Organizations in Summit County are now peeling back the layers of their energy use and studying ways to reduce their impact on the environment. At the forefront of this push in our community are a handful of groups for which sustainability has become not just another buzzword but a way of doing business.
On Thursday, May 15, Summit County residents and visitors will have the rare opportunity to interact with these environmental leaders all in one place as they come together for a panel discussion about sustainability. The impetus of the conversation is this year’s Summit Reads Community Project book, “Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution,” by Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Co.
Panelists include representatives from Vail Resorts, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin, Colorado Mountain College, the High Country Conservation Center and the town of Breckenridge. Moderator Joyce Mosher, professor of English and communications at CMC, will ask the participants to discuss what their companies are doing to promote sustainability, and then she will open the discussion to the audience for questions.
“We wanted to hear from local resort leaders on how the industry is handling sustainability,” said Joyce Dierauer, Summit Reads committee member and executive director of Summit County Libraries. “Summit Reads wanted people to know what Summit County is doing locally on this topic.”
Starting with the ski resorts
Luke Cartin, senior mountain environmental affairs manager for Vail Resorts, said he hopes the panel will educate Summit County on how fully invested local ski companies are in sustainability.
“The way I view it, anytime you are riding the chairlift on a powder day and you hear people hooting and hollering, it sums up why we do what we do,” he said about Vail Resorts’ sustainability efforts. “We need to let the communities be aware and be partners in what we’re doing. We couldn’t do it without the support of the community.”
Cartin said at Thursday’s event he will be discussing how Vail Resorts is “truly walking the walk” with its projects, among them Target 10 Percent, which reduced energy use across the company by 10 percent over 2½ years, and The Next 10, which aims to reduce consumption by another 10 percent by 2020.
“If every major corporation in the U.S. drove down their energy use by 20 percent, that would have huge, drastic, long-lasting effects,” he said. “We put our money where our mouth is.”
Through all of its programs, from composting to fighting pine beetles to donating money to Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Vail Resorts is doing what it can to be an example to others in the community, Cartin said. Dave Glissmann, a member of Copper Mountain’s Green Team, agreed that the ski resorts should lead by example.
“We’ve focused on a few different areas,” he said of Copper’s efforts. “We’ve installed solar panels recently, we’ve implemented an energy usage tracking system within the resort to try to keep managers aware of their energy consumption. Over the last year, we’ve installed a lot of water bottle filling stations to try to reduce our waste impact, as well as completely composting at all of our food courts.”
Glissmann said he’s looking forward to sharing ideas with the other panelists, trying to gain some best practices or learn about anything Copper could emulate that other resorts or businesses are doing.
“To really make an impact,” Glissmann said, “everyone has to be involved; everyone has to be energy aware and conscious of their energy usage and their impact on carbon emissions.”
Not relying on policy
Jen Schenk, executive director for the High Country Conservation Center, or HC3, said the panel discussion is important because it brings together people and organizations that are all working toward the same goal.
“Honestly, the group of panelists, for starters, we all know each other but we don’t get together nearly often enough, so I’m really interested in learning what my sustainability colleagues across the county are working on,” she said. “And really just to get in front of the community and allow the community to ask questions and give us ideas of what members of the public think we should be working on or things we may not have thought about.”
Schenk said the Summit Reads book, “Getting Green Done,” is fantastic and a great catalyst for a bigger, more pragmatic discussion.
“It’s about making real change happen, not glorifying environmentalism and all these touchy-feely things,” she said. “There’s been very little environmental policy that’s happening at the federal level and at the state level, so what’s happening around the country is that communities are actually the ones making a difference.”
If you’re interested in our community’s sustainability, Schenk said this is one of the only times where you’re going to have everyone together who’s really working on a daily basis to effect that change.
“Even though all the panelists are working on sustainability every day, we have our heads down at our desks, so to speak, we aren’t in the same room,” she said. “If they want to give us ideas or listen to all of the cool things that are going on in the sustainability front, this is a great opportunity to see what’s going on and give us input.”