Local experts discuss tourism and climate change

Experts got together at Crystal Mountain Friday morning to discuss climate change and the impact it has on Michigan tourism.

Representatives from the resort, the Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI), Clean Water Action, and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) all spoke about how our climate has changed over the years - and how it impacts tourism.

Since tourism generates around 17 million dollars a year and provides thousands of jobs across the state, they stressed the importance of preserving the environment for future generations.

Crystal Mountain has made multiple adjustments to be more environmentally friendly. The resort replaced a lot of the light bulbs with LED lightbulbs (which use 1/10 of the amount of energy), installed larger pipes for snowmaking (which reduces friction-saving hundreds of horsepower when pumping water), completed work on the insulation, put in motion switches, tried to make the entire resort area a walkable community, cool the air with water (water is run through chillers, eliminating the need for a cooling tower) and then run the water into the golf course irrigation pond, and the resort uses heat from the pool air to warm the rooms in the spa (eliminating the need to run a boiler).

"There are just a lot of issues with the emissions from fossil fuel type plants that really hurt the environment up here - which is why we're all here, why our guests come to visit this area," said Jim MacInnes, the Crystal Mountain President and CEO. "They want to see trees, live trees, they don't want to see dead trees."

MacInnes says there are a few reasons to start changing the way things are run - reducing fossil fuel consumption (fossil fuels are getting more expensive), climate change (there's a need to reduce our carbon footprint), and it makes sense for business (i.e. the lightbulb project paid for itself in a matter of months and the resort will continue to save money because of it).

The MLUI representative commented on their teamwork with Traverse City Light and Power to promote making homes in the area more efficient - noting that energy efficiency is the easiest way to reduce greenhouse gases that may harm the tourism industry.

Both representatives from the NWF and Michigan Clean Water Action discussed how vital the tourism industry is to northern Michigan. Studies show nearly 84 percent of Michiganders feel outdoor recreation is important. The reps stressed that coupling the president's plan with local action is extremely important because climate change is occuring, and the time to find solutions is now.

All of the representatives Friday noted this isn't a one-person or one-business effort - they need everyone in the entire community to pitch in to preserve the best that northern Michigan has to offer.