Breckenridge is 2nd mountain resort town certified as ‘sustainable’ destination |

Breckenridge is 2nd mountain resort town certified as ‘sustainable’ destination

A Breckenridge Free Ride bus waits for passengers to load up at the main transit station in Breckenridge on March 16. Electrifying Breckenridge’s vehicle fleet is one of the town’s sustainability goals.
Photo by Ashley Low

Breckenridge is the second town in the world to be certified as a Mountain IDEAL sustainable destination following Vail’s certification in 2018.

The certification, which is done by Green Destinations, evaluates the town on innovation, diversity, education, authenticity and leadership.

Breckenridge, which sees more than 1 million visitors annually, created its SustainableBreck plan in 2011 to address impacts of growth, including how the town could balance resource conservation, economic development and sociocultural issues in a tourism-based environment. Breckenridge used its existing plan to pursue the Mountain IDEAL standard beginning in 2019 as part of a town goal to “establish Breckenridge at the leading edge in mountain environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.”

Green Destinations conducted an on-site assessment of the town in the fall, and Breckenridge was officially certified in March.

“To be globally recognized, you have to go through a pretty robust certification process by accredited bodies,” Breckenridge Sustainability Coordinator Jessie Burley said. “And so it’s not just a willy-nilly certification. There’s a lot of auditing and review of everything that you submit in order to be considered.”

Burley said a lot of global standards for sustainable tourism certifications are focused on specific industries, like beach resorts or safari operations, and Mountain IDEAL is a certification designed specifically for mountain tourism. She said the standard was developed when the town of Vail was pursuing Green Destinations certification and found that some criteria did not apply to ski resorts.

Breckenridge officials chose Mountain IDEAL as the green certification to pursue because it was specific to a mountain resort community, said Burley, who added that Vail was able to help guide the town through the process.

“We recognize that, increasingly, tourists cite sustainability as a reason to pick destinations, and we really wanted to make sure that we were being a leader in that space and that we weren’t just telling our visitors what we were doing but that somebody actually can verify the work that we were doing,” Burley said. “And that’s really important to us to prevent what’s called green washing.”

The certification goes beyond basic sustainability measures like recycling, for example, and includes criteria like workforce housing and cultural heritage protection as well as greenhouse gas and waste reduction.

“A lot of people hear ’sustainability,’ and they equate that to environmental conservation,” Burley said. “What this does is really broaden that scope, and it addresses everything from economic indicators to diversity to your traditional environmental criteria, and it really spans the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability. And so, I think, that’s one place where we can begin our education.”

Among the certification requirements, the town had to provide a sustainability training and certification program for local businesses, which it fulfilled through High Country Conservation Center’s ResourceWise program, according to the release. Green Destinations will check in on Breckenridge every three years to verify that it is still meeting the certification criteria.

Moving forward, Burley said the next big sustainability project the town is working on is meeting its renewable energy goals, which are to reduce emissions from electricity use 100% by 2035 and from transportation by 25% by 2030. Burley noted that she’ll bring an electric vehicle readiness proposal to Breckenridge Town Council in May to electrify the town’s vehicle fleet, help the community transition to electric cars and provide more public transit opportunities.

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