Tahoe could set global example of sustainable environment, economy

Reno Gazette-Journal
By Jeff DeLong

Lake Tahoe could provide a global example of a sustainable environment and economy if full advantage is taken of its many natural attributes, conservationists, business representatives and others agreed Thursday.

Toward that purpose, members of the Lake Tahoe Stewardship Congress — many arriving at Sand Harbor State Park by boat, bus or other means of alternative transportation — discussed early details of a Tahoe Sustainability Exposition planned for several days next August across the Tahoe Basin.

Nature hikes, water transit and recycling tours, demonstration gardens and similar activities were discussed as possible events that could help “launch Tahoe as a world stage for sustainable stewardship” through the exposition and related efforts, said Jacquie Chandler, executive director of the nonprofit group Sustainable Tahoe.

With about $1.5 billion already spent to restore a troubled environment at Lake Tahoe, attention must also turn to the need to develop a sustainable tourism base – one far different than the 1950s-style gaming industry that “ran out of gas,” Chandler said.

Central to the goal is the promotion of “geotourism,” that would promote Tahoe’s stunning natural attributes and outdoor activities that do no further harm to the stressed environment. Plans also call for an additional emphasis to be placed on businesses promoting health and wellness.

“The menu being promoted right now is not what’s preserving the lake,” Chandler said.

While substantial progress in restoring Tahoe has been made, boosting an ailing economy will prove critical to paying for costly environmental upgrades needed in the future, said Charles Goldman, a pioneer Tahoe researcher.

David Hansen, chief engineer for Embassy Suites in South Lake Tahoe, spoke of highly successful efforts at his property to reduce energy consumption, food waste and the use of Styrofoam and plastic while increasing recycling. Changing environmental practices at Tahoe’s businesses can and must be a part of the future, Hansen said.

“It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” Hansen said. “Corporate America can change this world.”

Sustainability will continue as a critical goal at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, said Richard Rubsamen. The college president rode to Thursday’s event on an electric scooter. Rubsamen said he plans to make Sierra Nevada the first entire campus in the world to be LEED certified for environmental responsibility.

Harmon Zuckerman, who is leading the Tahoe Regional Agency’s efforts to update a regional land-use plan for the basin, said there’s no shortage of ways to make Tahoe’s future bright and sustainable.

“Inspiration may be Tahoe’s most marketable quality,” Zuckerman said. “Tahoe is indeed a world stage. Let’s put on a better show.”