Giving Thought: Collaboration at the heart of addressing the climate crisis
When thinking about the global climate crisis, it can feel daunting to take on at an individual level and lead some to wonder if they can make an impact at all. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), a local non-profit, believes that effectively taking on a problem the size of the climate crisis requires innovation and collaboration at a local level to overcome.
“Climate crisis doesn’t lend itself to competition. That we need is collaboration and cooperation,” according to Dallas Blaney, executive director of CORE.
Collaboration is at the heart of CORE’s work. Since their founding in 1994, they have collaborated with city and county governments, local and national businesses, and non-profits to work toward their goal of leading the Roaring Fork Valley to a carbon-free, net-zero energy future.
This work is accomplished by providing grants, rebates, and energy advising for residential and commercial energy upgrades, energy benchmarking for buildings, a lead for groundbreaking local projects, and climate-action planning support for communities.
They have worked with the city of Aspen to retrofit Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) housing units to increase energy efficiency, which included completing over 100 energy assessments and supporting the distribution of over $220,000 in NetZero grants.
Additionally, CORE has partnered with Holy Cross Energy with support from an Aspen Skiing Co. Environment Foundation grant. This grant works to increase access to Spanish-language resources to advance their equity work and expand access to information allowing all residents to work towards reducing their carbon footprints.
CORE is currently seeking federal funding to support a workforce study to assess the state of our regional green workforce. This is a necessary step in understanding our region’s current resources as they look to meet environmental goals.
The green workforce includes HVAC technicians, electricians, construction, and energy auditors. Expansion will support not only efforts to combat the climate crisis, but will also improve the lives of our regional workforce by providing higher paying jobs that have a high demand. CORE is already in conversations with Colorado Mountain College about coordinating efforts to train this workforce and employ residents who are already in our region.
Blaney said there are exciting grant funding opportunities available that could bring more federal dollars to our region to support climate-crisis efforts and economic development, but they require collaboration across organizations and local governments.
Federal grants can bring tremendous resources, but they often carry similarly sized applications and reporting requirements with them, which can prevent smaller rural areas from accessing funding. The coordination of efforts allows smaller organizations and local governments to access funding with fewer burdens and barriers.
“The current state of our workforce is a significant challenge, but this challenge presents us with a unique opportunity to develop a cutting-edge solution that leads to sustainable jobs for local workers who serve on the front lines of solving our climate crisis,” Blaney said.
CORE is committed to positioning itself as a regional coordinator to bring funding to our region. Without collaboration, the money will be directed to larger cities in Colorado like Denver and Boulder, leaving behind our part of the state which could benefit tremendously from the additional support to grow our green workforce. Their role as a coordinator is critical in advancing rural equity as it relates to both the climate crisis and economy.
Individual supporters of CORE’s work are also critical to their efforts. CORE provides energy advising and climate-action planning to the community, and these efforts are supported by individual donor support allowing CORE to make their innovative solutions more accessible to all.
Since 2010, CORE has distributed nearly $11 million in grants and rebates and prevented more than 35,000 metric tons of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere, which is roughly equivalent to taking 7,500 cars off the road. While it is a relatively small organization, CORE has shown that through collaboration, tremendous impact, and innovation is not only possible, it is achievable.
Allison Alexander is the director of strategic partnerships and communications for the Aspen Community Foundation, which with the support of its donors, works with non-profits in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys.