The City of Aspen municipal electric utility is on track to be carbon neutral by 2015, obtaining its power from 100 percent renewable sources. Currently, the utility produces about 75 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources, harnessing power from wind and hydroelectric sources.
Since the Canary Initiative was started, the City of Aspen has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 40 percent internally. Here are just a few examples of how we’ve had success so far:
- At the Aspen Recreation Center, which houses swimming pools, an ice rink and other athletic facilities, the City launched a $1.1 million retrofit to reduce energy use. Additionally, new designs will keep about 825 tons of greenhouse gas out of the air every year.
- The Aspen Police Department has instituted “Green Days” in which police patrol on foot or by bicycle, rather than in vehicles.
- The City has installed solar trail lights and parking meters, and we decorate with LED holiday lights, rather than regular twinkle lights which use more energy.
- City employees are constantly on the lookout for ways we can green City operations.
In 2000, the City of Aspen adopted the world’s first mandatory program to levy a charge on excess residential energy use. The Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP) is designed to keep 3 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air for every ton of excess carbon emitted from homes that exceed their energy allowance in Aspen and Pitkin County. In 2009, a similar program was adopted for commercial buildings.
The City of Aspen believes that a robust affordable housing program is a key component to sustainability. By housing workers closer to their jobs, less energy is used in commuting. The City requires any new developments to house a minimum of 60 percent of the workforce. For city projects, the goal is to house 100 percent of the workforce. The City strives to achieve the highest green building standards in constructing affordable housing. By using recognized efficient building techniques, systems and materials, our new affordable housing units consume 50 percent percent less energy than average buildings of similar size and type. Burlingame is an example of some forward thinking construction practices.
Aspen ZGreen is a multi-pronged certification program designed to reduce the environmental impacts of Aspen's community members, visitors, businesses and events. A collaborative effort between the City’s Canary Initiative and Environmental Health Department, this unique program provides the community with effective ways to conserve natural resources and reduce waste, while providing a credible certification that recognizes individuals, businesses and events that are engaging in meaningful environmental efforts.
Conserving water is important to slowing climate change. Treating and pumping water requires lots of energy. The City has made improvements to our water distribution system, resulting in similar water-use levels that existed in Aspen in the 1950s despite having 2.5 times as many connections to the water system. This level of water efficiency was achieved by fixing leaks in the distribution system and enacting tier rates so that higher users pay more. The municipal golf course saves more than 30 million gallons of water per year thanks to a state of-the-art irrigation system; water-saving technology is used in all city parks.
Maintaining parks and open space is important to slowing climate change too. Plus trees and grasslands soak up carbon and produce oxygen. Aspen Parks Department manages approximately 1,300 acres of open space and 35 parks within and around the city. Many of our open space parcels were purchased with a voter-approved sales tax and include wetlands, shrub lands, forested areas and stormwater programs. The recently-completed Jennie Adair Stormwater Wetland project filters approximately one-third of the city’s downtown core stormwater runoff before it reaches the Roaring Fork River. The City composts or chips all branches, grass clippings and leaves to be used for mulch. We also maintain roughly 8,000 trees and have a stringent tree protection ordinance to preserve and protect our premier high-altitude resort community forest.
Recycling helps conserve energy because in most cases, it takes less energy to make a product from recycled materials than from new materials. The City of Aspen’s Recycling Ordinance requires that recycling be part of basic trash service for all residential, multi-family and commercial customers. Residential service is “pay-as-you-throw,” which means that the cost of a 64-gallon bin is at least two times as much as the cost of a 32-gallon bin. Aspen’s Recycling Ordinance is the first in Colorado to also affect the commercial sector.
The City of Aspen operates eight shuttle routes that provide free transit service to more than a million residents and tourists a year. The City’s shuttle and bus fleet is a mixture of biodiesel, hybrid and diesel. There is also a 22-mile bike and pedestrian trail system aimed at encouraging alternative transportation.
The Transportation Department
helps commuters find carpool partners and gives free parking to qualifying carpools. It also encourages local employers to promote alternative commuting with grant programs and other services. The City also boasts a unique carshare program, Car to Go
, offering people a fleet of vehicles to rent rather than owning a vehicle.
City employees are constantly on the lookout for ways we can green City operations. We also have an environmental policy as well as an ecological bill of rights that guide our actions as an organization.