It all started with an ‘I wonder…’ moment. Ten years ago, Cardrona Alpine Resort’s Food and Beverage Manager, Russell (Russ) Mackintosh wondered if they could remove plastic packaging from pies. After engaging with their supplier, they realised it was possible, saving 24,000 plastic packets from landfill in one season.

Since then, Cardrona has been on a waste reduction journey inspired by their duty as kaitiaki (guardians) of the maunga (mountain) to nurture, conserve, and regenerate these special places.

With eight on-mountain outlets serving thousands of guests daily, Cardrona's supply chain is significant and complex. But by challenging the norm, they’ve shown it’s possible to influence waste reduction more widely over time.

Friends eating pizza on the slopes at Cardrona Alpine ResortLandfill-free dining at Captain's Pizzeria

In 2014, they said goodbye to plastic straws for good.

In 2015, they moved to sourcing most of their produce from local suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint and support their community. They started sending kitchen waste to local farms for composting, diverting this organic waste from landfills.

Then the 2016 season saw Cardrona eliminate takeaway packaging for good.

Across following seasons, the ski resort purchased a glass crusher to recycle glass bottles, eliminated single-use plastics and switched to 'real’ crockery and cutlery to reduce their waste even further.

From here, it seemed logical to request that their suppliers also avoid unnecessary packaging. They were able to partner with their food delivery supplier to swap from plastic pallet wrap to reusable nets. They calculated the plastic wrap saved from landfill in one season would stretch the distance from Wānaka to the top of Cardrona!

In 2021, Cardrona took the bold step of banning landfill bins and requiring guests to ‘pack in, pack out’ any rubbish. They held suppliers accountable – requiring any packaging to be compostable. Their on-site compost facility now fuels their ‘Plant a Seed’ conservation project, closing the cycle of waste.

Cardrona's on-mountain compost facilityCardrona's on-mountain composting plant

Cardrona’s journey to waste-free has taken time, investment, and a shift in attitude and behaviours from both staff and guests. But it’s a testament to how dedication and collective action, bit by bit, can drive meaningful change towards a waste-free and regenerative future.

Next season, they aim to build on current initiatives, like extra shuttles and carpooling, to further decrease their carbon emissions.

Russ emphasises, "We are all in this together – our staff, suppliers, the community, and fellow operators in this regenerative journey.” He’s passionate about sharing Cardrona’s initiatives so others can learn and improve. Follow Cardrona’s journey on their website.