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Some huts offer basic amenities at 3,000 metres above sea level

Can mountain huts become more sustainable?

Can mountain huts become more sustainable?

Researchers from Innsbruck in Austria and the German Alpine Association are working on a guide to sustainable mountaineering

Researchers at the University of Innsbruck and the German Alpine Association (DAV) have developed guidelines for sustainable mountaineering. The research focuses on huts and shelters in the Alps as well as on reducing waste and emissions, as per a recent report by ORF, the Austrian national broadcasting agency.

The project is called Alpine Nachhaltigkeit auf Hütten (Alpine Sustainability for Huts) and it focuses on case studies from the Austrian federal state of Tyrol and the German federal state of Bavaria. The final results of the research should be published by the middle of 2022, however, preliminary publications give a glimpse into what the researchers were envisioning while developing their guidelines.

Energy, food and water – the cornerstones of the alpine hut

Mountaineering is an extremely popular pastime in all countries bordering the alpine region. Austria alone has over 170 mountain huts and even more shelters. Huts offer skiers and hikers – everyone who wants to enjoy their trip into nature – a warm meal and a bed.

The more luxurious ones have showers and even contactless payments at 3,000 metres above sea level. And here lies the big issue with huts, because they are so remote but need to be able to provide people with some services, certain infrastructures could become quite unsustainable. This could largely be attributed to the constant need for food delivery, water and energy – the main things that a hut offers.

Consequently, one of the key recommendations the research makes is for huts to develop their own self-sufficient energy supply, through renewable sources like wind and solar. This would, however, be supplemented with a reduced consumption scheme, through dimmable lights, deactivation of outside lights when they are not being used and flow limiters in showers.

In terms of food, the research recommends the introduction of more vegetarian and vegan dishes, to reduce the impact of the food purchases themselves. At the same time, they cite reducing food waste, storage and efficient transport, as the main pillars of sustainable food.

According to Jutta Kister, the project manager of the project, some of these measures have already been implemented in the huts that had been examined as part of the research. She explained that the project aims to identify which of these measures can be implemented locally and which areas are already a focus for hut managers.

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