Eartha Steward: Breckenridge biodiesel conference attract big wigs in sustainability
August 21, 2013
I stopped by the Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge last Thursday and observed signs reading CBC (Collective Biodiesel Conference). Can you please provide some insight into this event?
— Sky, Breckenridge
Last week, Summit Greasecycling hosted the annual Collective Biodiesel Conference at the Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. While there are other conferences promoting biodiesel as an alternative and renewable energy source, the CBC emphasizes community empowerment. A brief history: The first CBC assembled in 2006 to unite grassroots biodiesel groups. It was in 2007 that our own Summit Greasecycling was founded. They collect used cooking oil (UCO) from hundreds of Colorado kitchens and process it for biodiesel production, all-purpose cleaners and all-natural handmade soaps.
The tone for the event was set at Thursday evening's mixer. Biodiesel big-wigs, community members and CMC staff and students gathered together. Food and beverages were donated by the event's sponsors, Breckenridge Brewery, The Warming Hut, Mi Casa and Park & Main. Don Scott, director of sustainability for the National Biodiesel Board, gave a presentation. Scott noted that biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable and has a significantly smaller carbon footprint when compared with fossil fuels. Using biodiesel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. In addition to the environmental benefits, biodiesel as an industry provides local jobs, improves food security and is committed to fuel quality.
Next, conference guests watched an inspiring documentary, "Empowered: Power from the People." The film follows Tompkins County, New York, families committed to the dream of having a sustainable homestead. Despite living in a cloudy and not-too-windy climate, residents strive for energy independence through solar, wind, geothermal and biodiesel energies. I use the term "independence" loosely mainly because homes that produce alternative energy might still need to pull from the grid on cloudy days, and should the homes produce excess, that energy goes into the community.
Folks have also found it be advantageous to come together, discuss their options as a community and place orders in bulk, cutting back on costs. Why have four homes on the same block all order and install separate systems? When all the materials can be shipped together and installation can be a team effort. Putting up solar panels or collecting veggie oil for your generator can be this generation's barn raising.
Putting things in perspective for me was Gay Nicholson, who says in the film, "Energy efficiency has never polluted the Gulf of Mexico or slimmed the shores of Alaska. Solar panels have never given a child asthma or blown the top off a mountain. Wind turbines have never threatened millions of people with cancer causing radiation. And energy efficiency has never polluted anybody's drinking water or destroyed a rural landscape."
Talk to your friends and neighbors. Chances are that person with a turbine in his or her front yard is more than excited to chat with you about it. For Summit Greasecycling, hosting the CBC was an honor, and the event served as that turbine in the front lawn.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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