Silverthorne business steps into sustainability limelight |

Silverthorne business steps into sustainability limelight

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
Summit Daily News/Janice Kurbjun

Erin Young, an already sustainably minded business owner, is excited to be among the first to take advantage of Silverthorne’s new Energy Smart business incentive program.

She plans to be among the first in the county to make her business zero-waste, through recycling, offering product for reuse, composting and controlling her suppliers’ packaging. Her goal is to have everything in place by June.

The challenge wasn’t in getting everything in place, Young said, though it did require time.

“If you’re interested in it, though, it’s not that hard,” she said.

Officials at High Country Conservation Center, at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park, at the town and beyond have helped get services in place, and suppliers were amenable to adjusting their packaging.

“Part of being zero-waste is, the things you get have to be compostable,” Young said. She estimates she’ll have one 10-gallon trash bag per week that heads to the landfill. Currently, she throws away roughly 35 gallons per day.

“And we’re just a coffee shop,” she said, suggesting the challenge may be greater for restaurants and other larger operations.

Waste Management makes it easy, too. The company picks up trash and unsorted recycling, making it easy to do both. The county offers compost pick-up services as well.

The challenges included a small price increase, particularly for to-go containers.

But, Young used Facebook to survey her customers, and the overwhelming response was that they’d welcome the slight bump in already low prices to help a cause.

Educating staff and customers can be tough, too, Young said, though by making almost everything that goes over the counter compostable, it makes it easy.

“It’s a marketing tool,” she said by way of explaining why she’s pursuing the zero-waste title. Because her customers are willing to help pay for it, she says that “public sentiment drives what businesses should be doing before regulation does.”

She also feels good about it.

“I like to know I’m not using as many resources,” she said, adding that it makes sense to use less regardless of where you stand on the global warming issue. “As a business owner, you should always be looking to improve … this is one way to improve our business.”

Next month, Young receives an energy audit, though she doesn’t expect much of a report. She’s not been heating the building since she opened, using residue heat from refrigeration equipment to provide the heat.

Young encouraged other businesses to get involved.

“I’m surprised there weren’t more (participating),” she said. “I’m proud Silverthorne is doing something like this.”

In addition to addressing the waste stream, Young is pursuing other goals of the Energy Smart program, including lighting retrofits. She said it’s important for businesses to think about, particularly if they have old ballasts that hold lights to be discontinued in the near future.

She expects the new lighting to use about 10 times less energy. Though the cost was high up front (roughly $800), it will be an ideal investment in the long term. Xcel Energy helps out with lighting rebates, too.

“Two-hundred dollars doesn’t go far in the sustainability scheme of things,” she said, referring to the town’s grant assistance. “The biggest part (of Energy Smart) isn’t the money bit … it’s helping us get in touch with the right people.”

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