YOSEMITE — Sustainable tourism” is a term that is often tossed around at this time of year, but what exactly does it mean? The United Nations World Tourism Organization defines it as “tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future.”
Yosemite inspires a love for nature, and now, travelers can make a better choice at the doorstep of this world wonder by supporting two family-owned businesses dedicated to sustainable practices.
“Earlier this year, I received a phone call from a journalist asking what the businesses outside of Yosemite were doing to protect the environment,” recounts Brooke Smith, Director of Public Relations and spokesperson at Visit Yosemite – Madera County. “The question inspired me to share more success stories from the leaders who are making real contributions toward such efforts. Today, Visit Yosemite – Madera County is highlighting business owners that make decisions based on what is good for their teams, good for their community, good for their guests, and good for the planet.”
First up, is Sierra Meadows, a glamping resort that has inspired guests and neighbors with its restorative initiatives.
Owners Charlie Sheldon and Reid Spice have a lot of love for the planet. They purchased the land as an 18-hole golf course and diligently transformed the property into a beacon for eco-conscious travelers. Today, the rewilding landscape is no longer a golf course, it’s now filled with native, drought-tolerant plants, walking paths, and large sculptures.
Inspiringly, restoring natural habitats for bunnies, deer, skunks, and badgers was only the beginning. These Earth allies installed a major solar panel system in 2017 that generates more electricity than is needed to run the resort. There is free electrical vehicle charging for all guests, an all-electric fleet for their housekeeping staff, and the latest improvement is the transition to all-electric landscaping equipment including the souped-up, all-electric, riding lawnmower pictured above.
“To me, a turning point in the way I thought about our impact on the planet came when I read an article that explained that the two-stroke engine in your average leaf blower emits more pollution in an hour than a vehicle driving 1,100 miles,” explains Reid. “That got me thinking. We’d just installed a massive solar energy system at our resort and I wondered, ‘Could we completely phase out the use of gasoline on our property in favor of renewables?’ Turns out the answer is yes, we are actually pretty close to reaching that goal this year!”
In addition to renewable energy sources like the sun, Sierra Meadows has done away with plastic water bottles. Their well-insulated cabins are energy-efficient, water-efficient, and very well-appointed despite no single-use plastics. The detergents in the laundry facility are dye-free and fragrance-free, plus all soaps and paper goods are ordered in bulk, arriving on palates that use the least amount of packaging possible.
“It’s not just our own personal initiatives that have driven us to make these changes,” Reid elaborates. “Our guests are asking about our best practices and want to know what we are doing to mitigate the impact and footprint of a visit to Yosemite.”
Established in October 2020, the co-owners Mike Broderick and Jorge Negrete started the bike shop when their executive positions at a nearby resort were eliminated during the pandemic. This setback didn’t keep them down. They took their passion and expertise to a new venture.
“When I was the Environmental Manager at my previous employer, I was cautious to practice what I preach. Now as a co-owner of Pedal Forward Bikes & Adventure, I have that same commitment,” explains Jorge. “Since day one, I have been very concerned with operating our business responsibly.”
Pedal Forward Bikes & Adventure uses solvents and cleaners that are 100% biodegradable. They buy locally and invest locally, sourcing t-shirts, signs, and coffee from small local businesses. The shop purchases bamboo toilet paper and washes cloth shop rags for bike cleanings. Pedal Forward has a passion for the community and participating in trail maintenance and clean-up events with local trails co-operatives is core to their business strategy.
At Pedal Forward there is a ‘fix it first’ philosophy, offering customers the option of used parts that are in good condition before sourcing new ones. They also receive used bikes in any condition to reuse components or fix up and donate to somebody in need. They reuse packaging, boxes, foam, and bubble wrap when shipping to customers. And of course, they recycle, but more than that, they track the data.
In 2021, the total amount of trash and recyclables waste was over 2,330 pounds. However, the total amount of trash sent to the landfill was just 151.9 pounds, or 6.5%. The total of all recyclables was just under 2,179 pounds, giving them a diversion percentage of 93.5%! Anything over 90% diversion can be classified as attaining “Zero Waste” standards.
However, they are not stopping there. Moving forward, the owners of Pedal Forward Bikes & Adventure are focused on working with companies that have the same sustainability goals. They are willing to start difficult conversations with manufacturers in order to show that they care about the way products are produced and packaged.
Of course, there is still room for improvement, but at Pedal Forward Bikes & Adventure they will continue to buy smart and put their money where it matters to make a difference.
“By sharing stories from two small businesses that have made big changes, our hope is that others will become inspired, creating a ripple effect, and hopefully by next Earth Day, we will have even more positive news to report from the south gate of Yosemite National Park,” concludes Brooke Smith.
About Visit Yosemite – Madera County
Formed in 1985, Visit Yosemite – Madera County’s mission is to draw the millions of Yosemite National Park visitors to its gateway’s many businesses and attractions. We invite visitors to take a journey from the Fossil Discovery Center to the Madera Wine Trail and onward into the High Sierra. Discover incredible dining, talented tradespersons, four seasons of water sports at Bass Lake, the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, and mighty adventures right up to the massive giant Sequoia trees. Madera County is the gateway to so much more.