Let’s get GREENER 

As we bid adieu to yet another Earth Day,  we should ask ourselves: Are the people of Colorado Springs doing their part to create a healthy, viable city for future generations?

Our quality of life in Colorado Springs remains exceptional, based on global standards. Many who live here are outdoor-minded and genuinely interested in making the Pikes Peak region a healthier place to live.

Ryan Trujillo, contract compliance and sustainability manager with the city’s Office of Sustainability, says his department looks to lead by example. A micro solar grid is under contract negotiations for Colorado Springs Fire Station 21 and could be operational next year. The grid would lower energy costs while providing a more reliable power source in case of an outage. If successful, it could be expanded to other city properties.

The city is also (very) gradually converting its high-pressure sodium streetlights to high-efficiency LED lighting. That typically happens when the traditional lights fail. The city has retrofitted 8.8 percent (or 2,324 of the 26,431 streetlights) so far. 

Colorado Springs is also transitioning building lighting to more efficient LEDs and is exploring how to incorporate electric vehicles, including buses, in its fleet. In a rare, community-facing initiative, the city worked alongside local dealerships to offer incentives on electric vehicles, but only a couple dozen individuals took advantage, Trujillo says.

The city has also been converting more of its park lands to native grass in order to conserve water.

We’re doing OK. But we’re Olympic City USA, and OK isn’t near good enough. 

We know that one way to attract a qualified workforce, especially those within the desirable millennial generation, is to provide sustainable solutions as a city. Millennials want transit-oriented development and the transit to go with it. They want to leave small footprints in smart, efficient communities. Colorado Springs should plan for denser communities that better make use of our existing and limited resources.

As it is, however, our citizens struggle to harvest even the lowest-hanging environmental fruit — recycling. The Colorado Public Interest Research Group, an independent consumer protection group, and Eco-Cycle, a Boulder-based nonprofit recycler, released their 2018 “State of Recycling in Colorado” report, with a city-by-city breakdown. Municipalities with the best residential recycling rates are Loveland (61 percent), Boulder (52 percent) and Louisville (44 percent).

“Fort Collins has the best overall recycling rate for residential, commercial, and industrial waste (55 percent), and Aspen’s residential recycling rate of 40 percent is the best outside of the Front Range,” the report states. 

You won’t see Colorado Springs anywhere on the list, and that’s part of the problem. The city doesn’t monitor recycling rates, but Laurie Johnson, executive director at Recycle Colorado, told the Colorado Springs Business Journal last year that Colorado Springs’ total recycling rate comes in at about 8 percent.

We can do better, and we should look to our neighbors and borrow their best practices. Cities from Fort Collins to Durango have created and implemented action plans to address sustainability, energy usage and recycling with tangible goals and time lines.

Even Manitou Springs has adopted an Organic Land Management Policy, which passed in 2018. The town was the first in the nation to power all of its municipal buildings through solar-generated renewable energy. It also created solar gardens for residences and businesses in 2014 and electricity costs have since declined 11.39 percent, saving the municipality more than $13,000. 

So following this Earth Day, let’s stop kicking the can down the road and instead find a way to come together, pick it up and recycle the damn thing for good.


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