Community partners unite for Climate Action Week
Week-long schedule of events aims to engage residents in the county’s Climate Action Plan and Collaborative
Living in Eagle County comes with numerous outdoor perks. Not only do residents and visitors have the opportunity to take in sweeping views and scenery, but also there are significant outdoor recreation activities that put people close with our natural environment.
However, with great opportunity comes great responsibility, which is why local leaders, community members and stakeholders formed the Climate Action Collaborative. The collaborative adopted its first Climate Action Plan in 2017 with a sweeping goal of reducing emissions 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. In order to reach this, the plan highlights several sectors — including buildings, transportation and waste — and specific goals that will need to be addressed.
And now, the collaborative and Walking Mountains are seeking to engage the greater Eagle County community with these goals through a grand celebration of Earth Day, which falls on Friday, April 22, this year.
Walking Mountains Science Center — alongside several community partner organizations — will kick off its first annual Climate Action Week with numerous events meant to highlight the different sectors of the collaborative.
The week combines a variety of new, ongoing and reoccurring events from various community organizations, all with the singular goal of helping make Eagle County a better, and more sustainable, place to live.
“The goal is really to engage the community more around our sustainability initiatives,” said Will Barror, a sustainability fellow at Walking Mountains.
By having a week of events that are meant to be fun, collaborative and engaging and reach across the climate action sectors, Barror added that he hopes the community will get a sense not only for the gravity of the situation, but that it will take a group effort to get there.
“There’s a lot of work to be done and it’s a whole community effort,” Barror said. “Without the community, we’re probably not going to get there.”
From April 21 to April 30, Eagle County residents will have the opportunity to attend and participate in a variety of events that focus on everything from waste and food systems to transportation, buildings and energy.
Waste and food systems
One of the Climate Action Plan’s main goals and targets is to divert as much waste from the landfill as possible. Specifically, the plan has several main priorities: One, to divert 80% of organics currently put in the landfill by 2030; two, to divert 100% of all recoverable construction and demolition waste; three, to divert yard waste; and four, to divert cardboard.
During the Climate Action Week, several events fall underneath its waste priorities. This includes a session of Walking Mountain’s Zero Waste Ambassador training to learn the hows and whys of waste diversion; a zero waste crafting event; a community recycling tour of the Eagle County materials, recovery, landfill and household hazardous waste facilities; a community shred (paper) day; and more.
Eagle River Watershed Council’s annual Community Pride Highway Clean Up will also be happening on the last day of the week on Saturday, April 30. In 2021, after a year hiatus due to COVID-19, volunteers collected 22 tons of trash from the interstate — 10 tons more than the event’s five-year average.
Colorado Mountain College also has a food systems event on the week’s calendar. The event on Earth Day will feature a speaker panel as well as a fair to learn about sustainable foods and practices. This event pairs nicely with the other food systems event, which will take place on Monday, April 25, and will allow individuals to tour Rock Bottom Ranch in Basalt, an educational farm.
With the main goal of reducing emissions, transportation represents a significant portion of the Climate Action Plan. These transportation and mobility goals are aimed primarily at electrification of current transportation methods or choosing more sustainable transportation methods (like biking and busing).
ECO Transit is partnering with Walking Mountains to host its fare free day on the Friday (Earth Day) of Climate Action Week. The fare free day not only gives residents an accessible way to try out the regional bus service, but it is partnering with Colorado Mountain College’s event on the same day to share electric bus and public transportation information at the Edwards campus.
There, residents will also have the opportunity to learn more about the ongoing efforts to create a new Regional Transportation Authority in the county.
With the goals around buildings in the plan, this includes electrifying both residential and commercial properties as well as encouraging and requiring new developments to be net-zero or all-electric. Specifically, the plan has goals to implement more sustainable building codes across municipalities, electrify 5% of existing buildings each year and implement benchmarking requirements.
The Climate Action Week really only has one event around this sector, a green building tour of the Walking Mountains Science Center campus in Avon with Sipes Architects. The tour will give individuals a visual representation and overview of green building techniques, energy efficiency upgrades and changes that can be made to reduce energy consumption.
The plan’s goals around energy are ambitious — the collaborative has a goal to reach 100% renewable energy supply for the electric sector by 2030. To do this, the plan stipulates priorities around analyzing local renewable energy opportunities like waste-to-energy, methane capture and more.
During Climate Action Week, there are two main solar-related events that fall within these goals and priorities.
The first is the kickoff of Solarize Eagle County, a new community program to increase awareness and open up access to solar installation for residents.
The second is a solar array build with Holy Cross Energy in honor of its late board member, Adam Palmer.
“Adam Palmer was our inspiration, without question. He really was driven and dedicated to helping our environment, helping our community, helping our members,” said Lisa Reed, the manager of energy programs at Holy Cross. “One of Adam’s legacies — and you’ll see it in the future with his foundation — was really just have fun and do the right thing, and we want to make this solar build hands-on, fun, while we’re doing the right thing.”
During the two-day solar array build, volunteers will help these visions come to be by “barn-raising” 200-kilowatts of solar energy panels that will serve 50 local households.
Once completed, the array will mirror a similar project near Glenwood Springs, Powerfield, which models the opportunity of easily-deployable and moveable arrays. Also similarly, the array will be income-qualified through Energy Outreach Colorado. Residents with 80% or less of the county’s area median income can apply and benefit from the solar energy.
According to Reed, 100% of the energy production from the array will be given in the form of bill credits to those who qualify and are selected for the program.
“Our goal is to save them 50% of their electric bill for two years,” Reed said. “We also want to help them become more energy efficient, at the same time, so at the end of that time period, their bills are maybe a little bit less than they were before.”
During the two-day build, volunteers will be “hands-on,” doing everything from laying out the solar panels, securing them, interconnecting them and more, Reed added.
“The ultimate goal once it’s done is to connect it and start producing energy,” she said.
The array is just one of the ways that Holy Cross is reaching toward its goal of 100% clean energy by 2030.
All-around climate action
In seeking to engage individuals with the collaborative and plan, there are also some more broad events on the schedule to get people thinking, learning and connecting around climate action.
This includes a hopeful yoga event put on by the town of Avon to ease “climate anxiety,” the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance event on Saturday to learn about seasonal wildlife closures, a civic engagement workshop about local climate policy and advocacy, and more.
It also includes engaging the future leaders in the action. Earlier this year, Walking Mountains reconvened its Youth Environmental Leadership Council. And since then, this group of high schoolers from across the county have been working on projects around waste and food to help address these areas.
During the week, students from the council — as well as any other students interested — will have the opportunity to talk to local elected officials about climate change and policies. This event, Barror said, is what he’s most excited about.
“It will be a really cool opportunity for students who are really engaged on these subjects, and really passionate about it, to sit down with folks who represent them and ask what they’re doing and really open the door for really productive conversation,” he said.
Through the week of community events, Barror said that the overall goal is engagement and getting people to learn more about the actions and conversations they can start in their own lives.
“My number one thing I hope folks take away is just a sense of knowledge about the climate action collaborative and the goals that we have, and maybe some steps for things that they can start to do to help us meet these goals,” he said.
To register and view the full schedule of events, visit WalkingMountains.org.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.