Sustainability Simplified


Over the summer, API reached out to readers to learn about the sustainability-focused actions you are already taking at your operations. Here’s what some of you had to share:

Lori Pingle, Owner, ZipZone Outdoor Adventures: “We are a certified ‘GreenSpot’ in the city of Columbus, Ohio, and we do evaluations to ensure we meet the requirements of the program each year. We try to make sustainable choices, but not at the detriment of our business.” Those choices include recycling, opening doors instead of using air conditioning whenever possible, and other small initiatives.

The team at Ramblewild, Mass.: “We belong to a group of companies (Feronia Forests) created to promote forest conservation through sustainable business practices as an alternative to cutting down trees.” (The approach is called “sustainable full forestry.”) “We encourage guests to participate in these initiatives—leave no trace principles, recycling and composting programs, elimination of single-use plastics, etc.—as part of their experience with us.”

Alice Tibbetts, President, North Shore Adventure Park, Minn.: “[We’re] trying to switch away from plastic for beverages.”  The park encourages guests to bring refillable water bottles and provides water jugs for refills. If folks do bring plastic, recycling containers are everywhere, said Tibbetts, although not all guests avail themselves of the bins.

Bahman Azarm, CEO,
Outdoor Ventures: “Sustainability has always been a key part of the way we build and maintain our parks. It is also important to us that our customers feel that we build sustainably.” To support that mission, OV repurposes dead and dying trees to create wood-chip pathways that reduce soil compaction and retain moisture as well as builds benches and other amenities for guests. The company also minimizes waste by using wristbands instead of paper tickets; using electronic documents, waivers, communications, etc., wherever possible; selling reusable gloves rather than cheaper disposable options; and encouraging the use of reusable water bottles instead of single use cups.

Much of the aerial adventure industry depends on the natural environment to provide a safe and appealing space for our guests to play and explore. The safety and comfort of our spaces is less reliable than ever in our current climate-impacted world, though.

There are major wildfires spreading across our forests, tropical storms flooding places they haven’t reached before, record-high temperatures across the country, and many folks feeling that “the next cell phone video I see showing a natural disaster could be filmed in my backyard.”

Days of extreme weather can lead to business disruption and reduction of visitation for adventure parks. We want to get people outside, into trees, and into adventure. But what can we do to guarantee that our businesses have a future?

There are actions you can take to contribute to a future that limits climate change and weather impacts. Though this begs a series of questions—Where do you start? What parts of your business are contributing most to this issue? What sustainability initiatives have the highest impact and return on investment?—some solutions are relatively simple to implement.

Here, we’ll look at the tools you need to understand your business’s climate impact and identify some “low-hanging fruit” you can adopt to start reducing your operation’s contributions to climate change.


To calculate your business’s impact on the environment, it is useful to know that carbon emissions are typically broken down into three categories. These differentiate between business functions to help guide climate solutions, and are as follows:

Scope 1: Scope 1 emissions are the GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions that come directly from your operations. These include oil (propane/natural gas) used to heat your facilities, emissions produced by company vehicles, and wood burned for the staff party bonfire, among other fuel sources emitted directly by your facility. These are considered your “direct emissions’’ because the emissions go straight from your place of business into the atmosphere.

Scope 2: Scope 2 emissions are the GHG emissions generated from the purchased electricity used at your establishment. This scope of emissions is easy to calculate as it simply requires collecting the kilowatt-hours (kWh) usage on your business’s electric utility bills. Scope 2 emissions are considered an indirect source of GHG emissions.

Scope 3: Scope 3 emissions are generally considered the “Wild West” of emissions calculation because they incorporate all your indirect GHG emissions (apart from purchased electricity). These include emissions produced by employee commutes, guest travel, business travel, supply chain, deliveries, and even the production of any good or service that you use for your business. Scope 3 is often considered the most complex to calculate because of the vast sources of emissions.

Getting started. There are easy ways to get started with tracking your emissions. For example, tracking your heating gas usage in Scope 1 or tracking your Scope 2 emissions through your electric utility provider is as simple as looking at your bills from the fiscal year. Through this, you can calculate reductions (more on this later).

It is worth noting that Scope 3 emissions will invariably be the largest footprint and the most difficult to calculate. While aspects of Scope 3 emissions will be worthwhile to track—such as the emissions associated with your waste stream—those who are just beginning to invest in sustainability efforts may become overwhelmed if they begin by diving into the abyss of Scope 3 emissions.

Translation resources. To get an overall picture of your business’s impact on the environment, you’ll want to translate all your emissions into MTCO2e (metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among other sources, offers an online Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies calculator (see “Resources” sidebar, opposite page, for a link to the calculator) to help you convert units like kWh, gallons of gasoline, or therms of natural gas (1 therm is equal to 100 cubic feet of natural gas) into MTCO2e. This standard of calculation includes all greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane and ozone as well as CO2, and will allow you to measure which parts of your business are contributing most to your emissions and to climate change.


Even without calculating your MTCO2e, there are still a number of straightforward initiatives you can undertake to begin reducing your operation’s effect on the environment. These initiatives are a good place to start if your goal is to limit climate-change impacts.

Electricity. Some of the best emission reductions with the highest return on investment, as well as the greatest government incentives, are reductions in electric usage accomplished through efficiency projects. For example, replacing fluorescent lighting with LED lighting often produces an almost immediate ROI as well as a noticeable reduction in your Scope 2 emissions.

Other efficiency projects that are covered in the United States by a federal tax incentive program include heating and cooling as well as improvements to a building’s envelope (through insulation and repairs). Businesses within the United States can also look to the U.S. Department of Energy for grants, loans, and financial assistance (see “Resources” sidebar, opposite page, for links to more information).

Composting. Another place to start is waste reduction. Waste emissions are typically calculated by weight, so it is most impactful to eliminate the heaviest aspects of your waste stream first—this is typically food waste, as it is often wet and dense.

The most common and impactful way to eliminate food waste from your waste stream is by establishing a composting process. This will have an immediate and significant imact. Composting, a form of food waste recycling where leftover food is turned into usable soil, is available in many areas, both rural and urban, and it can be cheaper than hauling waste to a landfill.

In addition to the emission reduction, a three-stream waste system—landfill waste, recycling, and composting—is often viewed favorably by guests.

There are a few different types of composting, so it’s important to research what your local composting facility can accept. For example, while some industrial facilities can accept meats, oils, and dairy, others cannot.

You may also consider whether it is feasible, and worthwhile, to create your own compost system on site. Some variables to consider would be the amount and nature of the space and funds you have available. There are high-tech options that are on the pricey end, like a computer-controlled BioSpeed system from BioCoTech; there are also DIY options, such as a three-bin system.

To decide on the type of on-site system to use, first determine the amount of food waste your site produces. If you’ll only be composting staff lunch waste, for example, then a three-bin system would more than suffice. If you want to take it a step further, to compostable plates and leftovers from your food service locations, then something like a BioSpeed system would be better able to handle such volume.

Single-use plastics. Another way to reduce your waste is to reduce the amount of single-use plastics used at your facility. Plastic bottles have a recycling rate of less than 10 percent globally, with most plastics from bottled water and soda ending up in landfills, the ocean, and our local environments.

Aluminum bottle alternatives are a much more efficient way to provide customers with a re-sealable container. Water bottle refill stations (low- or high-tech) also help promote the use of reusable bottles. Instead of relying solely on customers to bring their own multi-use bottle, you can also sell branded aluminum water bottles to encourage guests to refill and reuse—and also add an appealing souvenir to your retail mix.


These achievable efforts offer a variety of ways to introduce sustainability programs to your aerial adventure operation. These examples are strategies I recommend to facilities just starting off in their sustainability journey. They are often easy to accomplish with little logistical effort and great pay-off, and are efforts that customers will notice, which can build brand loyalty—especially with the eco-conscious consumer.


EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalency Calculator:

Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction:

U.S. Dept. of Energy Grant, Loan, and Financing Programs:

Erika Kazi is the owner and director of Kazi Sustainability Consulting, LLC. She is passionate about inspiring small businesses to save money while reducing their environmental impact. [email protected].


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