Sustainability Summit to focus on solutions

Friday's speakers include green building, carbon footprint experts

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If you go

What: Sustainability Summit

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel on Friday, green building tour Saturday starting at Bud Werner Memorial Library

Cost: $35 for workshops, $10 for tour. Register by today at www.yvsc.org

— On May 4, 2007, a tornado all but destroyed Greensburg, Kan. Three options presented themselves, John Wickland said: rebuild the town as it was before, walk away or rebuild the town sustainably.

Greensburg residents chose the third, said Wickland, a project manager for GreenTown. His nonprofit group is working with the southwest Kansas town to promote environmentally friendly construction. Wickland will share ideas and tell the story Friday, as keynote speaker at the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council's Sustainability Summit.

This year's summit includes discussions of utilities, water, transportation, beetle kill and composting. The Friday workshops will be followed by a green building tour Saturday, council Chairwoman Angela Ashby said.

Although Wickland's presentation will focus on Greensburg, he said it would provide information relevant to Routt County.

"Greensburg is trying to be a model especially for small towns," he said. "Small towns in rural America don't have a lot of money, so we're trying to give people ideas for how they can build without sort of breaking the bank."

When the tornado shattered much of Greensburg, volunteers flowed in from across the country to help. Wickland came from Durango with Habitat for Humanity. He planned to stay for a couple of weeks. He's been there 13 months.

There's no mandate for businesses or residents in Greensburg to rebuild green, Wickland said. After the storm, the townspeople got together and decided they would try.

"We don't tell people you have to put wind turbines and solar panels in every building to be green," he said. "People do what they can within their budget."

The Sustainability Council is trying to promote that positive, can-do message with the "solutions for a changing world" theme, Ashby said. The council lowered the price for the summit this year and hopes to draw at least 200 people to the sessions at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel. Registrations are due today.

"People feel like they can't make a change, and we want to make people feel like they can make a change," Ashby said.

Holistic footprints

Todd Musselman, a business owner, musician and speaker, will lead off the summit Friday. The event will include exhibitions from vendors and organizations.

Luann Rudolph will speak with a panel about reducing carbon emissions in Colorado cities. She coordinates a grant-funded sustainable urban infrastructure program at the University of Colorado-Denver.

"We'll talk probably broadly about different research programs that we have going on here at the university, particularly those that we're using to do sustainability energy and water planning for cities and different entities here in Colorado," Rudolph said.

She and colleagues at the college have built a method to evaluate the carbon footprint of cities. The work has led to the development of products such as high-grade green concrete, Rudolph said.

When businesses and communities evaluate their carbon footprint, they often stop measuring at their own borders. But the materials to build a business or a city building come from somewhere. That should be factored in to calculations, Rudolph said. That's what her program does.

"The difference is we're looking at these out-of-boundary activities and trying to account for the holistic greenhouse gas footprint," she said.

Organizers are working on a pilot program to take that carbon footprint model to six Colorado cities with fewer than 35,000 people.

Ashby said she hoped speakers such as Wickland and Rudolph would provide locals information "so they can go and apply it to their home, their business : learn what other people are doing so they can apply it to their lives."

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234 or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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