Mt. Crested Butte works toward creating Climate Action Plan

Council receives input from Vail, Water & San

[ By Kendra Walker ]

The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council is beginning to make moves toward creating a Climate Action Plan and recently heard input from other Mt. Crested Butte entities for applicable sustainability practices. During a work session on January 5, the Town Council heard from representatives of Vail Resorts and the Mt. Crested Butte Water & Sanitation District on their current sustainable efforts and how those could tie into Mt. Crested Butte’s Climate Action Plan.

Within the plan, the council hopes to collaborate at both a town and a county level to implement sustainability practices surrounding electric use, transportation, waste and forest use.

“My hope would be to tie things together and work together in a more effective way as we move forward,” said mayor Janet Farmer.
Fritz Bratschie, who oversees the sustainability programs for Vail’s Colorado resorts, walked the council through some of the company’s sustainability goals. This includes Vail’s “Commitment to Zero” program to achieve, by 2030, zero net emissions, zero waste to landfills and zero net operating impact to forests and habitats.

“When we think about our sustainability programs and goals, we’re trying to achieve them company-wide but we also want to help bring the communities that we operate in along with those successes,” said Bratschie. “We very much rely on the success of the program and partnerships within those communities. A large percentage of emissions falls within the resort’s footprint, so any goals we have would benefit any goals you set.”

Bratschie said the most challenging goal is hitting zero waste. Vail’s process currently includes reducing single-use items to durables, reusing materials and diverting materials with composting and its partnership with Eco-Products.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort started a composting program this year, and is working with a composting company in Olathe. “About 60 percent to 70 percent of the waste coming off the mountains in our resorts is compostable,” said Bratschie.

“It’s mainly food and beverage waste,” said CBMR food and beverage warehouse manager Ryan Groat of CBMR’s composting items. Waste and recycling sorting stations have been put in place at CBMR’s restaurants like Butte 66 and at Paradise. “We’ve really upped it this year, and there’s much less contamination. The program is diverting a lot of waste out of the landfill,” Groat said. CBMR is looking to expand the waste diversion practices out to the rest of the resort, including the hotels, and is also raising awareness among employees to push out the sustainable practices to guests.

Bratschie said that Vail plans to implement more sustainability goals for CBMR in the future, but due to financial impacts from COVID had to put some of those on hold for the time being. He noted that CBMR has a relatively efficient snowmaking system compared to some of the other larger-scale resorts, but company-wide Vail hopes to find solutions for more efficient and environmentally friendly snowmaking and grooming. “We burn a lot of diesel fuel for grooming, but there’s no technology available yet to get rid of diesel snowcats.”

Bratschie suggested that Mt. Crested Butte considers what it can do in terms of building codes and zoning restrictions, noting, “You as a town can put requirements on buildings and initiate green building standards.” He also suggested partnering with Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA), saying, “How can the town partner with the utilities to help citizens with their own energy efficiency? Work with the utilities to bring on more renewables in the local community.”

Mike Fabbre, district manager for the Mt. Crested Butte Water & Sanitation District, also shared some current sustainability upgrades, including recently joining GCEA’s green power program. “Our electricity bill is over six figures each year,” said Fabbre. “Water is really heavy.”

Water & San has also retrofitted all of its buildings with LED lights, and increased insulation and roof replacements to help with efficiency.
With a new water treatment facility expansion under way, Water & San plans to include PV panels on the building to offset some of the large electrical load; however, Fabbre estimates the PV panels will offset the energy by about only 10 percent or less.

The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council will have the opportunity to take both Vail’s and Water & San’s practices and input into consideration next month. The council will be participating in a retreat on February 24 to begin creating the Climate Action Plan, as well as review the town’s Strategic Plan.

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