Colorado, known for its fickle weather and champagne powder, often has its residents wondering when the next snow is coming; however, with the recent climate changes and warming temperatures, Colorado’s ski resorts may be in trouble. Much of Vail’s revenue comes from the ski industry, so the change in climate will not only affect our environment, but also our economy.
Energy is made possible by using natural resources such as oil and wood. To get the energy required, the resources are usually burned, resulting in polluted air with particles that will harm both humans and nature. Today, energy is being used excessively around the world, burning through our natural resources faster than they can be replenished. With the decreasing amount of natural resources, it has become an important and pressing issue to focus on the conservation of these resources.
By increasing energy efficiency, the amount of CO2 in the air can be decreased; therefore, the rate at which the climate is warming can be lowered, which can conserve the valuable water storage and snow melt. According to the book “Effects of Climate Change,” by Niklas Christiansen and others, the water storage in the Colorado River Drainage Basin has been reduced by 32-40 percent in certain areas. According to Tim Barnett and other scholars, snow-dominated regions are being affected by heat waves, causing reduced precipitation and earlier spring snow run off, which influences water supply for the rest of the year. Climate models by the Colorado Water Conservation Board predict that Colorado will warm by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2025 and 4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 relative to an already recorded baseline increase in temperatures. Colorado, being the most active state in the nation and famous for its outdoors, has a large obligation to keep the environment clean, clear, and wild for generations to come.
This year, Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy’s students were challenged by Protect Our Winters and the Shane McConkey Eco-Challenge to create an energy saving project that not only benefits our school, but also our environment. VSSA, located in Minturn and originally founded as Minturn Middle School, was built in 1978. Being over 30 years old, many of the school’s appliances are outdated and inefficient. The VSSA gym has over 18 mercury bulbs that need to be replaced every six months. Not only is mercury extremely inefficient for lighting, but also destructive to our environment once replaced. VSSA seniors have come up with the idea to replace all of the mercury bulbs in the gym with more efficient LED lighting. Not only do LED bulbs produce brighter light more efficiently, but they also have four times the lifespan of a mercury bulb. This change would save money for the school and keep mercury out of our landfills.
With the addition of LED bulbs, VSSA seniors predict that the energy required to light the gym will be reduced by two-thirds. VSSA has also conducted energy audits and found basic ways in which a building can operate more efficiently. Some of these methods include not heating the building over school breaks; replacing the light bulbs with more efficient ones; closing all doors and windows at night; and covering windows with heat curtains to keep heat from escaping. A home energy audit is a DIY test to find out what a person can do to increase the energy efficiency in one’s home. Simple tasks such as measuring how thick the insulation of the house is; making sure hot water faucets do not drip; checking to see if the furnace has been cleaned and serviced in the past year; checking for thick, secure window seals; and many more straightforward projects that can improve home efficiency.
Sustainability is how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. By increasing energy efficiency and sustainability, climate change can be slowed or even reversed.
Erik Hilb, Leah Newton and Callan DeLine
Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy students