Vail Daily column: 14 environmental wins in ’14
We live in a remarkable place and our local economic vitality and community well-being ultimately depend on each of us doing our part to be good stewards of the natural mountain environment we all enjoy. Let’s take a moment to celebrate our community’s environmental stewardship successes.
Here are my top 14 local environmental wins in 2014:
• The Eagle County Board of County Commissioners designated the week of April 21-27 as Earth Awareness Week and recommitted to their environmental policy statement and internal goal of reducing the county’s energy, fuel and water use 15 percent by the year 2015 and 20 percent by the year 2020.
• The U.S. Wilderness Act, which helps protect and preserve our local Holy Cross Wilderness Area and Eagles Nest Wilderness Area, celebrated its 50th anniversary.
• The Vail Town Council adopted a new environmental sustainability policy to increase recycling and prevent materials from ending up in the landfill.
• The National Forest Foundation and over 30 local and regional organizations completed a multi-year collaborative planning process to help guide the ecological restoration and enhancement of Camp Hale and the Eagle River Headwaters.
• The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Eagle River Watershed Council each played important leadership roles protecting our excellent high quality drinking water and providing input on water issues throughout the region.
• The Energy Smart program at Walking Mountains Science Center, in partnership with Eagle County Eco-Build and Holy Cross Energy supported energy efficiency projects in the community resulting in a savings of 1,619,020 kilowatt hours and reducing carbon emissions by 3,406,743 pounds while generating $1,147,364 in economic stimulus.
• Vail Resorts strengthened its commitment to sustainability with the launch of EpicPromise and supported environmental education and stewardship projects for youth conducted by the Eagle Valley Land Trust and Walking Mountains Science Center in addition to reducing its own energy use and donating over 200 company-sponsored volunteers to restore and enhance the Duck Pond Open Space near Gypsum.
• Eagle County Open Space celebrated the acquisition of 34 acres upstream of Burns to permanently protect habitat for river otter, mink, migratory birds, black bears and elk while providing a public access point from the Colorado River.
• The Environment Committee of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships reached its goal to train and certify local businesses in sustainability best practices through the new Actively Green 2015 program (for a list of certified businesses, go to http://www.activelygreen2015.com).
• The Taste of Vail and Vail Farmers’ Market events diverted over 65 percent of their waste from going to the landfill.
• The town of Avon committed to zero-waste programming at all of their special events and both the WinterWondergrass and the Fourth of July Salute event diverted over 50 percent of their waste from the landfill.
• Students at Edwards Elementary, Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and Avon Elementary have formed “green teams” to integrate environmental sustainability into their schools and reduce energy use and increase recycling and schoolyard stewardship while working toward earning the Eco-Schools award in partnership with Vail Resorts EpicPromise, National Wildlife Federation and Walking Mountains Science Center.
• Colorado Mountain College celebrated the graduation of its first students earning degrees from the new Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies and the certificate in sustainability leadership programs.
• Over 30,000 youth and adults participated in environmental science and sustainability education programming under the guidance of passionate graduate student educators and interns at Walking Mountains Science Center.
While there is much to celebrate, there is always more we can do. One of my mentors once told me “environmental sustainability is a journey, not a destination.” As I reflect back on 2014, I am proud of our community and all of the hard work we’ve accomplished together. There are also many more good environmental deeds taking place each day that go unnoticed. Almost every decision we make and every behavior we take has a consequence on the future of our natural environment. As I look forward to 2015, I am inspired by the current momentum in our community and I am committed to doing my own part to continue making a positive difference. Now is a good time to reflect on what we appreciate in life, and what we want to improve upon, and set goals for the year ahead. What will you do in the coming year to protect our beautiful mountain environment which sustains our daily lives with fresh air, water, open spaces, supports our local economy and community well-being? As evidenced above, there are so many ways for each of us to engage in environmental stewardship every day of the year.
Kim Langmaid lives in Vail, and she is vice president and director of sustainability and stewardship programs at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.