Sustainable program offers new ways to give back

Businesses can help One Percent for Steamboat, Colorado Carbon Fund

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— Steamboat Springs' green business program is giving companies a couple of ways to help the environment close to home.

Members of the Sustainable Business Program, run by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, must create a plan to improve their impact on the environment. They now can participate in the One Percent for Steamboat program or the Colorado Carbon Fund, Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall said.

Businesses had been concerned that credits they bought to offset carbon emissions left the region or state, said Lyn Halliday, principal of Environmental Solutions Unlimited. Under these two programs, sustainable measures will have a visible local impact, she said.

"We kind of have a quiver of things people can choose from instead of just renewable energy credits," Evans Hall said. "Most of that does not come back into our local environment at all."

The One Percent program allows businesses' customers or patrons to chip in, said Halliday, who helps businesses build their sustainability plans.

Under the program, customers can opt to add a donation to their purchase. The donations go into a Chamber-managed fund to be disbursed to local sustainability projects, she said. Local business people select the recipients.

"There's a lot of folks that visit here, for example, that would like to see Steamboat stay a wonderful place to visit or recreate : and they really have no mechanism to give back," Halliday said. "So the businesses came up with this idea through a task force we developed, and it's really up to the business as far as how they design it."

Businesses that have a hard time adding 1 percent to a bill could ask customers to donate perhaps a dollar, Halliday said. The sustainability program has 60 members.

She pointed to last year's "Green Halloween" as an example of the type of project that could be funded. Through that, the Chamber gave reusable tote bags to children for their Halloween candy collections.

"If we end up garnering a fair amount of money, we'll get some maybe larger projects like solar panels on the school, but I think at first it will be some smaller ones," Halliday said.

Black Tie Ski Rentals is excited to participate, co-owner Ian Prichard said. The company rents and delivers skis to visitors. Black Tie's Crested Butte location allows customers to donate 1 percent to a similar program, Prichard said.

Black Tie plans to add that option next ski season on its Web site and to customers it serves at their hotel rooms.

"Anything they're purchasing gives them an opportunity to donate to it," Prichard said. "It's nice because it's kind of a measurable donation, too."

Companies in the Sustainable Business Program also have the opportunity to donate to the Colorado Carbon Fund created by the Governor's Energy Office. Businesses donate $20 per metric ton of carbon they produce, Halliday said.

"That one would probably be more attractive to a larger business or a business that transacts more money," she said.

The cash goes to the carbon fund, which benefits Colorado's environment. A percentage of the money returns to the Yampa Valley for projects, Halliday said.

"It's kind of fun, grass-roots stuff," she said. "Again, we'll solicit ideas through a variety of channels to try to find things that are appropriate."

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