A sustainable future: Snowmass environmental board strives to do more in 2020
Editor’s Note: This is part of a three-story series published in the Dec. 25 Snowmass Sun looking at sustainability efforts in the village.
On Dec. 3, the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) held its last meeting of the decade.
For nearly two hours, the six-person board soaked up presentations about portable, multi-use solar energy stations and global sustainable development goals that could be adopted in Snowmass; discussed the best approach to crafting a new sustainability plan and future goals beyond 2020; and said goodbye to one of its longtime members, Debbie Dietz Shore.
A former councilwoman and current Snowmass Water and Sanitation District employee, Shore served on the EAB for over six years, which is about how long the board has been in existence.
Shore said she joined the EAB after serving on council and helping start the town’s first recycling program in the early ’90s as a way to continue looking at the little ways Snowmass could be more sustainable.
“In the time I’ve been on the EAB, it’s grown up,” Shore said. “Right now there is such an important collection of intellectual, experienced and passionate people with a lot of knowledge. … I think they’re poised to make some big impacts.”
As Shore highlighted, Snowmass has made strides to be more environmentally friendly and efficient since the town’s sustainability plan was established in 2009 (see related stories).
Over 10 years later, sustainability is still a top town focus. But as the urgency to address climate change heightens across the globe, many EAB members are looking to push the community to be even more sustainability minded and establish Snowmass Village as a green leader.
“We have a pretty incredible opportunity because Snowmass is a pretty small, tight-knit community so everyone can kind of participate,” said Andrew Wickes, chair of the EAB. “I think we can make a statement, too. … People come here and want to identify and a lot of them have influence in their communities, so the least we can do is inspire some action when they head back home.”
For over two years Wickes has chaired the EAB, which has allowed him to pursue his interest in sustainability and be a part of what he feels is a time of increased environmental awareness and opportunity in Snowmass.
During his time on the board, Wickes said the EAB has worked to understand where its community sits when it comes to energy, waste and water consumption.
After learning more and establishing initiatives to help the town reach its “20 by 20” emission reduction goal, Wickes said he feels the board is ready to look more to the future and what sustainability and resiliency initiatives Snowmass wants to implement next.
“I think it’s up to the community leaders to set a precedent and for people who do feel powerfully about these issues to make changes and tell their friends about them,” Wickes said.
Continued renewable energy projects, green events like the Snowmass Wine Festival, updated building codes that align with the most current international development standards, more public outreach and conversation, and an expanded composting program are some of the things Wickes hopes Snowmass leaders and locals embrace over the next decade.
And for Linda Giudice, another EAB member, following the global sustainable development goals that are relevant to Snowmass may help guide the village down the sustainable and resilient path that’s most appropriate.
“Not only do the SDGs offer opportunities to think about other areas of sustainability, but also allows you to look at why these areas are important to your community context,” Giudice explained.
Through the Mountain Resilience Coalition, a collaboration of the Aspen International Mountain Foundation, Telluride Institute and School of Environment and Sustainability at Western Colorado University, Giudice is working to bring the SDG framework to a set of pilot mountain communities in Colorado to help better understand critical needs and model sustainable change, locally and internationally.
Giudice said she feels Snowmass Village is a good candidate for the pilot project, and is in conversations with the town about its potential to participate.
“What is most important is that mountain communities optimize their (carbon) footprints based on the fact that they rely on tourism,” Giudice said. “It’s a really important intersection and where we find the balance within sustainability.”
As an EAB member, Giudice said she feels the village is doing a lot to optimize its carbon footprint, but hopes to create more regionalized partnerships and encourage both older and younger generations to get more involved in the conversation.
“We’re all in this together, it’s not just one generation that got us where we are and it’s not just one generation that’s going to get us out, “ Giudice said.
This multi-generational approach to sustainability is what Laney Martens hopes to see in Snowmass Village moving forward, too.
A senior at Aspen High School and daughter of the town’s director of public works, Martens plans to spend her last few months of high school as involved with the EAB as possible.
“I love the way they view sustainability,” Martens said of the EAB, which she researched through her involvement with the valley’s Youth Water Leadership Program. “In our society, kids and youth voices often aren’t taken seriously, but they are the future leaders and if adults listen earlier I think we can come up with more ideas.”
Like her older peers, Martens said she feels the town is doing a lot to decrease its carbon footprint, but would like to see more youth involvement and tourism-related revenue put toward doing even more for the village environment.
“It would be great to use the resources we get from tourism to better our own town,” Martens said. “Because we’re one of the smaller communities in the valley, I think we’re able to take a bigger step toward a greener future.”
Snowmass Village retailers combined to generate $2.2 million in revenue in July, which translated to $247,891 in sales tax collections for the town’s general fund, according to the latest tax report available.