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Prioritizing sustainability in silent sports

November 2, 2022
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Ben Popp

Ben Popp, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF), is committed to taking proactive steps towards sustainability throughout the organization and the events they host.

Reducing environmental impact while enjoying silent sports like hiking, biking, snowshoeing and skiing

The worldwide shutdown during the pandemic left people eager to get out of the confines of their homes. They rediscovered the enjoyment of being in nature and found joy in solitude. Interest in outdoor recreation and silent sports such as hiking, biking, snowshoeing and skiing increased dramatically. The growing participation in these sports boosted economic impact; however, it also led to a large influx of foot traffic and strain on trails, parks and nature preserves – making it crucial to focus on ways silent sporting events and participants can reduce environmental impact while enjoying these activities.

The small town of Hayward, Wisconsin, home to the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF), sees thousands of tourists visit for outdoor recreation every year. At ABSF, we are committed to taking proactive steps to encourage sustainability in our organization, event participants and visitors. As of today, 88% of the outdoor recreation buildings, which are part of ABSF, are solar powered – one of our greatest accomplishments. Our plan is to be completely solar powered in the foreseeable future.

The foundation continually investigates alternative options to use renewable energy for snowmaking and purchasing carbon credits on a wind farm to offset the carbon footprint from these large-scale events. Carbon credits are a type of permit that represents one ton of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and can be purchased by a company or individual to make up for carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon credits are essential in the silent sporting industry to support sustainability. It is very exciting to see an uptick in our event participants and visitors purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions from travel.

Beyond energy use and carbon credits, we’ve reduced waste. Many of our events no longer offer single-use plastic cups and gear bags – encouraging participants to bring reusable options. Over the past few years, more than 11,000 people have purchased reusable bags and cups for ABSF events.

The foundation alone cannot eliminate the strain on our environment. Our mission is to encourage all people enjoying outdoor silent sports to participate in the change – it’s up to us to lead by example. Collective action makes a difference to ensure our environment is conducive to year-round activities and events in Wisconsin and the nation, for generations to come.

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