Banff Jasper Collection

For Tristan Maclaggan, it's the small things that make a difference. And, given that he's part of a team responsible for managing waste at the top of a mountain in a national park, the challenge is anything but small.

All garbage—just like all people—must move down from the summit of Sulphur Mountain by gondola. It's far from simple, logistically. But slowly, this team is making a real difference.

In April 2018, the Banff Gondola's Sky Bistro went straw-free. There was no fanfare or complex study required. For Sky's Food and Beverage Manager Maclaggan, who was involved in implementing plastic-reduction initiatives in places like golf clubs, wineries and hotels around the world before coming to Sky Bistro, it really was 'simple'.

"We just did it. In April, we took them off the list and there's been zero push back," he says. "People are aware of the environment; they're switched on. It's something that just resonates with the public, with our guests."

A glass of beer glows in the sunlight.

He says although going plastic-free at Sky Bistro has been a challenge, it's been a smooth transition. Straws, after all, aren't necessary and Maclaggan says 95 percent of them aren't even used once provided. In a restaurant that does 500 covers a day, that's a major reduction. And a few remain on hand for guests with disabilities and other special requests. Once Sky Bistro went entirely straw-free, the Gondola's other restaurant outlets, Northern Lights and Caste Mountain Coffee, are now in a similar process.

"We just did it. In April, we took them off the list and there's been zero push back,"

Maclaggan says this has resulted in a reduction of close to 10,000 straws every month. And it's just one of a handful of initiatives the team have put into place at the Banff Gondola.

While it can be easier and cheaper to stay with the old ways, the Gondola team is showing that these small steps aren't so daunting.

For these kind of culture-change initiatives, Maclaggan says it's important to stay positive. "We're about finding small successes in everything we do," he says.

A gondola glides up above tree-covered mountains.

And when you're on the top of a mountain in Banff National Park, taking even a small initiative is crucial.

"We're in a national park—people are respectful about leaving as little of a footprint as possible here," he says. "This is just one small example of the greater picture of reducing waste in the park."

Some other initiatives the Gondola Food and Beverage Team has taken to reduce plastics include:

  • Straw-free: Since April 2018 at Sky Bistro. Northern Lights and Castle Mountain Coffee are now following.
  • Northern Lights beverage cups: Reduced disposing of 600 drink cups at the Coca-Cola self-serve drink fountain via reusable cups (the only ones in the area). Installed special dishwasher.
  • Castle Mountain Coffee: Eliminated individually-packaged sugar and honey. Removed plastic stir sticks.
  • Staff meals: Now 100% reusable dishes required for staff meals (up to 250 staff meals/day).
  • Throughout: New garbage bins with recycling and appropriate signage that are language-appropriate.
  • Composting: A new comprehensive organic composting program reduced 40% of waste for the Banff Gondola.
  • Sunset Festival: Souvenir take-home beer mugs mean zero toss-aways.

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