Sustainability Tip: 3 silver linings from 2020 to remember heading into 2021 |

Sustainability Tip: 3 silver linings from 2020 to remember heading into 2021

By Kate Manzer
Sustainability Tip

It’s fair to say we all leapt into this new year with more hope in our hearts and minds than we’d come to know in the year prior. What may be a surprise is the list of positives hidden beneath the suite of misfortune last year brought.

“I feel like there is a silver lining, and the more we can talk to people about finding that, the more the effect of the pandemic won’t be as negative, long-lasting and impactful as it’s always painted out to be, with people finding new opportunities, new ways to engage, and using it for a positive shift in their life,” said Chris Rieder, Eagle County Program Director of Mind Springs Health.

According to a preliminary study from research group Rhodium, nation-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions dove below 1990 levels for the first time since then. Though we don’t have local calculations yet, we can roughly estimate Eagle County’s savings were substantial too. Assuming we’re within the same ballpark as national totals, Eagle County emissions may have plunged more than 10%.

Despite the challenges 2020 brought, there are still plenty of silver linings, including reduced emissions, more employer flexibility and increased access and availability of mental health services.
Casey Russell

But the Rhodium Group’s study also shows that “the emission reductions of 2020 have come with an enormous toll of significant economic damage and human suffering.” We can’t expect these levels to be sustained. The study’s three authors suggest that “without meaningful structural change, emissions will likely rise again as well” and our progress will be lost.

As our business community learned during the Vail Valley Partnership’s September Business Insight Series event, Thriving in Chaos, “we’re put to the test not when things are going according to plan, but when they go differently than expected. How we react can be the difference between success and failure and determine whether our team comes together or falls apart,” said Corinne Hancock, International Keynote Speaker and Leadership Chaos Coach.

Not only did we all use the stay-at-home order as an opportunity to address needs otherwise ignored, we also learned how to adapt to a whole new world. These opportunities “in disguise” the pandemic presented us with, resulted in societal progress.

1. Improved risk and crisis management, as well as sustainability and resiliency, planning for small businesses. The Actively Green Program at Walking Mountains Science Center, a sustainable business training and certification program for Eagle County businesses of all shapes and sizes, provides specialized guidance for improving sustainability performance and building resiliency to businesses’ based on individual needs. Learn more at or attend our next Intro Training.

2. More accommodating workplace policies for telecommuting, paid time off, sick leave, prioritization of employee health and safety. The Climate Action Collaborative for the Eagle County Community released a sustainable transportation toolkit nearly 11 days ago, which provides local businesses with best practices, templates, policy examples, as well as written and video instruction for their own specialized development and adoption of a Remote Work Policy. Get started on your Remote Work Policy at

3. Better attention to healthcare options for addressing behavioral health and mental health for all ages. In Eagle County, this opportunity became newly available to residents and visitors in late 2019 with the development of collaborative and non-profit organization, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. Their mission, in part, is to lower barriers to accessing behavioral health care across the valley, meeting the needs of some of the one million Coloradans struggling with a mental health condition. To explore what services, as well as immediate and long-term care options, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health has to offer, visit

Kate Manzer is the sustainability programs coordinator for Actively Green at Walking Mountains Science Center. Contact her at

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