The town of Breckenridge awarded certified green business status to two local businesses in 2013 - the Hearthstone Restaurant and Ski Village Resorts.
The SustainableBreck business program resulted from the town's SustainableBreck plan adopted in 2011.
"One of the actions in this plan was, we should be coming up with a way to work with businesses to help move them towards the town's sustainability goals and also at the same time increase their bottom line," said Mark Truckey, assistant director of community development and head project planner for the sustainability plan.
To help businesses practice sustainability and other environmentally friendly plans, the town teamed up with the High Country Conservation Center (HC3). In a project spearheaded by energy programs manager Lynne Greene, HC3 offers free energy audits to businesses seeking to increase their green practices. It provides this service to Frisco and Silverthorne, in addition to Breckenridge.
In order to be involved, a business must first apply to the town, expressing the desire for the energy audit and stating what is currently being done to reduce environmental impact. The business then goes through an energy audit and a sustainability audit, separately. Upon receiving the data, HC3 "green coaches" go over it with the business owner, explaining what it means and what needs to be done.
"The best cost-saving measures are usually on the energy end," said Greene. "Lighting is statistically the largest energy expense for most office spaces, so we do a lot of lighting recommendations for upgrades."
Other suggested improvements could include heat efficiency, weather-stripping, caulking, the use of environmentally safe products, recycling and waste reduction.
Once the audit results come back, the business must choose at least one area in which to improve. After another assessment by the town, the business will officially become a certified green business, receiving a display sticker and recognition on the town's website.
When the Hearthstone Restaurant went through its audit, the results weren't surprising, said managing partner Pete Bakken. Constructed in the mid-1880s, there were a handful of ways to increase the building's energy efficiency. The main improvement was filling in insulation gaps in the walls, as well as throughout the basement level. The restaurant also purchased a sophisticated heated make-up air unit, which replaces air sucked out by kitchen vents with heated air, rather than pulling cold air in by way of the dining rooms. Bakken said he can now feel the difference in temperature and comfort level in the building.
"It was something we were thinking about before, then when we had the audit we had the science behind the information," said Jennifer Cawley, director of operations.
Sustainable practices aren't new for the Hearthstone, which has an active composting program that produces around 3 tons of compost a month. Although eventually the energy efficiency savings will make their presence known, the main reason behind the audit and certification isn't financial, Cawley said.
"It's just more the right thing to do to make our footprint smaller," she said.
Another benefit of the green certification is in marketing.
"There's definitely a percentage of the population that pays attention to that whether it's the locals or visitors," said Truckey.
Bakken agrees. "I think it means something to people in this day and age," he said of the sustainability certification. "I think they're looking for that. They're looking for businesses that are doing some of these responsible practices."
To keep the certification, businesses must continue with the sustainability effort, making at least one improvement each year. This year, Hearthstone plans to continue its insulation improvements by tackling the attic.
The energy audits are free for each business. The town of Breckenridge budgeted $10,000 for the program last year, sponsoring 18 businesses. The same amount has been budgeted for this year, Truckey said, with the hopes of at least 15 businesses making use of it. The town still has spaces for applicants, he said.
"It carries forth a goal of furthering our sustainability initiates in the community as a whole and we think that overall that can help the environment and the issues associated with that."