Vail Valley Alpine Banks quickly going green |

Vail Valley Alpine Banks quickly going green

Kathy HeicherVail, CO, Colorado

Green isnt just the color of money at Alpine Bank. Its a philosophy, and a commitment to the environment that is gaining statewide recognition for environmental leadership.The effort to make banking more environmentally friendly started out three years ago with informal projects, like eliminating bottled water in the office in favor of drinking fountains. The Green Team movement has evolved into projects including energy audits in every building. This was an employee-generated effort. It was grassroots not something that came from the administration or the Board of Directors, said Rachel Overlease, president of Alpine Banks Eagle branch.We recycle everything glass, paper, plastic, said Overlease. The Eagle bank recently underwent a water audit. Subsequent adjustments were made to the banks irrigation system and the times of day it is used. An upgrade of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is under way. Cleaning crews use green supplies.The Gypsum bank has one of the better-performing buildings when evaluated on an energy efficiency scale.David Miller, the official Green Team leader for Alpine, says the groups initial effort amounted to picking some low-hanging fruit such as office recycling.We did a few things, but we lacked focus and structure, Miller said. The formal Green Team effort started with hiring environmental consultant John Gitchell of Sustainable Business Solutions to help draw up a plan. With Gitchells coaching, the bank devised a comprehensive environmental management system that includes use of renewable resources, resource efficient projects, services and projects and community education.Since 2006, Alpine Banks has maintained certification to the ISO 14001 standard the universally recognized standard for environmental management. We promise to continually strive to make progress with more environmentally friendly practices, said Chad Mapp, a facilities manager for the bank system. Our goal is to make sure our performance is as optimal as possible while reducing environmental impacts, and the cost of operation.Measurable resource efficiency goals were established, including a 20 percent reductions in energy and paper use, a 10 percent reduction in water consumption and a 25 percent reduction in courier fleet consumption by 2012. Those targets are measured against baseline figures from 2006.Mapp says the organization works at making new construction meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. Water efficiency, sustainable building materials and recycled content materials are emphasized. A remodel of the Telluride bank is expected to reduce utility costs by 30 percent.Some efforts are huge, such as the geothermal heating systems installed at the Ridgeway and Montrose banks, aimed at minimizing energy consumption. In 2007, Alpine committed to 100 percent renewable power for all its electricity. Currently, 22 of the systems 38 banks are operated by wind power. The goal is for all of the banks to be able to make that claim by the end of this year.Energy audits of existing buildings are aimed at curbing carbon emissions. Lighting systems have been updated with higher efficiency fluorescent light bulbs. Mapp said that aerators installed in bathroom sinks reduced water flow from 2.5 gallons per minute to a half-gallon per minute. The aerator puts air bubbles into the water, but the user still gets the feel of a normal sink.Signs on the outside of the bank are being retro-fitted for LEED certification.Miller said the bank has reached out to the community with its environmental goals. Alpine Bank helps fund the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability and offers customers a special environment debit card. Every time the card is used, Alpine Bank contributes 10 cents into a fund for environmental projects. During Cinco de Mayo, bank employees handed out shopping bags made of recycled material at City Market. A local trash hauler, Honeywagon, sold recycle bins to the banks at cost.We are really getting positive feedback from our community, and clientele, Mapp said.

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