Steamboat Springs Out-of-towners provided insight Friday into what they've done, what they're trying to do and what's working in the sustainability arena.
Panelists Luann Rudolph and Kim Wheels spoke about linking technology and people to cut carbon emissions in Colorado cities at the Sustainability Summit. Rudolph coordinates the Sustainable Urban Infrastructure program at the University of Colorado-Denver. Wheels is the energy specialist for the New Community Coalition in San Miguel County.
Both have been active in improving the sustainability of Colorado cities. They poured out idea after idea, leaving the audience impressed and full of questions.
"I'm blown away," said Liz Wahl, a Yampa Valley Sustainability Council board member. "Great job."
The council held the summit at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel. The event continues at 8 a.m. today with a green building tour starting at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Rudolph helps lead a program that measures the carbon footprint of cities. Its hallmark is a focus on the broader view. The graduate students and researchers involved look at the impact a city has inside and outside its borders.
"Some of the outcomes from this are the policy impacts this is having," Rudolph said.
"In Denver, we've done a bunch of different policies and programs. One of the most important is green concrete."
The group has helped Denver move toward using 20 percent greener concrete for projects that don't involve roadway or bridge work. The concrete contains fly ash, a byproduct of coal power production.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is interested but seeking more information, Rudolph said.
"What their concern is, is durability over time and de-icing, so we're testing that right now," she said.
One of the challenges, Rudolph said, is figuring out the extent to which residents will participate in sustainable projects. People have been willing to trade in light bulbs for more efficient models, but rarely follow up on a home energy audit, for example.
"In Denver we're looking at a voluntary program that involves Realtors in promoting energy upgrades at the time of sale," she said.
The Sustainable Urban Infrastructure program has had some success with that.
Most of Wheels' work has been focused not in metro areas, but in Telluride and San Miguel County.
The mayors of Telluride and Mountain Village have expressed a desire to run the towns on 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. Wheels' group has worked to raise community awareness about those and other goals to reduce waste.
The New Community Coalition has pushed that educational element by teaching "low carbon diet" classes and informing visitors about events such as the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, she said. The group had a solar display and a solar oven baking cookies.
"We're just really trying to get at - whether it's locals or people coming in for festivals - trying to teach them what the sun can do," Wheels said.
Residents are working on projects to power the town gondola with green energy, and the wastewater treatment plant has gotten on board with sustainability. Sustainability Council Chairwoman Angela Ashby said she was impressed with the work Rudolph and Wheels have done and the information they offered.
"It's slow going," Ashby said. "It's education, and it's great to have people we can call on and ask so we don't have to reinvent the wheel every time."