High Country Conservation Center highlights climate action plan, recycling program in 2019 report | SummitDaily.com

High Country Conservation Center highlights climate action plan, recycling program in 2019 report

Recycled aluminum sits in a large container at the Summit County landfill in Dillon in November 2017. The High Country Conservation Center has used Strong Future funds to revamp the county’s recycling programs.
Hugh Carey / hcarey@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — The High Country Conservation Center, Summit County’s main recycling and conservation nonprofit, gave its annual report for 2019 to the Board of County Commissioners during their regular work session Tuesday.

High Country Conservation Center Executive Director Jen Schenk and Climate Action Director Jess Hoover were on hand to deliver the report. Among the highlights in their presentation to the board was the countywide adoption of a climate action plan and implementation of programs paid for by 2018’s Ballot measure 1A, also known as the county’s “Strong Future” fund.

The conservation center lobbied to get every one of Summit’s major towns — Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne — along with the county government, to sign on to the “Summit Community Climate Action Plan.” The plan calls for achieving 100% renewable electricity across the county by 2035, expediting the transition to electrical vehicles and construction of the required infrastructure, improving public transit and multi-modal infrastructure for biking and walking, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from commercial and residential buildings with the implementation of newer and efficient building and land-use codes. 

The combined efforts of the county aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the county by 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Aside from the climate action plan, the conservation center also started putting “Strong Future” voter-approved funds into action last year. The initiative devoted $1.7 million in county taxpayer funds towards creating and expanding recycling programs.

Among the new offerings funded by Strong Future money is the county’s new food scrap composting program, where residents can grab a food scrap storage container from conservation center and use it to store discarded food debris. When the container is full, they can be emptied into a bear-proof composting bin at the Breckenridge or Frisco recycling centers. Those bins go to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park, where the scraps are deposited at the landfill’s composting pad to be organically broken down and converted into useful plant soil.

In 2019, 53 tons of food scraps had been diverted from the landfill, which is the equivalent of taking 121 cars off the road annually.

Strong Future funds have also been used to revamp the county’s recycling programs to recycle glass, allowing for one of the most lucrative and heavy recyclables to finally be diverted away from the landfill. The county has also started recycling mattresses, a boon for the lodging industry, as well as cartons.

The conservation center has also hosted a number of educational events and presentations, including “Simple, Serious, Solvable,” by Scott Denning, “Climate Change and the Colorado River,” by Brad Udall, an electric vehicle ride and drive demonstration, and a screening of the film, “The Human Element.”

The conservation center also made steady headway into its residential and commercial Energy Smart Colorado and Resource Wise programs to boost energy efficiency. In total, HC3 conducted 75 home energy assessments and 34 home energy retrofits. On the commercial side, the Resource Wise program enrolled five new businesses and helped pay for three commercial sustainability projects with rebates.

Schenk and Hoover said that in 2019, conservation center’s residential and commercial programs combined to keep an estimated 712 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere, installed 3,648 LED lightbulbs, saved homeowners and businesses $13,065 with ‘quick-fix’ retrofits, saved businesses $74,405 in business efficiency projects, and generated $308,134 worth of income for local contractors.

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