Avon: Elephant or a squirrel, energy-wise? | VailDaily.com

Avon: Elephant or a squirrel, energy-wise?

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

AVON ” When it comes to carbon footprints is Avon a toddler or a sasquatch?

Town leaders are hoping to find out. They’ve hired the consulting firm Schmueser Gordon Meyer to pick apart the town’s energy use, track down its carbon emissions and measure Avon’s carbon footprint.

When leaders see how big that footprint is, whether it’s comparable to a squirrel or elephant, they want to shrink it down, and shrink it down aggressively. And hopefully, after setting the good example, Avon hopes to encourage its residents to shrink their own carbon footprints as well.

“We want to practice what we preach,” said Eric Heidemann, community development director. “We want to demonstrate that there are things we can do at a local level.”

Ski resort towns like Avon have a lot to lose from global warming, and the town wants to start considering the environment and energy use with every decision, Heidemann said.

“When our shoulder seasons get longer, those are significant impacts to our community,” Heidemann said.

The lead-by-example approach can really work wonders for a town, said Dan Richardson, senior energy consultant with Schmueser Gordon Meyer.

More towns are analyzing their carbon footprints than ever, and that can help promote a green culture in its citizens, an effect Richardson’s seen in Aspen and Fort Collins.

The firm will analyze everything from light bulbs to bus fleets and crunch all the numbers into a report, which will be used to build the town’s energy plan. Hopefully, there will be room for improvements, which is usually the case with inefficient buildings built in the 1960s and ’70s, Richardson said.

Towns are sometimes surprised by the results. Just seeing how much money is spent on utilities consolidated into a report can be a shock. A lot of money can be saved by reducing energy use, but Richardson said not everything done to reduce pollution is cost effective.

“Sometimes they’re surprised on the ratio of dollars spent on operating buildings to a vehicle fleet,” Richardson said. “They’ll think, ‘We just have a few police cars,’ but it turns out they’re having a bigger impact than the buildings.”

Another goal of the analysis is to create some transparency. The town wants to let the public know exactly how it’s managing its energy and to hold it accountable, Heidemann said.

Richardson would like to see more than just a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. He’d like to see the town tweak its definition of “quality” to include more environmental concerns.

“The bigger goal is to change the perspective, so we’re incorporating clean energy into every decision we make,” Richardson said.

It will cost the town about $28,000 to develop the plan.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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