Frisco considers new programs to help reach sustainability goals
Frisco residents and businesses showed improvement in trying to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly last year, but more can always be done.
That was the message from the High Country Conservation Center, which attended a virtual Frisco Town Council meeting April 13 for a joint work session discussion on how the center’s programs performed in Frisco last year. Overall, the conservation center reported good results from the town.
Jess Hoover, climate action director with the nonprofit, said the group failed to hit its goal of 15 participants in the Solarize Summit program — which offers rebates for solar panel installations — with only seven residents signing on last year. Hoover called participation “not bad” considering the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three individuals are already signed up this year, and the center is hopeful it will be able to hit its goal of 10 participants in 2021.
The conservation center did meet its Frisco-specific goals with regard to getting businesses signed up for the Resource Wise program — meant to help reduce emissions and improve waste diversion — and getting community members on board with home energy assessments, retrofit rebates and indoor water checkups through the Tame the Tap program.
Hoover also noted several other accomplishments over the past year, including piloting a local commercial energy-benchmarking program, the completion of the countywide electric vehicle readiness plan and a new campaign to encourage Summit residents to use less natural gas, in partnership with Xcel Energy, among others.
Jennifer Schenk, the conservation center’s executive director, said the group is focused on expanding things like composting in Frisco and beyond as well as educational efforts to support the proper recycling of glass and mattresses throughout the county.
However, Schenk also pointed to some more troubling statistics, namely a low diversion rate in Summit County.
“We’re at about 20% recycling and composting, which means that 80% of the waste that we’re producing in Summit is still going in the trash,” Schenk said. “Despite all of these expanded programs, we’re not really inching up our diversion rate a lot. … We can’t do a whole lot else other than layer on policy.”
One of the potential policies Schenk mentioned was a pay-as-you-throw system for waste management in Summit County. She said she planned to reach out to stakeholders in Frisco and around the county in the coming weeks — along with hiring a waste consultant this summer — to begin pursuing the idea in earnest.
Frisco officials also floated their own sustainability ambitions moving forward.
Among the more notable ideas, council member Dan Fallon said the town should be looking for ways to link recycling programs and home-energy audits to short-term rental licenses. Council member Andrew Aerenson said energy assessments could also be required during regular home inspections in town.
“It’s a conversation I think should be started, because nothing is better information for any homeowner to know than how efficient or inefficient the thing they’re buying is,” Aerenson said.
Council members Andy Held and Melissa Sherburne both voiced a desire to see Frisco residents recycle more and to find new ways to discourage the use of single-use items like straws and plastic foam containers.
Finally, Mayor Hunter Mortensen said he’d like to begin a conversation about putting a new fee on single-use water bottles in town, a move he said could help to fund the expansion of other sustainability programs throughout the county.
“All of these things always make me worry about the funding and making sure they are funded, and what I really realized over the past few months is … I think it’s time we put a fee on our single-use water bottles,” Mortensen said. “I watch shopping carts full of those rolling out of the supermarkets for no reason, and I think if we had a fee to offset all of these great programs in our community on those bottles, I think it would actually go a long way with the goal of hopefully someday phasing out single-use water bottles in Summit County.”
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