“I like to think of it less as making sacrifices and more as making smart choices such as hanging our laundry instead of using a drier or switching our heating from oil to wood from the centers property.”

In fact, most of the team agrees that what they are doing is not sacrificing, as much as living a healthy lifestyle in a conscious way.

“As long as environmental responsibility is a chore or an extra expense or a sacrifice, it won’t truly catch on,” maintains Matt Briggs, Colby graduate and returning member of the team.  “We are striving to be a living, working example, within our community in Craftsbury and in the ski community, that it is none of those things.  In fact, being green helps us, if anything.  It helps us eat better, live better, and keep costs down.  And hopefully, that’s a pretty strong message, because it’s an important one that we would like to get out there.”

The CGRP is a group of serious athletes.  They are on the team because they are committed to ski racing at the highest level.  This means they have to train, wax, eat, and travel in a way which will not leave them at a disadvantage to their competitors.

Are they using fluoros? Yes. Do they travel near and far to camps and races? Yes. Does this travel involve airplanes when “necessary”? Yes.

“Elite ski racing involves a lot of traveling, which results in high carbon emissions.  We have a larger carbon footprint than we would like,” admits Dunklee.  But she adds, “I believe it is important not to become discouraged. There are lots of manageable projects that we can work on that will make a difference.”

Though “green” and “sport” may at times come at odds with one another, second-year team member Lauren Jacobs contends that the two issues are not entirely exclusive, which is why she feels “incredibly lucky” to be a part of the CGRP.

“I guess I don’t see being ‘green’ as being an ‘additional’ part of my life, nor do I feel it is unrelated or extraneous to being a ski racer,” says Jacobs, who is training for both biathlon and nordic racing this winter. “Being a competitive nordic skier is a huge part of who I am, and striving to be more environmentally responsible is another huge part of who I am.”

Dylan McGuffin and Patrick O'Brien work on clearing wood for the solar panel project

O’Brien emphasized that his interest in the team was both due to its philosophy, and the support structure that it offered.

“The support that Craftsbury offers athletes –  especially in the difficult years after college –  is fantastic, but it was the non-skiing aspects of the team that really hooked me. In return for our room, board, and travel expenses we basically work as part-time employees at the outdoor center on a wide variety of projects, filling in wherever we have a particular interest or expertise,” he said.

Little, for example, puts her interests to work by helping with a conservation group around the Hosmer Ponds area.  This involves educating landowners in the area to, as Little explains, “be better stewards of their forest and land.”

“I’m a strong believer that if people understand and appreciate the landscape that surrounds them, they will make greener choices,” she said.

Briggs explains it in a circle-of-life-skiing-food-earth type of way.  Though training is a number one priority as a ski racer, Briggs maintains that the next concern is all about lifestyle.

“For example,” Briggs explains, “we source all our food locally through the dining hall.  It’s good for us, because our food is better.  It’s good for farms, because they get a consistent big buyer.  And it’s good for the dining hall, because they are making really good food with really good ingredients, so more people are drawn to the center.”

“The real point in the end of the day”, continues Briggs, “is that being more environmentally responsible makes a lot of sense.  For the world, for communities, and for individual buyers, if it’s done right.”

Reynolds looks forward to showcasing the team’s work and improvements at the Center during three major International Ski Federation sanctioned events that will take place this winter:  Eastern Cup openers on December 19 and 20th, The Craftsbury Marathon on January 29th, and the Craftsbury SpringTour in March. “After all,” Reynolds says, referring to the team’s mission, “it’s about sharing that knowledge.”

Coaching the Bill Koch League

The CGRP is also active in the local ski community.  The CGRP has been involved in several events relating to the environmental group 350.org, and just recently they helped Sterling College host a work party as part of a worldwide effort by the organization. The team also coaches the area’s Bill Koch League during two week-long camps in the summer and three-a-week practices in the winter.

“Is [coaching] environmentally related?” asks Jacobs, “Maybe not directly. But having lots of people that love an outdoor sport that requires winter and snow can only help.”

Though the team’s work at and through the Center allows them a greater opportunity to be a positive influence on the environment around them, Briggs may sum up the team sentiment best about the responsibility to live up to the Green name.

“Being a ski racer who is green is no different from being anyone else who is trying to be green. It basically means doing the little things right and trying to realize the impact of everything you do, and trying to be positive with that,” he said.

*     *     *     *     *

As this article is posted, the CGRP is in Finland for a training camp.  Yes, that does involve a major trip via environmentally-exhaustive airplane.  But it is only one trip by design.

Last year, the team’s multiple trips included altitude camps in both Tahoe and Yellowstone.  Jacobs says that the team has been looking into the possibility of an altitude tent or even an altitude room at the center, as a way of not only reducing long-term costs to the team, but also to the environment.  But an altitude tent doesn’t replace real time on snow.

“This year we’ve cut it down to one trip – a big volume block, early snow and early races all combined into a long trip to Finland in October and November,” explains Jacobs.  “Obviously flying to Finland isn’t exactly green, but at least it’s only one trip and we’re making the most out of it by being there for a long time.”

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