You can gripe all you like about the chore of hauling your glass and metal and plastic to the recycling bins, but Signal Mountain Lodge goes farther.
The long drive from the lodge on Jackson Lake to the Teton County Recycling Center is a round trip of about 65 miles. Add a couple more for a trip to the county’s trash transfer station. And if you’re talking compostables, add some more for a trip to Haderlie Farms in Star Valley.
“There’s a lot of hauling involved,” said Eric Hatch, the lodge’s employee health and safety coordinator, who also oversees a big program for trash, garbage and recyclables. “It’s also a significant time investment.”
Some of the stuff is moved by Westbank Sanitation, some by the National Park Service — the lodge is in Grand Teton National Park — and some is hauled by lodge employees.
The trash and recyclable program is part of what recently earned Signal Mountain Lodge highest honors from the Riverwind Foundation, which gave the lodge its BEST Certification — BEST stands for Business Emerald Sustainability Tier.
Riverwind advertises the program as a way for businesses to “elevate ... sustainability practices to higher levels of environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic vitality.”
Signal Mountain general manager Jason Ryan commended Hatch for the award, but Hatch said it was the work of everyone at the lodge starting before he joined the staff about a year ago.
“The BEST Certification is something we’ve been looking at the last couple of years, and a lot of work was done by team members prior to my arriving,” he said.
Some Signal Mountain policies to cut down on waste go back more than 40 years. In addition to the long hauls of trash and recyclables, the lodge uses simple methods such as urging guests to turn the lights off and the thermostat down when they leave their rooms or to choose “organic and sustainable” choices from the menus at the Deadman’s Bar, Leek’s Pizzeria and Trapper Grill.
Other programs seek to reduce noise in the area of the lodge and cut nighttime light pollution. Eleven waterless urinals at Signal are estimated to save 240,000 gallons of water each year.
Hatch said the biggest part for him was inventorying everything required by Riverwind and everything done by the staff at Signal Mountain. The list of environmentally friendly standards to earn the BEST rating included 97 items in 14 categories, he said, and Riverwind’s scrutiny was “very thorough.”
“They look at everything we’re doing in recycling, lighting, hazardous waste, environmental protections across every department, every aspect,” Hatch said. He wasn’t into the process long before he realized it “was going to take a lot longer than I was imagining.”
Hatch estimated he spent most of two work weeks organizing the application.
Tim O’Donoghue, executive director of Riverwind Foundation, said in announcing the award that Signal Mountain has been “a long-time sustainability leader that has shown innovation in its environmental management policies in its operations, staff training and guest education.”
Signal Mountain Lodge operates during its summer season with close to 200 employees, though the pandemic cut that to about 65 this past summer. Hatch is among about 12 full-timers who make their home there year round.