Inventory shows challenge Basalt faces to reach carbon emission goals
Basalt learned this week just how tough it is to go green.
An inventory of Basalt’s town-wide greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 showed there was only a 2% decrease from the 2014 baseline, according to a report by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, a Roaring Fork Valley-based nonprofit. That’s a slow start to a lofty goal.
“Basalt committed to reduce emissions 25% by 2025 and 80% by 2050 against the 2014 baseline,” the report said.
Basalt Town Council learned the results Tuesday night from Phi Filerman, community sustainability manager for CORE.
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“This is hard,” Councilman Auden Schendler said of the modest decrease in greenhouse gases.
At first glance it can be discouraging, but that decrease came despite growth in the town, he noted. Taxable sales in Basalt increased by about 13% between 2014 and 2017 while population increased by about 7%, according to the CORE report.
Schendler is senior vice president of sustainability for Aspen Skiing Co. and a renowned climate activist. He said he thought the town would have achieved a bigger decrease in overall carbon emissions simply from the power grid getting greener. Holy Cross Energy is continually increasing its mix of renewable energy. Schendler said Basalt’s decreases would mount as Holy Cross goes green.
In 2017, Basalt residences and businesses generated 53,907 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to CORE’s report. That was about 904 metric tons fewer than in 2014.
In the latest inventory, the energy to heat and power buildings remained the biggest contributor at 62%. Transportation was a distant second at 23% while aviation, from residents using air travel, was at 7%. The remaining 8% of emissions came from decomposition of trash and landfill operations.
“Although significant sustainability efforts are being made, Basalt has a long way to go to meet the reduction goal of 25% by 2025,” CORE’s report said. “To meet the 2025 reduction goal, the Basalt community needs to reduce emissions 2% every year.”
There is hope to achieve the goal, Filerman said, because Basalt’s biggest contribution to carbon emissions — buildings — also is the area ripest to reduce. About 20% of Holy Cross Energy’s electric mix was generated by renewable or clean sources in 2014. That increased to 39% in 2017, according to CORE’s report. As that number increases, the carbon emissions from Holy Cross customers decrease.
“A cleaner electric grid significantly impacts emissions,” the report said.
Adopting greener building standards for new construction and retrofitting existing structures is a key to reducing emissions. Basalt is taking action on both fronts.
Basalt Town Council approved amendments to its existing Sustainable Building Regulations on Tuesday night. Among the changes are higher fees for exterior energy use.
The town government also is considering pursuit of programs proposed by the Green Team, a citizen committee that advises the council on environmental issues.
“To help divert yard waste from the Pitkin County landfill, the Green Team is proposing to host two lawn/yard waste drop-off events a month for five consecutive months, May through October,” said a memo to council.
The Green Team also wants to pursue what is known as a cold-climate air source heat pump to reduce power consumption at Town Hall.
Reducing the carbon emissions produced by Basalt residents’ transportation, excluding air travel, might be a harder nut to crack.
“Motorists coming to and leaving Basalt traveled more than 32 million vehicle miles in 2017,” the CORE inventory said.
It comes as no surprise that burning gasoline in private vehicles produces most of the emissions. Public transportation accounted for only 5% of Basalt’s transportation-related emissions, the study said. So, reducing transportation-related emissions depends on getting more people on the bus, the study said.
The full greenhouse gas inventory for Basalt can be found as part of the town’s Sept. 24 Town Council agenda.
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