Landfill to Ski Hill

We all know the mantra Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Reclaim and as hard as we try to live by these values in our everyday lives, we can’t ignore the fact that humans have a long history of consumption and waste production. One of the most common reminders of human waste are the many landfills that dot our landscapes. Although landfills get a bad rap for unsightly nature, stink and all around grossness, there is hope for a more pleasant and constructive relationship with these places when we look at projects like the Freshkills Park in Staten Island, New York.

A rendering of the 47-acre solar installation at Freshkills Park on Staten Island.

The Freshkills landfill used to be the largest working landfill in the US, but these days the space is undergoing a major greening process to create a park that will eventually be three times larger than New York City’s Central Park. While the project will take more than 30 years to complete, the outcome will be one of the largest urban green spaces in the world. By 2016, miles of trails will begin to provide a natural setting for outdoor activities such as nordic skiing in the winter and biking, running and horseback riding in the summer months. The acres of restored land in Freshkills will be equipped with renewable energy projects and will also become a sanctuary for dozens of species of animals.

There are many more examples of landfill conversions throughout the world, but what about converting landfills into ski resorts for us snow lovers? Crystal Ridge, now The Rock, in Wisconsin is actually built on a garbage dump and Mt Brighton in Michigan was made famous for it’s 1993 appearance in ‘Aspen Extreme’. This man made resort was actually built using hundreds of tons of excess road debris from nearby construction work.

What places like Freshkills, Crystal Ridge and Mt. Brighton teach us is that not only do we need to look to the future when practicing the four R’s of sustainability, but also that we can look to the past and recognize opportunities to reinvent the many places where we have had unfavorable impacts on our planet.

By AI Blog contributor: Sarah Frood