July 29, 2019 | News | No Comments
26th Jul 2019
“Ain’t no mountain high enough!” reads the slogan on Bally’s new Peak Outlook T-shirts. The first thing that pops to mind is the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell song. (You’re singing it, I know you’re singing it.) There is a serious message here though.
Peak Outlook is the Swiss luxury brand’s new eco initiative, designed to preserve extreme mountain environments. The first phase sees the brand partner with Sherpas to clean the world’s highest peak in Nepal.
Yep, there’s garbage on Everest. The mission, led by Dawa Steven Sherpa, removed more than one tonne of waste in April and May, half of it from above 8000 metres.
So where does it all come from? Last month, international news outlets jumped on the story of “the world’s highest garbage dump” after a Nepali official told the that the first government cleanup had resulted in 11,000 kilos of trash being removed from the mountain, and flown to Kathmandu by helicopter.
This matter-out-of-place included “empty oxygen cylinders, plastic bottles, cans, batteries, food wrappings, fecal matter and kitchen waste,” not to mention the corpses of four lost climbers.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” says Dawa. “On the one hand, we are cleaning the mountains (and they getting cleaner) which is important, but when we say, ‘We just took all this garbage out!’ people think, ‘Oh, wow it must be such dump.’ It’s not like that. However, garbage and climate change are two major issues that are affecting my homeland.”
Image credit: Courtesy of Bally
Dawa runs Eco Everest tours to raise awareness. They began removing rubbish from the mountain in 2008. He’s given TED Talks and travels the world spreading the message. For his community, the mountains are sacred as well as their source of livelihood.
“Climbing has changed,” he says. “In the older days there were less people, and their impact was not immediately apparent. If you left something there it would get swallowed by the glacier and you’d never see it again. But as more people came, more garbage was left. We can see that quite clearly. What’s also happened is that old garbage is starting to resurface, especially where the glaciers melt. The Himalayas are heating,” he says.
He offers the little-known example of a 1970s Italian army helicopter used to supply oxygen up to Camp 2, rather than getting climbers to carry it up. “It crashed on the mountain. They abandoned it, and it was swallowed up. About eight years ago, it started to resurface. We are finding parts of that helicopter coming out, even today. That is verifiably debris from decades ago.”
Is there nowhere humans do not sully? Images of a trash-strewn Everest tug at the heart. One feels the same horror as when looking at pictures of isolated beaches littered with plastic water bottles and candy wrappers.
“This garbage was taken there by people, so it can be taken off by people,” says Dawa. “What Bally is doing in supporting this project is very important. They are a brand born in the mountains [of Switzerland]. This is something they truly care about.”
Image credit: Courtesy of Bally
He hopes the project will capture people’s imaginations and spur them to take action on behalf of the environment wherever they are. “We can reverse our negative actions. A bunch of mountaineers can’t resolve climate change; that needs action on a far larger scale. But it’s human beings who have to do it. It’s still up to us.”
Bally’s new CEO Nicolas Girotto has been a driving force behind Peak Outlook. “I see this initiative as one that represents our broader commitment to sustainability, as a tool – clearly not a commercial one – to show Bally’s commitment internally. People want to work for companies that make real commitments to positive environmental action.”
Girotto has been making sustainability a priority since he was announced as Frédéric de Narp’s replacement in May (previously Girotto was COO; de Narp is now vice president).
“By definition we produce durable products, and we are clearly at the opposite end of the spectrum to fast fashion, but this is not enough,” he says. “We need to be aware that our production and logistics have an environmental footprint, and we need to reduce it.”
While he is not yet ready to talk detail about Bally’s new sustainability roadmap, he says they’ve “completed a baseline assessment of our footprint” and are establishing “concrete targets and measurable objectives for the short, medium and long-term” to be made public later in the year.
“Working on the supply chain is mandatory, but it can be difficult to communicate,” he says. “There is value in Peak Outlook doing something broader for the environment. For us, this is absolutely authentic. It’s linked with our heritage and history, and there’s more to come.”