Breckenridge Grand Vacations diverted more than one-third of its waste from landfills in 2018, company says |

Breckenridge Grand Vacations diverted more than one-third of its waste from landfills in 2018, company says

Breckenridge Grand Vacations Recycling & Sustainability Coordinator Emily Kimmel sorts the recyclable materials Thursday, May 2, in Breckenridge.
Hugh Carey /

By the numbers

In 2018, Breckenridge Grand Vacations achieved a 39% waste-diversion rate by keeping thousands of pounds of the following materials out of the landfill:

• 406,971 pounds of comingled materials

• 88,752 pounds of glass

• 16,580 pounds of scrap metal

• 9,540 pounds of compost

• 3,535 pounds of electronic-waste

Source: Breckenridge Grand Vacations

One of the largest employers in Summit County has put in place a series of sustainability programs that local environmentalists say is worth copying.

Through these programs, Breckenridge Grand Vacations is reporting a 39% waste diversion rate for 2018, meaning the local timeshare company kept more than one-third of the waste generated at its lodging properties from reaching a landfill.

The company’s sustainability push is unique in its size, scope and coverage, with its diversion rate exceeding the county (21%), state (26%) and national (34%) averages, according to Breckenridge sustainability coordinator Jessie Burley, who noted that the national and state rates are from 2017. Grand Vacations reported a 34% diversion rate in 2017, putting the company in line with the national average that year.

Waste-diversion rates are calculated to include the recycling of compost, scrap metal, comingled materials, glass and electronic waste. The rates also take into consideration waste contamination.

Burley said private businesses maintain a “closed system,” or have points of access to capture people’s attention, and usually can produce higher diversion rates than the public sector as a result. However, she still thinks Grand Vacations’ push to take better care of the environment has been nothing short of “great,” and she said part of her job is recruiting local businesses to install similar programming.

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Jess Hoover, programs manager with the High Country Conservation Center, is another big fan of Grand Vacations’ sustainability work. Like Burley, she said the company’s high waste diversion rate is a tribute to its efforts to be more sustainable, efforts that Hoover hopes will make their way to other private businesses.

“I think they have shown a lot of leadership in the lodging community for what can be done,” Hoover said, adding that if every one of the county’s lodging properties took similar measures, the impact would be “huge.”

Grand Vacations manages multiple lodging properties across Breckenridge, and the company has carved out a full-time position to lead the charge.

That role is held by Emily Kimmel, who said the company’s 39% waste diversion rate doesn’t stem from any one action but a series of investments and educational efforts across the company geared toward guests and employees.

Kimmel highlighted one program in which the company offers composting bins for its guests to take back to their rooms. The company also has bins in all its employee break rooms and has made composting a part of its contract with its waste hauler.

Beyond discarded food, the company is producing a recycling guide to cut down on confusion, and Kimmel holds quarterly sustainability refreshers for staff and attends new employee training sessions so she can highlight the benefits of the programs, including one that allows workers to discard old appliances and e-waste for free.

Based on Kimmel’s experience, she’s found most people are interested in recycling and sustainability efforts, but they might not always know how to go about it. Regularly connecting with staff and reinforcing the information helps bridge this gap, she said.

To combat contamination, a major problem for pretty much every recycling program, Grand Vacations has focused on signage and color-coordinated recycling areas in line with international standards, which helps guests coming in from all over the world.

Grand Vacations is working through a test program that could reduce waste with coffee cups, and the company’s refillable toiletry bottles in the rooms help reduce plastic waste. More than that, Grand Vacations rewards its workers for green commuting and for bringing reusable mugs to work, and it has employee kitchens at every property, reducing single-use plastics and packaging with premade meals.

Rather than trying to tackle sustainability all at once or with one quick fix, Kimmel described it as a holistic approach that seeks to capture waste anywhere and everywhere.

The efforts have helped Grand Vacations achieve gold status for all of its lodging properties through a program managed by the conservation center.

All of these sustainability programs — including Kimmel’s position and a $1 million solar energy purchase — come at a cost.

“These kinds of ongoing costs, they’re not free,” Grand Vacations vice president of technology and strategy Brian Binge said. “But we think the future strategy for BGV is being more green and being more sustainable.”

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