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Monday, August 9, 2010
Updated: August 13, 7:52 PM ET
Sustainable South American Shredding


The Bariloche basural -- or city dump -- with a few bags of recycled bottles in the foreground. (right)SASS coach Michelle Parker putting together the walls for a plastic bottle cold-frame greenhouse.

The standard knowledge one usually takes away from shred camp is: "Stay low, bend your knees, lead with your shoulders." This year South America Snow Sessions is looking to add an understanding of the environment, and an ethos of protecting the winter climate, into its learning lineup. Based out of the sky-high Argentine mountain town of Bariloche, SASS is pursuing a solid quiver of projects this summer (winter for those lucky enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere) that will add to the company's sustainability-focused bottom line, engage campers in service activity, and help the local community.

The first of these initiatives involves collecting hundreds of discarded plastic bottles and stacking them on bamboo frames in order to create a series of cold-frame greenhouses. SASS will donate the green houses to locals who want to start CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture -- basically locally-grown, sold and purchased produce).

"In the winter especially, there is very little access to fresh produce, so this was a project one of our Argentine coaches thought we should consider," says SASS Director of Sustainability, Ryan Dunfee.

Second on the list is commissioning a biodiesel reactor that will take waste vegetable oil and turn it into usable biodiesel to power SASS's local transportation. They are already collecting the oil from local restaurants happy to donate their "trash," and Dunfee says that he hopes to turn over the reactor to Bariloche's burgeoning community recycling program, Asociacion de Recicladores de Bariloche, to aid in waste management and sustainably-powered transportation.

Camper James Haffer shreds the palmero trees while the hot water heater for the SASS biodiesel converter gets set up back at camp.

Rounding out the program is the responsibility SASS is taking the carbon footprint created by the running of camp. To mitigate the fact that most of their campers and coaches get to Argentina by way of an international plane flight, SASS has launched a carbon offset program in partnership with Wulcon Energy and EcoAndina Foundation. Typical carbon offsets involve calculating the amount of CO2 emitted in an activity like plane flight, and then investing an equal amount in a project that absorbs or offsets carbon, like tree planting or renewable energy. SASS's offsets go a step further by investing in projects right in the destination country -- the funding goes towards helping build "solar villages" in the rural desert northwest of Argentina called La Puna.

Sure, edge control and dialing in that extra rotation on a spin are still on the coaches' docket of items to cover in shred camp -- but given the close connection between the winter activities they promote, and the potential peril climate change could have on the winter-based life we all know and love, sustainability is also very much on the SASS lesson plan.