City employees get bonus for reaching ‘green’ goals
November 20, 2006
Going green paid off for 266 employees of the city of Aspen this year.All full-time employees earned a $100 bonus because the city government reached its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 1 percent this year, according to Dan Richardson, the city’s global warming project manager.Roughly 200 city employees earned a second $100 bonus because their departments reached their goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 1 percent. Richardson said the mission was accomplished by 22 of the 24 departments. The police and recreation departments missed the mark, he said.The police department’s downfall came from replacing its fleet of Saabs with Volvos. “They’re working against smaller, more efficient vehicles,” said Richardson.Richardson said tying greenhouse gas emissions to bonuses was a way to spark interest in the effort. There’s nothing like a little green to provide incentive to be green.”If there are no consequences, we tend not to pay attention,” he said.The city government reduced its emissions by 10.5 percent overall. “This is a great accomplishment considering most cities’ greenhouse gas emissions are increasing 10 to 15 percent per year,” Richardson wrote in a memo to the City Council and staff.The city government shattered the goal primarily because the Aspen Electric Department produced and purchased more renewable energy compared to the year before.Richardson used the city’s greenhouse gas emissions from October 2004 through September 2005 as a baseline figure. He examined each department’s emissions from October 2005 through September 2006 to see if they achieved their goal.The departments were fortunate because the electric department doubled its power from noncarbon sources in 2006. It bought more wind power and its microhydro electric plant was more productive due to higher water flows, according to Richardson.As a result, all the departments that used power generated by the city’s electric department saw their electricity emissions cut in half.The recreation department didn’t benefit because electricity for the Aspen Recreation Center is purchased from Holy Cross Energy, Richardson said. The rec department is investing in energy-efficiency projects that should allow it to achieve its goal next year, he said.Renewable energy wasn’t the only factor in the city’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Even without that “bonus” from cleaner energy, 13 of the city’s 24 departments would have met the goal, according to Richardson’s calculations.The streets department, for example, helped achieve its goal by decommissioning a snowmelter, which is an energy pig. Several departments reported they reduced air travel by a significant amount.The parks department met its goal even though it is saddled with a fire pit’s natural gas consumption on Aspen’s pedestrian mall. Some critics have questioned how the city can express a concern over global warming on one hand, and fire up the fire pit on the other.”I bet I’ve talked more about the fire pits than any other issue since I’ve taken this job,” Richardson said.He noted that the city initially planned to light the pit 365 nights per year as a tourist amenity. The parks department decided it would only light the pit during cold-weather months, drastically reducing the consumption and, thus, the greenhouse gas emissions.City departments will shoot to reduce their emissions again next year and, if they succeed, employees will be eligible for bonuses again. The departments must be 2 percent below the baseline year to earn the bonuses in 2007.At some point, he said, the program’s goal might have to be tougher.”One percent per year isn’t going to cut it,” Richardson said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.