A mountain, Orca and community leading the way in climate resilience

Nestled in a small town in the South Island of New Zealand, Mt Hutt has celebrated its 50th Anniversary in style, by announcing they will be carbon neutral in seven years.

Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie says the busy mountain has multiple initiatives, including gamifying vehicle emissions and using microbe munching food waste technology, have led to significant emissions reductions and cost savings on the mountain.

Orca in action
Orca in action

“Going carbon neutral has been on the cards for a long time, around 15 years to get to the point where we have the confidence to share what we want to do; and to lead the narrative away from the negativity of reducing emissions to share the positives and opportunities that come from it.”

McKenzie knows Mt Hutt has to lead the way locally and globally if they want to stay in the business of snow “A new report from the US has shown it’s getting harder for ski resorts, we have to make the effort and lead from the front. When we’re so dependent on a colder climate, ski fields have to take that initiative.”

McKenzie noted they weren’t the only ones actively working hard in the community to reduce emissions, alongside their sister slopes The Remarkables and Coronet Peak small businesses are actively working to reduce emissions.

Mt Hutt Ski
Mt Hutt Ski

“These discussions are already happening in our hospitality and agricultural sector and because we’re a business that requires a cold climate into the future we have the appetite to take risk but there is power in the masses if we’re all trying these things and collaborating in our communities.”

Gamifying vehicle use has inspired solutions that are fun and tangible, “Our business analyst has produced a dashboard for us that shows by month how much carbon we’re producing, we can get down to the granular level and see how much fuel I personally used in my vehicle.”

“We take the exemplar behaviours and put them on the board and then also highlight those perhaps not driving as well, people get quite competitive about improving their results.”

These simple behaviour changes have impacts for the environment but also for the bottom line, reducing fuel and maintenance costs across their fleet.

“There are costs but sometimes you have to just reprioritise, we’re in the ski business so it’s a high priority to do the right thing, it’s important what we’re doing is making an impact and not just for show.”

The local Methven hospitality community will also benefit from the mountains initiatives, next year an Orca will be placed in the town for the hospitality industry to use.

No, they aren’t placing a live whale in the town, the Orca is a machine that uses microorganisms and oxygen to break down organic waste within 24 hours into a liquid that is then discharged safely into existing plumbing.

“Currently we’re only using about 15% of its processing capacity which is a waste, so we’ve reached out to the hospitality and accommodation sector in Methven and have said if we put this down in Methven you can get rid of all your organic waste too, there’s no cost to those businesses but it means we can fully utilise the Orca. We could have a smaller one but this way we can have a bigger impact and this doesn’t have any offsets which is perfect,” McKenzie says.

“Seeing the tangible benefit of the Orca in the community we hope other communities see our activities and maybe adopt things like the Orca. If we can collectively adopt new technologies then it becomes cheaper and more accessible and more communities can join in.”