Local climate change mitigation plan heats up
September 19, 2016
EAGLE COUNTY — Climate change isn't just affecting our environment, it's costing us money. That's just one of the many reasons a group of more than 30 local stakeholders representing towns, businesses and schools is working on a climate change action plan to mitigate the effects of climate change here in Eagle County.
Currently, per capita, we use more 30 percent more energy in the Vail Valley than in the average American community. Among the goals of the climate action plan is to get Eagle County down to the average or below.
The action plan took on a study that details where our energy is being used and where the biggest savings could occur. The study found that overwhelmingly, the biggest opportunity to curb energy use in our area lies in homes and businesses. There are simple things people can do like changing light bulbs, adding insulation and installing better windows. Those things cost money, but they also save money in the long run.
That's why the crux of the plan is, simply, "being financially responsible," says Kim Langmaid, with Walking Mountains Science Center.
"These things pay for themselves," Langmaid said Wednesday, during a climate change action plan open house in Eagle. "We just need to find the will, and the budget, to start taking action. … Currently we're spending $243 million each year in Eagle County, and we use 30 percent more energy than the average U.S. citizen here."
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Dani White, of Vail, attended Wednesday's climate change action plan open house on behalf of herself and her work, Lululemon Athletica in Vail Village. The shop sells active wear for women and is close to receiving its Actively Green sustainable business certification from Walking Mountains Science Center.
"I grew up in the mountains, so I love the outdoors," White said. "Right here, we're being affected, so I'm trying to take action locally and not forget that everyone contributes. … Nobody knows if it's going to work out or not, but I'm in the corner with people saying, 'Well, if there's a chance this will work, then I'd rather be helping than standing in the way.'"
The Actively Green program is the environmental legacy of the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships, said Markian Feduschak, with Walking Mountains Science Center. The program started with the championships giving money to local businesses to help them become Actively Green certified.
By doing things like installing LED lighting in parking areas, rain sensors for landscaping irrigation, motion sensor lighting in maintenance closets and providing reusable cloth shopping bags and an herb garden for guests and owners at The Wren hotel, East West Resorts reduced its electricity use by 12 percent, decreased natural gas use by 11 percent and reduced water use 8 percent. The hotel saved more than $88,000 in one year.
Another goal of the action plan is to make Vail the first certified sustainable travel destination.
"Is there a role modeling and competitive standpoint to that? You bet," said Feduschak. "From an economic standpoint, it can be very competitive to become a more sustainable destination."
SIMPLE, SERIOUS, SOLVABLE
There are some people who think that nothing short of sweeping policy change on a national level will reverse the effects of global warming. There are others who think the change is coming — and is here — so rather than try to reverse it, we need to prepare.
Langmaid thinks we can mitigate global warming, and the change can come from voluntary buy in, rather than legislation.
Looking at projections from forecaster Abel Chavez of Western State Colorado University, Langmaid says we can reverse some of the damage locally.
Recommendations include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 25 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.
"The 80 percent by 2050 is what the thousands of scientists on the intergovernmental panel of climate change recommend we do in order to not increase more than 2 degrees in global temperature," Langmaid said.
The focuses include residential, commercial, transportation, waste diversion, power supply, education and outreach. Goals include expanding the Energy Smart Colorado program — a federally-funded program to provide energy efficiency services to residences in the central mountain region — getting more electric cars and bikes on the road and getting waste out of the landfill.
Langmaid is optimistic about the effort.
"In talking to people, they want ideas, they want resources, they want to know what they can do," she said. "It catches on — one thing leads to another."
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
Walking Mountains Science Center and Eagle County are inviting the public to give feedback on the draft climate action plan on Monday in the Grand View Room at the Lionshead Welcome Center in Vail and on Thursday at the Miller Ranch Community Room in Edwards. Both events are scheduled to run from 5 to 7 p.m.