Meet Luke Cartin, Park City’s new Environmental Sustainability Manager
August 26, 2016
After graduating in 2001 with an environmental science degree from the State University of New York, Luke Cartin loaded his truck for the trip West. Following a familiar narrative, he promised friends and family he'd work at a ski resort for one winter. Fifteen years later, he vows he'll never take a job that is not based in a ski town.
As Park City's new Environmental Sustainability Manager, Cartin, 37, said he is proud to join his new employer's effort to effectively combine the community's economic and environmental goals. A few weeks into his new job, Cartin can already recognize a deep Park City pride.
"Whether I'm working with someone on the legal team or talking to a bus driver, you can tell they really care about this town," Cartin says.
Over the past 14 years, Cartin climbed the ranks at Vail Resorts. From a ski bum in charge of recycling compliance, to Senior Mountain Environmental Affairs Manager, he has always brought his love for the outdoors to his work.
When working at Vail Resorts, Cartin said he spearheaded clean-energy initiatives and helped the company become the second largest corporate buyer of wind credit in the nation behind Whole Foods.
After the 2002 Haymen Wildfire, Colorado’s largest recorded forest fire that destroyed 138,114 acres, Cartin urged the company to help out.
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According to Cartin, the fire not only jeopardized watersheds for 75 percent of Colorado residents, but "it burned so hot that it actually sterilized the topsoil." Vail Resorts reacted by giving $4 million dollars to forest regeneration efforts.
In the fall of 2004, Cartin was awarded the Pollution Prevention Champion Award, which celebrated his efforts in "providing ski area leadership in pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and renewable energy."
When Vail bought Park City Mountain Resort, the rare opportunity came for Cartin to help link two world-class resorts. He said he gladly turned his attention to the company's Utah projects.
"There's just something special about this town," says Cartin.
So far, his favorite things about Park City are the rich mining history and ultra-outdoorsy locals. "I love how everyone here gets antsy if they haven't been outside." As a trail-runner, skier and fresh air fiend, Cartin said he sometimes feels overwhelmed with all the local opportunities for adventure.
During last year's PCMR expansion, Cartin was in charge of the water quality program that included mapping, permitting, training and compliance. While working at PCMR, Cartin found that resort and town workers have "great pride in what they do." Whether it's as member of a legal team or the bus driver, there's an excitement for sustainability that's woven into the culture of this place, he added.
Cartin sees a lot of similarities between the town of Vail and Park City. Beyond the mountain views, "Vail and Park City both battle with issues such as affordable housing, parking, and conservation because everyone wants to be here."
As in any relationship, he said, the town and the resort will disagree on certain issues.
"It's going to take time for Park City to get comfortable with Vail Resorts" he said but he believes the two share a passion for the community and sustainability.
However, a major difference between Park City and Vail is land ownership. In Vail township, 80 percent of the land is federally owned and run by U.S. Forest Service. Since a majority of Park City's green space is privately owned, there's always the fear of over-development.
Having a majority of private land ownership does have its perks, though, he said. "I think the privately owned land in Park City is one reason why there is such an awesome trail system here."
Another similarity between the two resort towns is the high cost of living. Cartin pointed out that, when people complain about pricey rents, "they don't always take into account all the free amenities we enjoy." He cited the free public transit system, free concerts and the extensive trails network as examples.
Cartin said the city sustainability team's most pressing goal is titled "Net Zero 2022." The aggressive plan is to make town operations carbon neutral by the year 2022. Having net zero emissions means balancing a measured amount of carbon released, with an equal amount of carbon credits to offset the difference. Credits are earned by creating more open green space to absorb carbon, switching to renewable energy sources and implementing tighter environmental regulations.
The city's long-term goal, "Net Zero 2032", aims to achieve citywide carbon neutrality by the year 2032. With help from Rocky Mountain Power, Park City will be changing the current coal-dependent grid to renewables in the next 16 years.
Both Net Zero plans are getting a lot of attention. In May, the Mayor of Salt Lake City, Jackie Biskupski, vowed that her city would match Park City’s net zero goals.
Cartin says this is an exciting time for the state of Utah to set an example for the world. Clean energies, like solar, are becoming less expensive, and "the sun's never going to send you a bill."
He noted that Park City is already taking big steps toward the net neutrality by improving public transportation with rapid transit lines and buying zero-emissions electric buses.
Overall, Cartin has been is excited about residents' commitment "It's not like pulling teeth here because people are already so supportive."
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