Eagle County celebrates Earth Day around valley

Mike Ogburn with Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) demonstrates that a plug for a Ford C-Max will fit a Chevy Volt during Tuesday's Earth Day festivities at the Eagle County building.
Randy Wyrick/Vail Daily |

EAGLE COUNTY — Tuesday was Earth Day, which is good. Wonderfully well-intentioned people were everywhere promoting all sorts of ways we can help our planet live longer, and that’s also good because it’s the only planet we’re ever gonna have.

Some of the ideas involved cars, and because we are Americans, the country that invented the V-8 engine, rock ‘n’ roll and the electric guitar, we want to know one thing: Do electric cars kick booty or not?

They do.

Earth Day happened to fall on the Eagle County commissioners’ regular meeting day, so they declared this Earth Awareness Week. The commissioners did some Eco-Build grants and updated the county’s environmental policy. Tuesday afternoon they hosted their annual Earth Day poster contest for local fourth graders.

All that’s fine, but the county also had three cars — two hybrids and an electric — for anyone to drive. The test results go like this:

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• The Chevy Volt is a nimble sports sedan that can go 350 miles between fill-ups. A fill-up is nine gallons.

• The Ford C-Max is a family-friendly hybrid and more practical if you’re carrying anything bigger than a load of guilt.

• The Tesla Model S put the boot in booty kickin’. It’s completely electric; it’s a remarkable piece of engineering, goes about 300 miles between charges and is oh-my-gawd fast — which is what you really wanted to know. It has 24 moving parts in its drive train and corners like it’s on rails — which is important for Earth Day because earth roads have corners.

The cars were John Gitchell’s idea. He heads Eagle County’s Actively Green Team and said electric vehicles sales are growing exponentially. Americans bought more than 97,000 electric vehicles last year, doubling the number in 2012.

Drive Something Efficient

Mike Ogburn, of Clean Energy Economy for the Region, is a regular guy who loves energy efficiency. He’s also fond of cars and points out that while it’s better for both you and the earth if you ride a bike or take public transit, if you drive, then drive something efficient.

“Electric motors use energy more efficiently than internal combustion engines and have zero tailpipe emissions,” Gitchell said. “While gasoline comes from oil, electricity comes from many sources including natural gas, coal and renewable solar, wind and hydroelectric.”

Two things are true about gasoline:

1. It’s going to keep getting more expensive.

2. We’re going to keep buying it as long as we have to.

Which leads us back to electric cars. New power plants using renewable energy are being built, and generating electricity is becoming even more efficient, Gitchell said.

“The efficiency, quiet operation and low emissions of electric vehicles can help to improve the quality of our local environment,” Gitchell said.

Poster Contest

Fourth-grade artists from 11 local schools around the county participated in the 24th annual Earth Day poster contest. This year’s theme was “What does it mean to be Actively Green?” The top three posters and winners from each school were honored. The prize bags were made from recycled feed bags — dog food, horse food, that sort of thing — and were stuffed with a bunch of prizes and treats.

“We have this little teeny amount of time on the planet in this big stretch. God put us here for the reason to make it a better place. We’re so lucky to have this opportunity,” said Sara Fisher, county commissioner.

Zoe Greener was this year’s overall winner. The Brush Creek Elementary School fourth-grader says her poster encouraged people to carpool or take buses because cars can pollute the air.

Her poster will hang in the county building with the previous 23 Earth Day winning posters.

Home Assessments

Earth Day at the Walking Mountains Science Center would get you a 50 percent discount on an Energy Smart home assessment. The stuff they do during the assessment itself can reduce your carbon output by 500 pounds. That’s the same as planting eight trees and driving 740 miles.

Most of us, though, won’t do stuff until there’s something in it for us. How about this Walking Mountains data:

Electricity rates in Colorado are up 25 percent in the past 10 years. That’s an average $400 annual increase between 2001 and 2011, from $1,600 to $2,000.

Even if you missed their Earth Day special, it’s never too late for a home assessment. Contact Walking Mountains 970-328-8777 or email eagle@energysmart

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail

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