Happy September, Eagle County residents. This time of year, as fall peaks around the corner, the seasonal shifts ask us to turn inwards and do some critical reflection. As we lean into interpersonal reflection, it’s a great time to reflect on our work in the last several months, and beyond. We at the Climate Action Collaborative (CAC) have been channeling this reflection into our Annual Impact Report, and we’re pleased to announce that it will be published very soon. With that, we’re excited to share our progress in 2022 towards our greenhouse gas reduction goals and Climate Action Plan strategies. To remind you, the CAC’s current goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emission 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2050, from a 2014 emissions baseline.
To kick things off, let’s take a look at progress towards our largest greenhouse gas emitting sector: buildings. Both residential and commercial buildings across Eagle County account for roughly 47.5% of all Eagle County emissions, according to the annual Eagle County GHG inventory. Increasing energy efficiency and electrification in both new and existing buildings is the most impactful strategy for reducing emissions and meeting our climate action goals.
We’re pleased to share the following buildings highlights from 2022:
- 146 energy efficiency and electrification rebates were awarded by Holy Cross Energy and Walking Mountains’ Energy programs.
- 170 home energy assessments were completed by Walking Mountains
- 86 buildings were benchmarked for their energy consumption, a 56% increase from 2021
Transportation emissions in Eagle County are second only to buildings, responsible for 42.2% of emissions, primarily from passenger vehicles. These emissions are largely from passenger vehicles. The most impactful thing folks can do to curb transportation emissions is to increase their public transportation ridership, commute via multimodal transportation, such as bikes or e-bikes, and make the switch to an electric vehicle (EV). While EVs are expensive, there are many local, state, and federal incentives right now that could add up to over $10,000 off an EV purchase.
The CAC is eager to share the following progress with regard to transportation:
- 692 light duty EVs were registered to Eagle County by year-end 2022, a 66% increase from 2021
- 166 Level 2 and Level 3 EV chargers available to residents and visitors of Eagle County
- 8.68 metric tons of CO2 avoided through ShiftBike trips
Our utilities, Holy Cross Energy, Xcel Energy, and Black Hills Energy, have a big role to play in reducing our emissions. Holy Cross Energy, who supplies nearly all electricity in Eagle County, has detailed they will be upwards of 90% renewable-supplied by this time next year - which is fantastic! Interestingly, natural gas usage has risen, despite a 73% increase in cost from 2021. The best thing we can do to eliminate fossil fuel emissions is to envision an all-electric future, because, as Holy Cross has demonstrated, we can supply our electric grid with carbon-free energy.
Within the CAC’s 2022 Impact Report, we share the following successes:
- As of 2022, 50% of Holy Cross’s grid was powered by renewable energies such as solar and wind
- 1,310 residents are participating in Holy Cross’s PuRE Program
- 1,461 residents are participating in Holy Cross’s Peak Time Payback Program
Materials management, or solid waste, emissions represent a smaller portion of emissions, at 6%, however they are significant nonetheless.Waste reduction and diversion is a tangible act that all Eagle County residents can play a role in, by recycling, composting, and simply being mindful of waste and consumption. If you’ve attended a community event this summer, you have Walking Mountains Zero Waste staff to thank for a high waste diversion rate of over 82% in Eagle County.
In 2022, we are happy to share the following:
- 72% increase in organic waste diverted from the landfill compared to 2021
- 2% increase in construction and demolition waste diverted from 2021
The remaining two sector areas that the CAC tracks progress on are water and natural climate solutions. While not commonly thought of as greenhouse gas emitting sectors, water and natural climate solutions play a critical role in the health of the landscape and all that depend on it. They offer forms of resiliency and carbon sequestration in the face of climate change.
Some key results for water and natural climate solutions in 2022 include:
- 5,978 square feet of turf grass replaced under Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s turf replacement program
- 10 residential and commercial irrigation audits rebated by Eagle River Water and Sanitation District
- 135 conservation easements across Eagle County
If you have a yard in Eagle County, consider an irrigation audit to ensure you aren’t overwatering your lawn and incorporate water wise, pollinator-attracting native plantings in your space.
As the arrival of fall asks us to slow down our pace and meaningfully reflect on the past, the CAC is proud to share the sustainability successes in our community. Our reflections offer us motivation for the momentous work ahead.
Gina McCrackin is the Climate Action Manager at Walking Mountains Science Center. The Climate Action Collaborative is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.