Skico, Aspen kick-start Colorado Climate Project
When Stephen Saunders went in search of support for the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, Aspen was an obvious target.The Aspen Skiing Co. got in early, signing on as a member of the organization. The Skico’s employee-driven environmental foundation was also the first to donate to the organization’s statewide initiative, the Colorado Climate Project.That project is still in the fundraising stage, and the Skico’s Environment Foundation gave $10,000 to help get it off the ground. At a work session Tuesday, Aspen City Council informally agreed to kick in, as well, since the project is in line with the goals of the city’s environmentally minded Canary Initiative. The city is also a member of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.”For Aspen Skico and the city of Aspen to make early contributions not only helps us get the Colorado Climate Project under way but also … encourages other businesses and local governments to support this effort, too,” said Saunders, the climate organization’s founder and president.Following the Skico foundation’s donation, the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund signed on with $100,000, followed by $50,000 from the Bohemian Foundation in Fort Collins and another $50,000 from the Denver Water Board, among others.The Skico foundation’s gift might seem like chump change compared with others on that list, but it’s a sizable grant for the nonprofit, which normally focuses on projects in the Roaring Fork Valley. Matt Hamilton, environmental affairs manager with the Skico, said the goals of the project make it worth branching out.”Aspen can be a lever of change, and where we can impact beyond Aspen, we should do that,” he said. “[Saunder’s] work dovetails very closely with the Canary Initiative.”Aspen began the Canary Initiative in response to evidence that the city contributes a disproportionately large amount of greenhouse gases to the environment. The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization reports that Colorado in general contributes more than its share – the state’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are greater than those of 174 of the world’s 212 nations.Unless those emissions are drastically reduced, Saunders said, the state can expect to see more drought and smaller snowpacks. That means less water, a condition that could be exacerbated if ski areas have to make more snow to compensate for the smaller snowpack.But reducing greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. It can save money. Chemical manufacturer DuPont reduced emissions by 70 percent compared with 1990 numbers and saved $2 billion. IBM reduced its emissions by 65 percent during the same period and saved $791 million.In addition to founding its nonprofit environmental foundation, the Skico purchases wind energy and uses a blend of renewable biodiesel in its snowcats, among other green efforts.Auden Schendler, director of environmental affairs for the Skico, said Saunders likely approached the company because of its reputation for going green.”He probably knew that we were very active on climate work,” Schendler said.Although the grant is large for the foundation, Schendler said “the board will give that kind of a grant when it deems it of … importance.””There’s no more pressing issue than climate change in this valley,” he said. “It’s the issue if you’re in the environmental field.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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