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Avon to shrink its carbon ‘footprint’

Matt Terrell
eagle county correspondent

AVON ” Before hopping on an Avon bus, Brent Hopkins wondered aloud if his

daily ride could be powered by vegetable oil.

“It’s just a dumb thought,” he said. “The town would smell like fries, but

we’d have cleaner air.”

That idea may not be practical, but Hopkins likes the thought of greener

town. He was glad to hear that Avon is examining its carbon footprint in

hopes of becoming a better steward of the environment.

The town hired the consulting firm Schmueser Gordon Meyer to pick apart the

town’s energy use, track its carbon emissions and recommend ways of reducing

pollution.

Avon doesn’t appear to be a monster polluter, but its carbon footprint could

certainly be smaller.

When you look at the ratio of money spent on energy compared to total town

spending, Avon is about average, said Dan Richardson, a consultant with

Schmueser Gordon Meyer. And overall, Avon has a smaller carbon footprint

than towns like Vail, Glenwood Springs and Aspen, but Avon is also a

different kind of town, Richardson said.

When you start looking at individual buildings, like the Avon Recreation

Center, you see that the town can definitely reduce its carbon emissions.

Now that the town knows how much it’s using, it wants to shrink down its

emissions aggressively and create a plan to make the town more

environmentally friendly.

The firm analyzed everything from light bulbs to bus pollution.

The biggest energy spenders were town buildings, which put out 63 percent of

the town’s CO2. The Avon Recreation Center used 50 percent more energy than

your average recreation center, Richardson said. Avon’s recreation center

uses about double of what the recreation center in Glenwood Springs uses,

he said.

Glenwood’s recreation center is also one of the city’s biggest consumers of

energy.

Avon’s municipal building uses about 33 percent more energy than normal,

Richardson said.

The main point though was to find what was normal for Avon. The town used

2,481,478 kilowatt hours of electricity last year, and whether that’s high

or low, they want to reduce it. Same with the 159,898 therms of natural gas

and 26,107,696 gallons of water.

And the magic number? The town emitted 3,729 tons of CO2 in the air,

Richardson said.

The firm has a long list of suggestions to cut emissions and make Avon a

more sustainable, environmentally friendly community. Many are based in

creating new town policies, and many revolve around building stuff.

The town could choose for example to develop policies requiring

environmental impact to be a criteria when evaluating building projects. It

could mean requiring town employee to learn about fuel efficient driving.

Maybe the town should require new buildings to install high efficiency

ENERGY STAR products for any new equipment that uses electricity or natural

gas. Perhaps strategically planting shrubs and trees to cool off buildings

in the summer would make a difference. More money could be invested in

hybrid cars. It could be all of these things, and a few dozen more

recommended by the firm.

A big step Richardson hopes to see is the town dedicate funding every year

to energy efficiency improvements, which would show that Avon wants to make

sustainability a priority.

“You can really accomplish things if you put money into it,” Richardson

said.

It also would be good to see the town produce about 5 percent of its own

energy, he said. While it’s nice that the town is interested in buying wind

energy from Holy Cross, why not, for instance, put solar panels on some

buildings?

And, of course, there are the long list of small things Avon could do like

buy high efficiency light bulbs, add insulation, upgrade air conditioning

and heating systems and improve water boilers.

No matter what kind of plan the town creates, Avon has to commit for the

long haul, Richardson said.

“It can’t just be something they attack on a project by project basis,”

Richardson said. “They have to change their modus operandi, the way they do

business.”

Mayor Ron Wolfe suggested starting Avon’s environmental overhaul with a big

example ” the Avon Recreation Center. It has the largest carbon footprint in

town, and it’s a highly used, popular building that many people visit.

Avon will likely soon invest in what they call an “investment-grade” energy

audit, which will tell them more specifically than Richardson’s report where

energy is being lost in the building, where energy can be saved and what the

best ways are of reducing its carbon footprint.

As for all the other suggestions, town staff still has a lot of work to do

to figure out what will work and what won’t.

This lead-by-example approach can really work wonders for a town, Richardson

said.

More towns are analyzing their carbon footprints than ever, and that can

help promote a green culture in its citizens, Richardson said.

He hopes to see Avon hold community meetings to get a better understanding

of how residents want to tackle climate change.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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