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Summit County ‘Energy Smart’ Programs Boost Bottom Line, Promote Efficiency

Waste reduction programs like composting, are taking hold with Summit County business owners.
Waste reduction programs like composting, are taking hold with Summit County business owners.

What started as a pilot program to promote energy conservation in Frisco last year is quickly spreading across Summit County. So far, 30 businesses have signed on to participate.

Frisco’s Clean Tracks, Silverthorne’s Energy Smart Business Program, and Breckenridge based Sustainable Breck, all help companies improve their energy efficiency in small ways like replacing inefficient light bulbs to a complete overhauling of waste disposal and composting systems.

The programs assist companies wanting to go “green” with free coaching, energy and waste assessments, and even technical assistance.

Pilot program success gets others excited

Jen Schenk is Executive Director of the non-profit High Country Conservation Center which oversees the local programs. 

“We had some funding from the governor’s energy office, which made it really easy to start a pilot project in Frisco. And then once the other towns saw the success in Frisco they really wanted to jump on board and start their own programs.”

The success of the programs come at an important time for counties in the central mountains of Colorado. As the Vail Daily reports, Eagle County commissioners are discussing how a local land fill is in need of modification to extend its usable life.

A positive impact to the bottom line

Schenk says as area businesses begin to implement recycling and composting programs, they’re not only impacting their bottom lines, but creating beneficial implications for Colorado’s environment.

“That is actually really easy for us to tell business that they will receive a return on investment based on a particular project. We outline the amount of capital and then the amount of energy savings and show how many years it will take to pay it back.” 

She adds, “Some of the other initiatives on the waste reduction side do cost money if they want to increase their recycling or composting…but going green sometimes costs more to do the right thing.”

A zero-waste business?

When it comes to waste reduction, The Summit Daily News says some local companies have pledged to become ‘zero-waste' businesses.

When Silverthorne announced its Energy Smart program that helps local businesses make energy efficient and environmentally friendly moves, Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea jumped at the opportunity.  It planned to be a zero-waste business by summer 2012, but few were following suit.  Since then, though, Locals Liquors/Peak Provisions, also located in the Silverthorne Town Center shopping area, plans to join the “zero-waste game,” as Red Buffalo owner Erin Young put it.  Both businesses already make wide use of single-stream recycling through Waste Management and will soon be using 100 percent biodegradable disposable products, such as coffee cups, take-out boxes, forks, spoons and more that will be picked up and composted by Summit County Resource Allocation Park. 

Jen Schenk says funding for the energy efficiency programs come from a town’s budget. As more businesses sign up to improve their energy conservation efforts, additional programs could expand across the entire county by next year. However,  Schenk says that's dependent on town officials and their willingness to fund a program. 

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