Tuesday, November 29

Season changes.

Hi! I am Daniel from Taiwan, STS Autumn 2016. It's soon time to leave, so I'll take a moment to look back on my season. And it has been an amazing season. I can see the color of the nature and trees change from green to colorful orange. I remember our Staff Training when we learned a lot about Eco Policy at KISC, for example where our food comes from - which is mostly produced in Switzerland. Also, I got the opportunity to run an Eco Activity for a Maltese school group. I can be proud to share how the disposal at KISC works, and how we work towards helping our Earth. Right now, I'm telling other scouts how we work at KISC, to share with other Scouts around the world. When I go back to Taiwan, I will do my best to do more things for the Earth as a Pinkie, because one day Pinkie - always Pinkie. 

Beggining of the season. September.

Almost ending the season. November.

By Daniel (TW)
STS Autumn 2016

Thursday, August 11

What does transport do to the world?

Hi! My name is Tolly and I am a climbing guide at KISC. That means that I work in the Programme department and run the climbing activities as well as helping out in general, not only in the programme department, but in any department. My arrival at KISC was my first time being in Kandersteg, and I was blown away by the tremendous landscape and welcoming smiles, but also the sheer punctuality of transport services. On my days off I have taken advantage of these transport services, but in doing so, have been made aware of the effect of transport on the environment.

There is quite a significant difference in the availability of public transport between where I live in Ireland, and Kandersteg in Switzerland. Where I live in Ireland we have a bus service operating at odd hours and that is about it, but in Kandersteg there is both a regular bus service and a train station.

Take a look at this small table to get an idea of the grams of CO2 (a particularly bad pollutant) per mile for a few differently sized cars.

Engine Size
Km per Litre
Grams of CO2 per km*
Small Car < 1.515.7 244
Medium Car 1.5 - 2 14 270
Large Car > 2 10.2 375

* calculated from Km/l and CO2 emissions of 3.15 kg per litre http://www.carbonindependent.org/sources_car.html

Fact: Trains are 3 times more energy efficient as cars, and 6 times more energy efficient than planes on a per-passenger-mile basis. 

Ireland’s CO2 emissions for transport last year (2015) was 13 million tonnes, and Switzerland’s was slightly higher at 16.4 million tonnes. However, Switzerland's population is nearly 8.1 million people, compared to Ireland's population of 4.6 million people. This means that the average Irish person produces 2.829 tonnes of CO2, over 40% more than the average Swiss person. That is quite a significant difference. One of the reasons for this is due to the increased access to and use of public transport in Switzerland. Another reason is how Switzerland generates it's electricity - see some of our other blog posts for more information on that!

So next time you are considering going somewhere, don’t just think of the cost, think of the environmental impact. By sharing cars or taking public transport, you can make a big difference.

Tolly (IE)

Thursday, July 28

Climate Change

Among the kisc staff, I'm in a rare position. I'm lucky enough to be in my second Snow and Ice season in a row. The Snow and Ice (or more commonly "Snice") guides are four members of summer staff who come to KISC specifically to guide groups on the Glacier at Fründenhütte. It's a fantastic job, and the Snice guides are always a slightly odd group, even when surrounded by Pinkies and Greenies. Most only have one Summer as Snice, but I was here last summer, and here I am again.
This is a job which puts me in the same mountains almost every day, meaning I've gotten to know them very well, and one of my favourite things is noticing things that have changed, or are in the process of changing. The mountains are moving, and "geological time" includes now.
Be it a simple broken branch or an enormous rockfall, there is always something different on the way up to the hut. The Summer sun is always pushing the snowline higher up the slopes, and as the freezing level rises things become looser. Our glacier (like most) is an extremely changeable environment, ever day sees avalanches and rockfalls from the side walls, and the ice itself bends and warps as the ice flows downhill. Crevasses open and close, chunks of ice the size of cars slowly become detached, and snowbridges disappear, leaving gaping holes where they were. The ice and the mountains are alive.
I also notice the difference in the ice between this year and last - there is less of it. Looking at photographs from previous years shows this even more clearly. Our little glacier above Kandersteg is disappearing, and it's heartbreaking.
We all know why this is; it is now almost universally accepted that our climate is warming, and that we are responsible. Our glacier is not alone, ice is melting all over the world. Every year Kandersteg and the rest of Europe sees less snow than in the past, and I find that upsetting. I can't place my finger on why, but I do. Climate change will affect us all in some way. Sometimes those effects are drastic and devastating. Sometimes, however, they're just a little bit sad.

By Duncan Butler (UK) - SNICE Guide 2015 & 2016

Friday, August 28

Hot Ice!

Hello world! My name is Arnor and I am a snow & ice helper here at KISC. That means that I am responsible for activities such as ice climbing and crevasse rescue on the amazing Fründen-glacier, just outside Kandersteg. I consider myself very lucky, as working on a glacier is both challenging and awesome and glaciers are among my favourite things in the world. However, there is a darker side to the story. The fact is that glaciers everywhere in the world are disappearing fast, due to climate change caused by humans.

How fast are the glaciers melting?

Fast enough for you to care, even if you’ve never even seen a glacier.
My home country, Iceland, is home to dozens of glaciers, including the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull. Current estimates suggest that Vatnajökull will have completely disappeared in less than 200 years. Earlier this year, glaciologists in Iceland declared that one of the most famous glaciers in Iceland, simply named Ok, does not qualify as a glacier anymore.
Another example of this fast melting is the fact that in the year 1850 there were more than 150 glaciers in Glacier national park in Montana, USA, but now there are only 25 left.
Out of 140 glaciers in Switzerland, only 2 are not currently retreating. Even my work place, Fründen-glacier, retreats about 10 to 20 meters every year. At that rate, it will have completely disappeared in a few decades and the KISC snow & ice programme may be a thing of the past.

Why does it matter?

If all glaciers on earth melt, the sea level will rise an estimated 64 meters. Almost all of the great populated areas on earth are by the sea, so this will have a devastating effect  on places like New York, Beijing and all island nations.
Glaciers have a huge impact on weather patterns in high altitude and high latitude areas, and their disappearance will make the weather in these places hotter, dryer, and more extreme.
About 80% of all freshwater on earth is bound in glaciers. If this freshwater melts and flows into the sea, it can alter the salinity and temperature of the oceans. This will make the sea less habitable for many types of sea creatures, cause extinctions, and change ocean currents, such as the Gulf stream that gives northern Europe its gentle climate.

What to do?

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much we can do to save the glaciers. Most climate scientists agree that the damage already caused by climate change is irreversible and it is probably too late to save the glaciers.
On the other hand, more and more people are becoming aware of this development, and fossil fuel usage (which causes climate change) is on decline.

Whether we will be able to save the glaciers or not, I have one advice for you: Use every chance you get to enjoy the wonders that glaciers have to offer. Go glacier-trekking, go ice climbing, experience the amazing feeling of strapping on a pair of crampons and wielding an ice axe. I promise you, it will be awesome. Enjoy the glaciers while they last, and have a safe and successful mountaineering.

By Arnór Bjarki Svarfdal (IS)
SNICE 2015

Friday, August 7

Eco fashion

No matter how much or how little we are interested in fashion, we all wear something.  But where do our clothes come from, what are they made of and what do we do with them when we’re finished with them?

Be Careful with Cotton!
Cotton farming uses a lot of water.  Since the 1960s badly planned cotton farming in Central Asia caused the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan to dry up. It used to be 68,000 km2 wide, the 4th largest salt water body in the world.  Now only 10% of the water is left.
Cotton farming also uses lots of chemicals.  In California alone, over 3 million kilos of chemicals are used in cotton farming.


Stranded boats on what used to be the Aral Sea.

Synthetic Fabrics
Many synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon are made from petroleum products and their manufacture is harmful to the environment. They often contain harmful chemicals and do not biodegrade when they are disposed of. A lot of outdoor clothing is made from synthetic fabrics.

Disposable Fashion
More and more people are buying very cheap clothes which are of poor quality.  When they wear out they just throw them away and buy new ones. This is a big environmental problem. On average every person in the UK dumps 30 kg of clothes and textiles a year!

The Good News
Many companies make clothes from recycled materials.  For example, fleeces can be made from recycled PET bottles.
Don’t forget to recycle your PET bottles while at KISC! Recycled polyester and nylon are available which use no crude oil and use less energy to produce than new polyester  and nylon.
Organic cotton uses no harmful chemicals. 
Responsible cotton farming saves water and protects ecosystems.

What can you do?
Buy secondhand clothes when you can
Swap your clothes with your friends.
Buy less clothes that are more durable and look after them.
Wash your clothes less often and at lower temperatures.
Use eco-friendly detergents like we do here at KISC.
Repair old clothes rather than throwing them away.
When you dispose of clothes, recycle them or give them to a secondhand shop.

Sources: “Well dressed?” Cambridge University (2006) ¦  www.patagonia.com
Remember, what you wear matters.  Think about your clothes before you buy them.  What are they made of, where did they come from and how long will they last?

By Annie Lewis (UK)
Eco Assistant