High Altitude Society: EdVenture and Walking Mountains educate on sustainability | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Society: EdVenture and Walking Mountains educate on sustainability

Carolyn Pope
High Altitude Society

We have all heard about the declining population of honey bees. Do you know why? I was poorly informed until the most recent "EdVenture" I attended, presented by Walking Mountains Science Center.

Here you go: Firstly, we are mowing down the bees' food source to build. Secondly, the pesticides are a big part of it, though it may not be the pesticides that are killing them, directly. A new version of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, share a common mode of action that effect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. These pesticides also have a direct effect on the auto-immune systems of the bees, which makes them susceptible to the third factor, the varroa mite, which sucks the blood of the bees and makes them more vulnerable to bacterial infections, and their immune systems are already weakened by those darn insecticides.

Got it?

'Walk Together'

What does this mean to us, as humans? Without those little bees flying around pollinating, we will see at least 80 percent less variety on the produce stands unless we support their habitats and health. And we can; stop using insecticides on the flowers that the bee lands on. Cut down your thistles, then spray the stalks, not the flowers. Spray them, preferably, with commercial grade, 100 percent vinegar or pull them out completely. But whatever you do, don't spray the flowers. And plant more flowers.

This was just one thing I learned recently at Knapp Ranch, located at the top of Lake Creek. Before a delicious brunch served by Vail Catering Concepts, patrons had the opportunity to visit several educational stations around the expansive, inspiring property owned by Bud and the late Betsy Knapp. The compound is pushing the idea of sustainability to the max, becoming a self-sufficient property that gives back to the community. That's what the morning was all about: The Science of Sustainability.

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"What does it take for humanity and the rest of life to take us into the future?" Walking Mountains founder Kim Langmaid asked the attendees. "We must walk together."

There is no Away

The stations were manned by educators from Walking Mountains, who inspired the guests with a tour of the greenhouses and apiary (bee hives) and arbors (Knapp Ranch sells their produce to several local businesses, including Vin48, Harvest, Pendulum, Harrison & Hovey and the Village Market). The employees of Knapp Ranch want to be the voice for high altitude gardening at 9,000 feet, showing local farmers how to be profitable. Currently outside, lettuce and potatoes are flourishing. In the greenhouses, a plethora of micro-greens are flourishing, too.

Other stations included harnessing solar energy with a solar oven which was baking s'mores, and a station to race solar cars. At another station, guests were challenged to sort trash into three bins: recycling, compost and trash. I found out that, due to a study done in Eagle County where 4,000 pounds of trash were sorted (out of 181 tons), 60 percent of the refuse could have been diverted out of the landfill and into recycling or compost.

"When people throw trash 'away,' there is no away," shared one of the educators.

Plastic bags are the no. 1 item in landfills, and 10 percent of recycling is redirected to landfill since people aren't really sure what is truly recyclable.

Walking Mountains is one of the amazing treasures we have here in our valley, and their campus in Avon is open daily for anyone to visit. The organization also has the Nature Discovery Center at Eagle's Nest and the Nature Center by the soccer fields, across the creek from Ford Amphitheater. Don't miss the chance to learn!

To become a member of the EdVenture club and have the opportunity to attend these events, the donation is $1,000 per year. Please visit their website at http://www.walkingmountains.org to see how you can volunteer, donate or become educated.