The Environment

Protect Our Winters UK | How A Piste Map Could Make You A Climate Change Activist

We speak to the snowsport charity raising awareness and campaigning for pro-active action on climate change

The world of action sports and adventure is more climate-conscious than a lot of other communities. We have a front row seat to watch the way the climate is impacting our waves, mountains and weather patterns year after year, and as such, most outdoor enthusiasts feel an affinity to nature and a responsibility at some level to do their part to look after the planet.

But, since many adventurers are also travellers, and we also often have to fly or drive a long way to get to the next climbing wall, ski slope, surf break or mountain bike trail, we certainly aren’t perfect.

So how do you keep your carbon footprint low while still living a life of adventure?

Protect Our Winters (POW), started by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones in the USA 10 years ago in 2009, were created to ask and provide answers to this question, and are dedicated to raising awareness of the threats posed by climate change across the world.

POW UK, the British branch of Protect Our Winters, have a campaign to encourage the implementation of personal lifestyle changes which they call the ‘POW Mountain’. It looks at climate action in the terminology of a resort map, from entry-level green runs, easy stuff that you can change day to day, to black run-action based on activism and “influencing money”.

We got in touch with Sandy Trust, founder of Protect Our Winters UK, to talk us through the colour map.

Infographic: Protect Our Winters

The Green Run: Personal Lifestyle Choices

“A green run is all about a personal lifestyle choice,” says Sandy, “and that’s the sort of things that we’re seeing starting to get picked up in the mainstream like eating less meat and electric vehicles and switching your electricity supplier.

“It involves thinking about your transport choices, whether you can take public transport or cycle instead of driving, and there’s a carbon offsetting piece to that as well.”

Photo: Aaron Barnaby

Carbon offsetting is the process of paying offsetting the carbon footprint of a flight or journey made by donating to a project set up specifically to remove carbon from the atmosphere through methods like reforestation. POW UK work with an offsetting company called Mossy Earth, and we recently chatted to offsetting NGO MyClimate about the process behind carbon offsetting, if you’re interested in reading more.

POW UK sum up the green run stage by emphasising that you “start to feel great about the positive action you’re taking”, with the hope that it will lead on to further actions.

The Blue Run: Spread The Word

Photo: Marcus Lofvenberg

“The blue run is getting into influencing,” Sandy says. “Talking to your friends and your family and introducing these ideas into your workplace and trying to normalise climate change as a conversation.

“People don’t tend to talk about climate change except when they’re pissed around a table! We would love for it just to become part of the conversation; you talk about the riding, the equipment, about what you’re doing for climate change or Protect Our Winters, what you’re going to do for apres ski.

“We’re looking to replicate what Surf Against Sewage have done very successfully with their regional reps – they’ve got 150 regional reps around Britain and they activate over 70,000 volunteers to do beach cleans – and we’re looking to replicate that with our Winter Guardians programme, working with university ski clubs and people in other sports and other snow locations.”

The Winter Guardians are POW UK’s outdoor enthusiasts whose role is to, effectively, get people to think more about the stuff that’s in the green runs of this article. The next stage from making those changes, is to spread the word and get other people making them.

“Consciousness is going up as people start to see the weather impacts but is it going quickly enough?” says Sandy. “No. And that’s why we exist really.”

The Red Run: Campaign for Sustainability

Photo: Markus Spiske

“A red run is all about corporate sustainability and what can you do as a business, as an outdoor brand,” Sandy says. “A few weeks ago we met NewCo travel and Wasteland and they already offset all their trips as standard. We think all tour operators should be doing that. Everybody should have a zero carbon emission ski trip – that is possible now.

“People need to start talking about this and we need to start living a low carbon culture in the outdoor community. Talking and campaigning can make an enormous impact.

“Look at what’s happening with plastics, you reach that level of societal, moral outrage. And then things change quite quickly. At the BBC you can’t even buy a packet of crisps or chocolate from the vending machine because they won’t have the wrapping.”

POW UK point out that there are good companies and bad companies, “but they all listen to their customers” and encourage those on the red slopes to find out about their employer’s stance on sustainability policies, present to colleagues with POW support and think about how you can influence the companies you engage with to take action.

The Black Run: Influence the Money

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

“Since the Paris Agreement, banks have funded just under two trillion in investment in new fossil fuel exploration discovery,” says Sandy. “That’s the problem and that’s what we’re up against, but that’s where public sentiment can impact policy and shifts.”

The black stage is the final run on the POW Mountain. It encourages activists to ask their employers about pension investment policy, aiming to move to climate-aware funds with active stewardship, with POW support. It asks you to engage with your bank and ask who they do, and do not, lend money to, and to invest their money wisely in a climate-friendly way.

“Something that people don’t think about very often is money and investment,” Sandy says. “Everyone has a bank account but what is that bank account doing with your money? Is it still financing fossil fuel companies?”

POW UK recently ran a campaign called “ask your bank to be cool on climate change”, which asked followers to highlight their concerns about climate change to their banks and aimed to increase public demand for sustainability in finance.

Sandy and the POW UK team are aware that everyone is interested in different parts of their POW mountain, in terms of what they are prepared to do and what they’re maybe not quite ready for yet. Their aim is simply to break down climate activism into measurable steps, and to encourage people to get as involved as they possibly can, and into the conversation.

“Everyone is at a different stage, which is quite like skiing and snowboarding,” says Sandy.

“If you do something at your level then it can be really fun and exciting, even if you’re just learning to ski or snowboard and you’re on a green slope and we wanted to replicate that, then anyone who gets really into it can go further and eventually end up on black.

“If you start by eating less meat, you can get on to looking at the other stuff eventually!”

Head to the official Protect Our Winters UK website to hear more about getting involved.

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