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Your Eagle County business could be a local innovator in sustainability

The valley’s top 10 sustainable businesses share how Actively Green certification has positively impacted all aspects of their operations

By Lauren Glendenning Brought to you by Walking Mountains Science Center
Teams from the Town of Vail and Walking Mountains Science School at the Actively Green sustainable business awards.
Is your business Actively Green?

Actively Green is a sustainability training and certification program for all businesses in Eagle County. Participants learn how to make sustainability actionable in day-to-day operations and create action plans to drive long-term success.

The Actively Green standard is “Recognized” by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and includes criteria based on many other accepted principles and guidelines including those developed with input from the U.N. World Tourism Organization. Through partnerships with Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Sustainable Travel International, the Eagle Valley has its own credible certification program and sustainability management system. 

There are currently 60 certified businesses in Eagle County, with more than 232 businesses trained in Actively Green practices. For more information or to get started, visit walkingmountains.org/ag or call 970-827-9725.

As a leader in sustainability within the state of Colorado, Walking Mountains Science Center’s Actively Green certification program helps local businesses deliver impactful sustainability efforts across our valley. 

But the impacts are much more far-reaching, said Kate Manzer, the Sustainability Programs Coordinator for Actively Green. Local hotels, municipalities, utility companies, educational and recreational organizations, media, service and retail businesses certified through Actively Green are setting examples under a globally-recognized sustainability standard. 

“The Actively Green Program provides support to businesses that have a mission to constructively impact the greater Eagle Valley community, without too strictly defining what that beneficial impact is, or enforcing compliance with a precise path for reaching or achieving it,” she said. 

This leads to tremendous innovation within each organization that gets certified under the program. The winners of the Actively Green Top 10 Most Sustainable Businesses, awarded by a people’s choice voting system, have shared with us some of their favorite aspects of the program, and encourage other local businesses and organizations of all sizes to dive in. 

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

From garden maintenance to office procedures, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens focuses on how its sustainability practices reduce its overall environmental impact. Operations Manager Ellen Lorenz said they compare numbers every month and contemplate how to make them even better. 

Over the summer, she said the Gardens increased composting efforts by more than 100%, including all food waste, garden waste and paper towels from the bathrooms. 

“In turn, we purchase that nutrient rich composted soil back. We also took our efforts of protecting the alpine flora biodiversity to a new level by hiring a conservation scientist and completing work on the North American Botanic Garden Strategy for Alpine Plant Conservation,” Lorenz said. “We take pride in inspiring the conversation of what we all can do to protect the natural world with each of our curated exhibits both in the Education Center and throughout Ford Park. With a mission to deepen understanding and promote conservation of alpine plants and fragile mountain environments, we take our role as environmental stewards seriously starting with our home, Eagle County.”

Eagle River Water & Sanitation District

From a multitude of energy savings to added motivation for employees to incorporate sustainability into their work, Actively Green has helped the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District identify its areas of greatest environmental impact. Sustainability Coordinator Kira Koppel said the structure of the program has helped individual employees become more engaged and have a voice. 

The District has also been able to look at its internal performance in 2020 to implement more energy savings, which have helped make a dent in extra costs incurred due to the pandemic. 

“As many of our employees shifted to a remote schedule, we were able to realize greenhouse gas emissions savings from reduced commutes and energy use in the offices,” Koppel said. “In an effort to increase connection between employees during such a challenging time, the District started a sustainability book club. We had 20 participants read and discuss Drawdown throughout the course of the summer. We also created a home sustainability guide to help employees bring sustainability to their home offices. In addition, the District created a new EV Loan program to encourage low impact transportation as carpooling has become more of a health challenge.” 

Revolution Power Yoga

Being Actively Green helps Revolution Power Yoga stay connected to the community on a larger scale, said owner Julie Kiddoo. During the pandemic, that included limiting laundry and offering less borrowed props, which also led to using less water and cleaning supplies. 

“Revolution has been able to put more attention and awareness to being green simply by being a part of the program,” Kiddoo said. 

The Bookworm of Edwards

The Bookworm was the first business in Eagle County to be recertified Actively Green thanks to many small daily practices that have begun habits among employees. From straws made out of avocado pits and citrus peels to gift-wrapping ribbon made with pure cotton fibers, water-based glue and soy-based ink, many of the products used at The Bookworm of Edwards are environmentally sustainable.

The Bookworm’s Actively Green committee chair Manager Makena Burner said “if you’re willing to put in the extra work and a little more time, you can find some really cool (sustainable) stuff out there.”

Walking Mountains Science Center

Actively Green has provided Walking Mountains Science Center’s Green Team with a sense of accountability and consistency that keeps them on a path of continuous improvement and constant achievement of goals, milestones and performance, Manzer said. 

From an educational lecture on sustainability to a team check-in in which shared responsibility for monitoring its sustainability performance is discussed, the Green Team has maintained its focus even throughout the challenges of the pandemic. There’s always room for improvement, so as new opportunities became apparent the Green Team didn’t hesitate to tackle a few small steps at a time while the world around them was continuously changing. 

That continuous change created greater opportunities for the team to start new projects. With the support of the organization’s leadership, a new telecommuting policy was developed and immediately utilized; best practice and procedural updates were expanded and compiled into a comprehensive handbook for employee reference; responsibilities for various Green Team tasks were more evenly delegated among all team members; more in-depth analysis of campus water use contributed to the development of an action plan for conservation; and greater consideration for eco-alternative products pushed advances toward more structure for sustainable procurement.      

Maintaining the organization’s Actively Green certification has helped the Green Team retain designation through another sustainability recognition program as well – the science center is a Gold Leader among the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Environmental Leadership Program. 

Organic Housekeepers

Since its founding in 2003, Organic Housekeepers has allocated time and resources toward sustainability. During the pandemic, the business was able to reflect upon and refresh its sustainability practices as it also implemented new COVID-19 protocols, said General Manager Tim Szurgot. 

“As we clearly see the effects of climate change in our valley, it is no longer an option to be green-minded, it is a requirement,” Szurgot said. “We have always taken the triple bottom line approach to our business: People, Planet, Profit. This approach is the cornerstone of our success. We encourage other businesses to be engaged with the Actively Green program as not only will it help ensure a healthy planet for future generations, but will also improve a business’s bottom line.”

Antlers at Vail

Antlers at Vail General Manager Magda King, with former general manager Rob LeVine, participate in a Restore the Gore cleanup effort in Vail.

The team at The Antlers has become more creative and conscientious about the impacts of its decisions, said General Manager Magda King. 

“With this approach, suddenly everything matters — to the staff, to the guests and to the earth,” she said. “The Actively Green Program shows quickly its success. This program is not a utopian ideology to save the planet, but a meaningful source of purpose within an organization, in which what everybody does matters. We wish we could do more, but we understand that our little bit is meaningful to all.”

Bonfire Brewing Taproom

Bonfire Brewing recognizes a tangible economic benefit to reducing its environmental impact. Switching to high-efficiency infrastructure has been a welcomed way to save money.

“While the satisfaction earned by implementing sustainable business practices is a benefit in and of itself, the money saved by switching to automatic light sensors in our buildings, for example, has ended up saving us money on our electric bill,” said bartender Shawna Wood. “Our community appreciates other environmentally conscious businesses and it feels good to have our sustainable practices recognized.”

Town of Vail Community Development Department

From composting and recycling regularly to biking or walking to work to turning off all electronics at the end of the day, the Town of Vail’s Community Development department has made green practices a part of the normal day-to-day routine. Beth Markham, environmental sustainability coordinator at the Town, said Actively Green is a way to implement sustainability practices into the fabric of your business operations. 

“Through engaging employees in green initiatives in the workplace, you can not only reduce your businesses impact on the environment, support local goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support local businesses and entrepreneurs,” she said, “but also save money through energy, water, and waste reduction, provide added benefits to employees, and develop a sense of company pride around sustainability accomplishments.”

The Community Market

Sustainability efforts are built into the Community Market’s day-to-day operations. Sustainability and Partner Relations Coordinator Rita Mary Hennigan said the Community Market’s Food Rescue Program has prevented hundreds of thousands of pounds of food from ending up in the landfill this year. Another 2020 success is its waste diversion efforts, diverting 95% of the waste materials generated from going to the landfill. 

The Market has offset 100% of its electric energy use at its Gypsum location via Holy Cross Energy’s PuRE program, began a soft plastics recycling program in partnership with City Market and Trex, and sourced much of its fresh produce from Colorado farmers during the 2020 growing season. 

“The Actively Green program offers many opportunities for learning and is a great tool to start or continue on your journey to becoming a more environmentally thoughtful business/organization,” she said.


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