Is AliKats the most sustainable chalet company in the French Alps?

Morzine-based chalet company, AliKats, launches its latest Climate Action Plan ready for the 2023/24 ski season, and publishes its annual Climate Progress Report looking back at the last year.

Founded more than 10 years ago by Al and Kat Judge, AliKats now has 12 high-end chalets in its portfolio across the resort of Morzine-Avoriaz in France. Each chalet is powered by electricity from 100% renewable energy, and Al and Kat are working with owners to install heating systems based on renewable energy such as air source heat pumps.

However, this is just one of the many areas that AliKats is focusing on in terms of sustainability. Al and Kat are trying to move towards a world where tourism goes beyond net zero and becomes an inspiring force of good. Together, their mission is to create a low-impact business and lifestyle whilst not compromising on the quality of the holidays, therefore, they have even more ambitious targets in their latest Climate Action Plan.

AliKats is situated in Morzine-Avoriaz, in the heart of Les Portes du Soleil, home to 600 km of pistes reaching 2,466 metres altitude across France and Switzerland. The varying elevations and terrain of the Portes du Soleil also makes it ideal for all types of weather. When winter storms set in, Morzine, below the treeline, is the place to be for visibility and shelter. And when the days become warmer, the high-altitude runs offer snow-sure conditions. Morzine-Avoriaz’s central position, contrast between the two villages, and great lift links also make it easy to enjoy, and explore, all the region has to offer.

For several years, AliKats has implemented many key practices, including creating a permaculture garden, using two electric vehicles for general transport around resort, reducing the amount of meat served, introducing a Bokashi composting system, buying more second hand goods, working with more local companies, and commencing a carbon offsetting initiative to guests.

All these inspirational methods have seen incredible results: AliKats has achieved a second year of zero food waste; the company has bought 26% less meat compared to last year; and Al and Kat have reduced Amazon expenditure by 85%.

In addition, AliKats launched an offer last winter (continuing this winter) that allows guests who travel by train, opt out of the hot tub, and eat a plant-based menu, to save up to 20% on their accommodation. Plus, the company launched a Responsible Hot Tub Initiative in August 2022; guests received £200 off the cost of their holiday for not using a hot tub. For summer 2023, 33 (out of 77 bookings) opted in to using the hot tub, meaning 78,000 litres of water and 2.1 tonnes of carbon emissions were saved. (Some of this was due to the 18 July to 31 October drought status in Haute Savoie, but it still shows the success of the practice.) AliKats also replaced 40% of its hot tub lids to help maintain temperatures, and improved all drainage systems to ensure dirty water was disposed of responsibly.

Together, this has meant AliKats’ emissions from 1 June 2022 to 31 May 2023 were 84 tonnes (compared to 101 tonnes from 1 June 2021 to 31 May 2022 – a decrease of 17%).

But what is a company without its staff? Last year, AliKats introduced successful measures to ensure employees are engaged, rewarded, and well-rested. This meant working hours were reduced by 25% whilst keeping pay the same, five additional team members were employed, and all staff received two full days off work (per week) compared to 1.5 days previously.

Keen to continue these positive, and instrumental, changes, AliKats’ Climate Action Plan for this year, and beyond, has even more aspiring strategies.

AliKats will continue to promote packages that help guests reduce the impact of their holiday and reward those who choose sustainable travel, such as opting out of having a hot tub, travelling to resort by train, and selecting a plant-based menu. AliKats’ Responsible Hot Tub Initiative will power ahead, and although only two bookings have opted out of using the hot tub so far this winter, it’s still early days. Fees will also remain in place for guests requesting mid-week water changes.

Al and Kat are also on the lookout to increase solar energy across their business and the resort; they recently partnered with a company and installed solar panels on their house, effectively piloting the use of solar panels for the valley.

Across their 12 chalets, Al and Kat are working hard to eliminate oil-fired heaters and introduce air-source heat pumps; 90% of the chalets are heated through renewable energy systems. They are also building renewable energy for heating (and electricity) into every new chalet contract (properties are leased).

Following their success at reducing the amount of meat purchased last year, AliKats is keen to keep this to a minimum whilst maintaining the fine dining standard the company has won awards for over the years. Therefore, all starters are vegetarian and only four (of 15 courses) served on the main menu contain meat.

AliKats will also stay focused when it comes to improving the composting and recycling system; increasing the fleet of electric vehicles (including purchasing an electric minivan for slope runs and general transport of guests around resort); making signage more noticeable and compelling to encourage those staying to turn off lights, take the bus, and recycle etc.; repairing and upcycling items and materials as much as possible; reducing Amazon expenditure even more; supporting local suppliers and partners; and upholding its commitment to zero food waste.

Striving for further CO2 reduction is also key; AliKats will continue its partnership with Foundation GoodPlanet (a French non-profit organisation running environmental and social field projects) and Nu Cycle (designed to remove waste from places where it ends up, including landfills, waterways and oceans). AliKats will also remain invested in carbon-reducing projects, enable guests to measure and mitigate the carbon produced by their transport, and communicate the progress of all plans and share best practice examples that can be adopted by other individuals and businesses.

AliKats’ unwavering commitment to the environment hasn’t gone unnoticed; earlier this year (12 July 2023) the company won gold in the category Global Good SME of the Year at the prestigious Global Good Awards. Now in its ninth year, the Global Good Awards recognise responsible and sustainable practices, and reward change in all organisations, big or small; building platforms to learn, share and progress ideas; encouraging development of engaged and ethical business practices as well as the democratisation of sustainability.

Alongside making AliKats the most sustainable it can be, Al and Kat are always wanting to share their passion for the environment and wealth of knowledge and ideas to a wider audience. Together, they helped found Montagne Verte, a non-profit local association to mobilize change across all 15 towns and villages within the Haute Chablais region. Earlier this year they took a group of Mayors from the towns on a field trip to Zermatt to discover and discuss the eco-processes of the car-free Swiss resort. In addition, Montagne Verte has launched Morzine’s first bio-waste scheme to divert food from landfill; created the AlpinExpress Pass (a campaign to reward those who travel to Morzine by train with a range of discounts across accommodation, transfers, ski hire and more); and established a charity shop in Morzine selling and repairing second-hand clothes and mountain gear.

Al Judge has gone one step further by being appointed to lead the sustainability strategy for the industry by Seasonal Business in Travel (SBit). This voluntary role means Al, and the team, will be working on ways to decarbonise travel between the UK and the Alps – with the first stop being to make train and coach the preferred methods of transport to the Alps by 2030.

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