- Energy Improvements
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- High 5 RFV
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “Back to School” sales pitch. Twenty-five percent off for a new backpack, buy-two-get-one-free pencil packs, a new lunch box in every color, and that must-have pair of sneakers. But do you need it all?
The answer? Probably not. And by saying “no” to unnecessary back-to-school spending you can reduce waste, save money, and curb your climate impact.
Take reusable bottles. Across the US, Americans use roughly 50 billion water bottles a year, and the recycling rate for those bottles is a dismal 23 percent. Americans are also wasting more than $1 billion in plastic every year, which is equivalent to 912 millions gallons of non-renewable oil.  The environmental cost for using virgin materials to create new single-use water bottles and the carbon emissions associated with production and distribution make carrying a reusable water bottle the obvious green choice.
Juice boxes, plastic straws, and individual plastic baggies — a staple in schools lunches and unfortunately, a staple in the landfill. By using single-use items, a child can produce 67 pounds of waste  during the school year. An easy solution to curb this landfilled waste is to outfit yourself and your child with reusable lunch gear, including a reusable water bottle. We do it while backpacking, why not during the school year? Make sure you do your research when looking into reusable options. BPA, phthalates, PVC or vinyl, and sometimes even lead are culprits giving some reusables a bad rap. Think stainless steel and check out products like Planet Box and ECOlunchbox.
What about paper? The kids need notebooks, right? First, try checking around the house to see if you have any half-used notebooks or paper to make your own. Otherwise, choose notebooks and/or office paper made from recycled materials. In addition to preserving our natural resources, recycling one ton of paper can reduce greenhouse gas levels by one metric ton of carbon equivalent. 
When I was going to school, I looked forward to a brand new pair of shoes each year. Now the thought of this annual addiction gives me an environmental headache (nothing like comparing with friends who’s got the oldest river sandals or hiking boots). Before you get carried away with the 75%-off back-to-school deals, survey your options and see if the kids truly need that new pair of shoes. Unfortunately shoes don’t come with an expiration date. But that doesn’t mean you need a new pair every year. Look at the soles; if they’re worn, see if you can repair ‘em instead of trashing ‘em. (Did you know there’s a cobbler in the Valley?) Check out a local thrift store for lightly used shoes and give them a new life. And if all else fails, choose shoes and clothes made of recycled and sustainably sourced materials.
Greening your back-to-school shopping or avoiding shopping at all is beneficial in more ways than one. Making healthy choices with your reusable lunch gear (think BPA- and PVC-free) and choosing recycled and secondhand options are all steps towards reducing our collective carbon footprint and ultimately, acting on climate.
*By taking steps such as “carry a reusable bottle” and “say no to single-use stuff,” you’re taking action on the environment. Register your actions and take part in CORE’s High 5 pledge!
Calling all storytellers! We invite YOU to tell a true tale at the “High Five Twilight Stories” event presented by CORE, ACES and Writ Large in late September at Rock Bottom Ranch.
The theme of the night is “Fire in the Belly: Stories about CHANGE.”
We invite you to prepare a seven-minute story about turning a corner. Rallying together, playing a part, creating something new. Finding solutions in the face of shifting sands: an uncertain future, a changing environment, weird weather. Whatever keeps you rolling up your sleeves and moving forward with hope.
You will be supported by a team of experienced writers and performers led by Writ Large curator/director Alya Howe.
The High Five Twilight Stories is a new event that is part of a long tradition of live story events in the Roaring Fork Valley presented by Writ Large. The series has been touching the hearts of all involved: tellers and listeners.
As Alya says, “We believe everyone has a story, many in fact! The sharing of a true tale enables you to see where you now stand within the story, even what the story has to tell you.” Stories, an ancient form of communication, are a powerful way to connect us to each other and deepen our experience with our community and our environment.
This event is an Art+Environment+Community program of the High Five, our social movement uniting the Roaring Fork Valley to take action on the environment by saving energy.
Your story should be a true story that is spoken, not read; personal; and revelatory. That doesn’t mean it has to be tragic, or a bummer. Happier, funnier stories are welcome too. If you choose to participate, consider sitting quietly, reflecting and finding a story by letting your story “choose you.” Alya has found that the more you give yourself to this process and are willing to receive, the more you will get out of this opportunity.
There are no fees associated with this opportunity. Guest storytellers will receive mentoring, two complimentary tickets to the event, and the love, admiration and respect of our welcoming audience! Who knows, your story might even inspire another to tell theirs.
If you’re interested in participating, or if you have any questions, please reach out to Alya at 970-309-2582 and by email. Guidelines will follow.
We hope you will join us; we can’t wait to hear what you have to tell!
Across the United States, solar energy is growing, with experts showing a bright forecast. According to the the Solar Energy Industries Association, the renewable energy generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is expected to triple over the next five years. It’s no surprise then that CORE is seeing dramatic growth locally, with a greater number of systems and larger systems in the pipeline.
CORE has worked to increase local renewable energy for years, offering support to homeowners and business owners who want to generate their own solar power. More and more, larger organizations have begun looking to power their entire operations.
To see this in action, you only have to look to this year’s batch of Randy Udall Energy Pioneer grant applications*. The 2017 grant portfolio includes requests for seven projects that have the potential to churn out over 750 kilowatts of carbon-free energy. This is a lot of energy! It equates to powering over 140 average Colorado homes. What’s more, just three applications are responsible for the lion’s share of proposed solar capacity at 666 kilowatts or 88%.
The trend towards mid-sized systems (50 kilowatts to two megawatts) has potentially transformative ramifications: turning sunlight into power, solar installations help to green the entire region’s power supply.
What accounts for the increase? Experts point to a lot of factors: falling prices for solar panels, supportive tax breaks and incentives, favorable utility pricing policies, among other reasons. Katharine Rushton, commercial sales manager at Sunsense Solar, sums it up succinctly: “The desire has been there, and now it is economically viable on a bigger scale.” But falling solar prices and a strong environmental ethic are only part of the equation. Rushton notes that this local surge of solar did not happen in a vacuum, it is the result of coordinated efforts.
The urgency of climate solutions drove CORE to accelerate efforts, and leverage the host of energy champions who just needed help getting started. “We knew it was time to ramp up efforts and drive bigger projects, said CORE’s executive director, Mona Newton. “We hear all the time: ‘Does solar make sense from an economic standpoint?’ ‘Is my roof suitable for solar panels?’” To answer these questions, Pitkin County enlisted the help of Sunsense Solar.
With CORE’s support, the local solar company performed a solar feasibility analysis for Pitkin County and the City of Aspen. This study demonstrated that not only are there options for solar, but these very mid-sized systems are cost-effective and just plain smart.
G.R. Fielding, engineer at Pitkin County Public Works, attributed this feasibility analysis as a key driver in getting solar panels on the Public Works office. The 104-kilowatt system is designed to cover the entire facility’s electricity use.
Using solar energy to power buildings was not a new idea for the County, but, why now? For Fielding, “It is more a question of why not.” The project presented a winning combination of partnership, environment, and economics. “The County has a great partner in the project, CORE. The project fits our values and it is also a sound financial decision.”
Despite the upfront costs to install the system, solar PV is a good investment. To sweeten the deal even more, CORE awarded the County a $125,000 grant. Estimates show that this array will be a money-saver over time.
The SoL Energy crew is hard at work so that the solar array at Public Works can go live later this month. They will soon be joined by others. More solar PV installations are underway, and show no signs of slowing, with the amount of solar energy that has been supported by CORE slated to exceed two megawatts. This momentum is giving experts a sunny outlook.
*The 2017 Randy Udall Grants are currently under review and winners will be announced in September.
CORE is committed to helping you save energy. If you would like to free technical or financial advising for your renewable energy project, call us at 970.925.9775. Learn more about CORE’s Randy Udall grant program here.
In the month of July, CORE is encouraging the Roaring Fork Valley to participate in the High Five movement by plugging into solar. Tips, resources and prizes are available at: www.high5rfv.com.
Stay Cool and Save Energy with Evaporative Coolers
Even in our high and dry mountain climate, it gets hot. Aside from skipping work and floating the Roaring Fork, how can locals chill out without breaking the bank — or the environment? One option is an evaporative cooler, aka “swamp cooler,” which can help you keep cool at home while using less energy.
How do they work?
Think about when you hop out of the shower and get a chill. Or when you wear a damp t-shirt on a hot day, and still feel cool. The evaporative cooler operates on this same principle: evaporation, the process of water turning from liquid to gas form. In order to evaporate, water must have heat, which breaks the bonds that hold water molecules together. As liquid water turns into vapor, it removes the heat from the environment, which is why you feel a little chilly in those damp-hot circumstances. Evaporative coolers take this simple concept and turn it into an energy efficient way to cool a home.
An evaporative cooler uses a fan to pull in dry, hot outdoor air and move it over water-soaked pads. As the air moves through the pads, the water cools the air, and the fan circulates the cool, moist air through the room. The entire process consumes significantly less energy than your central air conditioning.
Evaporative coolers work best in hot climates with low humidity like Colorado’s, but they have some drawbacks:
Whether (or not) evaporative coolers are your solution, there are plenty of options for keeping cool locally:
Whatever option you choose, just remember, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat without using too much energy — or too many inner tubes.
Cash-back rebates for evaporative coolers are available, depending on your electric utility. Holy Cross Energy, Glenwood Springs Electric, and Xcel Energy offer rebates for qualifying projects. Looking for other ways to save energy at home? Contact CORE’s Energy Advisors at 970.925.9775 and email@example.com.
Interested in learning more? Holy Cross Energy is offering a free hands-on workshop on evaporative coolers on August 10, from 5-6:30pm in Rifle. Free pizza with pre-registration. This event is co-sponsored by CLEER and GCE.
CORE Grant Powers Rosybelle the Mobile Maker Space
When 90% of people believe that arts are vital to a well-rounded K-12 education, and only half think that everyone has equal access to the arts, you’ve got a problem. Carbondale Arts saw the challenge and got inspired. What if we took a decommissioned school bus, they wondered, and kitted it out as an arts classroom that we could bring directly to the kids?
Being Carbondale Arts, a change-making community arts leader, they weren’t yet satisfied — bold as their idea was. They pressed on: Imagine if we could bring art and technology together, providing programming that squares up with what kids are already using? Their bright minds envisioned hitting the road with film editing, music composition, sewing, stop animation, and more.
What they were dreaming up was a mobile “maker space.” Fast forward 18 months and that vision would become a tricked out, brightly colored bus known as Rosybelle, honoring the organization’s late director, Ro Mead. But in those early days, still at the drawing boards, there remained one key question: How can we power this idea.
Now covering three-quarters of Rosybelle’s 26-foot roof, the 2,160-watt system provides all interior power for the maker space. That includes power strips with outlets and USB ports that line the workspaces, interior lights, and the pump for the onboard sink. This allows Rosybelle to offer not just traditional arts like painting, drawing and printmaking, but also solar energy education and the computer-based offerings that filled Carbondale Arts’ original dreams.
“The expertise of CORE and SunSense helped us get a very integral piece of the bus — solar power — and stay consistent with the values of our community,” says Rosybelle program director, Kat Rich. “It enables us to power technology that is relevant to kids today.”
Rosybelle launched in April (at CORE’s High Five launch events in Aspen and Carbondale) and has proven to be a very popular lady. In the two short months that Rosybelle has been on the road, she has traversed points from Aspen to Rifle, providing a safe “third space” (complementing school and home) for kids to learn and create. In the upcoming school year, the Rosybelle crew expects to be in Rifle, New Castle and Carbondale schools, plus many afterschool and weekend events, serving over 2,000 youth valleywide.
“The need is much greater than we thought,” says Carbondale Arts’ executive director, Amy Kimberly. “She just brings joy wherever she goes and that’s ultimately what we hoped for.”
Renewable energy and the arts, as it turns out, are natural travel partners and impact makers. Onboard Rosybelle, they are empowering communities with art, one class at a time.
When CORE staff arrived on site at the Aspen Historical Society (AHS) to evaluate the energy performance of the nonprofit’s carriage house, large portions of the attic insulation were outright missing. “I could see bare wood on the attic walls, with totally inadequate insulation on the floors,” said Marty Treadway, CORE’s Program Director.
This was but one symptom of the ailing facility — along with single-pane windows, air leaks, old-school lighting, and radon — that resulted in recommendations from CORE for a comprehensive energy efficiency overhaul. The ambitious remedies that the Historical Society undertook — designed by Forum Phi Architecture, built by G.F. Woods Construction, and funded in part by $20,000 in Community Grants from CORE — will take the archive building into the next century, preserving not only Aspen’s past, but also ensuring a healthy future for its collections and its employees.
Originally constructed in 1976 to house a historic water wagon and exhibits for the adjacent Wheeler / Stallard Museum, by 2016 the 3,200-square foot, three-level carriage house was serving neither its collections nor its staff particularly well. The two were intermingled throughout the leaky building, from the basement to the attic. This exposed the collections to potential contamination by the humans who tend them (think: dust, UV light, temperature fluctuations, food that attracts critters – all enemies of archives), and exposed the employees to potential contamination by radon that was discovered in the lower level.
By separating the staff from “the stuff,” they were able to more than double the storage capacity, increasing the Historical Society’s ability to take in collections for the next 20 years. In the process, they brought the basement up to the best practices for museum archiving and, after radon mitigation and energy efficiency upgrades, optimized the health conditions in the workspaces.
“It’s better for you and better for the collections,” says AHS archivist Anna Scott.
Concurrent with these spatial improvements were the energy enhancements. The build team sealed leaking window frames in the attic and rim joists in the unfinished basement, bumping up the building envelope’s air tightness by 25%. Fiberglass batt insulation was uniformly installed, along with three inches of spray foam insulation in the hard-to-reach nooks, resulting in an R-value improvement from virtually zero to 49. Twelve windows were swapped out with high-performance .28 U-factor models, vaulting the functionality of the glazing by 65%. Efficient LED lights replaced a mix of incandescent and CFL bulbs throughout the building. Zoned thermostats were installed so that the basement archives — suited to the constant 60-degree, 30% relative humidity of underground — can stay cool, while the “people areas” above can stay comfortable.
A big bonus for the staff is the day lighting and fresh air that resulted from escaping from the basement where the archives are housed. “It’s amazingly bright,” says Scott, “and now that we’re separated from collections, we have more flexibility to open windows.” Both features give them the ability to adjust the workspace comfort without using much energy. The tighter building and enhanced insulation mean they don’t have to use a lot of heat, and when they do, warming (and cooling) to the right temperature happens quickly.
As the team wraps up construction this month, they will begin tracking their energy savings.
CORE’s Community Grants were a cornerstone to the project’s energy efficiency improvements. “In the Aspen scheme of things, $20K isn’t much,” said AHS president Kelly Murphy. “But for us it was huge.”
We’ll raise a glass to that. You can too at the Historical Society’s Grand Opening Celebration of the archive building on July 14. Details at www.aspenhistory.org.
Did You Know?
CORE annually awards more than $600,000 in grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the Roaring Fork Valley and offers free technical and financial advising. If you have a commercial, institutional or industrial development project (new construction or retrofit) that you would like to explore, please reach out — as early in the process as possible — to Marty Treadway at 970.925.9775 ext. 504. Learn more about CORE’s grant program here.
Here we are again. That time of year when we’ve weathered the last few late-season snowstorms Colorado is known for. Families are trading in time spent on the slopes for time spent in the river. We pack away the ski gloves and dust off a pair of our trusty gardening ones. It’s springtime: time to plant.
Before we start digging in the dirt, it’s important to think about the need to conserve our natural resources, specifically water. Over 50% of outdoor water use is poured into lawns and gardens. And more than half of that water is wasted through inefficiencies. Water is a precious commodity, and Westerners know firsthand the impacts of drought and low-water years. Preparing for the future, and taking action now by saving water, will only benefit us later.
So let’s take action. This month, CORE is encouraging Roaring Fork Valley residents to participate in the High Five movement by planting local species in yards and gardens. You can take that action a step further through xeriscaping: a type of landscaping that reduces water-use by 50-75%. Xeriscaping doesn’t mean ripping out all your grass, plants, and flowers to simply replace them with rocks. By using drought-resistant and native plants, you can transform your yard into a beautiful, water-conserving focal point of your home.
Taking on this task might seem a little overwhelming. Not to worry — we’ve got you covered. CORE is organizing two local “Xeriscape 101” workshops in the Roaring Fork Valley. The first will be held this Saturday, May 20, at the Basalt Library. The class will be led by Sheri Sanzone, founder of Bluegreen. A registered landscape architect in Colorado and Utah, national certified planner, and a LEED accredited professional, Sheri will bring her expertise and boil it down to simple concepts that can translate into your backyard. On Wednesday May 31, the series will travel down to the Carbondale Library where Heather Henry, founder of Connect One Designs, will add her spin to the topic. Heather has over fifteen years of landscape architecture and land planning experience. Both xeriscape workshops are free to the public and attendees will be entered in a chance to win a $50 gift card to a local nursery. The community classes are free and all are welcome. An RSVP by email is requested to reserve your spot.
More to come in this Backyard Water Conservation Workshop Series: “Rain Barrels 101: How to Use Local Water.” CORE is partnering with the Roaring Fork Conservancy to host a primer on water collection, which will include a take-home rain barrel for each participant. The event is scheduled for Monday, June 5, from 4 to 6pm, at Carbondale’s Third Street Center. Details for this space-limited class, including fee and registration, will be provided later this month.
When two dedicated Carbondalians decided to hand-build their dream home from scratch, and pull off the ultimate green-building magic trick — creating a home that produces more energy than it uses — they made many discoveries.
1) It is possible to build something beautiful, affordable and beyond carbon neutral. (They beat the “HERS” rating by a factor of 10.)
When Scott Gilbert, president of Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley, describes how his team works, he pulls from the modern Japanese concept of kaizen, or “change for better.” This commitment to continuous improvement, made famous in business circles by Toyota (with whom Gilbert previously worked), fits the organization to a tee.
“We have used kaizen to inspire our team to be better and better at our daily work and outcomes, and to raise our sights as to what we could achieve.” It’s worked so well, he says, that “We have, quite frankly, even surprised ourselves.”
Not only do they aim to create more affordable housing more quickly, increasingly the organization wants to build the most affordable green homes possible.
So when Habitat RFV decided that it was time to build a “forever home” for its ReStore retail operations in Glenwood Springs — giving themselves the kind of permanence that they deliver to their clients — one of their first phone calls was to CORE. Having worked with our organization in years past, they understood the value of early technical expertise and grant feasibility to figure out how they could create the tightest build for their budget, with energy efficiency and renewable energy at the top of their list.
“We knew if we were building a home for ourselves, green would have to be a part of it,” added construction manager Dana Dalla Betta.
Sustainable building wasn’t always on the radar for Habitat. But over the last several years, the organization evolved from simply using green practices to being at the forefront of the movement in affordable housing. The local team pioneered a net zero home (buildings that produce as much energy as they consume) in Rifle in 2011, followed by a LEED Platinum home in Carbondale in 2013. Solar panels now top 14 of the 25 homes they have built in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Building with efficiency and sustainability in mind became part of their long-term goal when they realized, as Dalla Betta describes, “If we can lower our clients’ carry costs — what they pay in utilities — then it remains affordable in the long-term for them.”
Another light bulb moment occurred when leaders recognized that the same would be true of their proposed 40,500-square foot ReStore: any savings harvested from lower operating costs would be funnelled into their homebuilding fund, allowing them to better realize their mission to create housing. Green building could pay for itself, and then some.
Habitat’s Design team (including Green Line Architects and SGM Engineers) was leaning toward a pre-engineered metal building for its cost effectiveness. However, they understood that this choice would mean looking for innovative ways to boost the building’s energy efficiency. Steel structures, notoriously lousy in the thermal performance department, suffer from air loss and thermal bridging (temperature being conducted through the building material, in this case, steel) at the structural ribs. The standard insulation package for a steel facility includes only batt blanket insulation between the posts, which tends to compress upon contact with the steel structure. The upshot? In a traditional steel building, the usefulness of the insulation is canceled out.
Together with CORE’s Grants Director Marty Treadway, who brings a building performance trifecta to the table (an architecture degree, a former contractor’s license and Certified Energy Manager certificate), the team brainstormed ideas to improve on the shortcomings of steel structures. Ultimately, they decided to wrap the exterior in continuous, rigid insulation to meet both the energy goals and the building manufacturers’ constraints. The result is a solution that will minimize heat loss and improve the overall tightness of the envelope. Kaizen!
This no-cost technical advising was just the surface of the CORE-Habitat collaboration. Over the course of three years, Treadway guided Habitat to apply for CORE funding: a $12,000 Design Assistance Grant for a feasibility study and two Randy Udall Energy Pioneer matching grants totalling $200,000 for a 51-kilowatt rooftop solar photovoltaic system and the building envelope improvements.
“Without CORE’s grant funding, we wouldn’t have been able to finance the costs of the energy efficiency improvements,” said Dalla Betta. The grant for the building envelope reduced Habitat’s capital costs, brought the payback down to an attractive five-year period, and leveraged financing from lenders.
Habitat broke ground on its new ReStore in March and hopes to open its doors early next year. Annual energy savings for the facility are anticipated to roll in at $24,000, which will be reinvested in their homebuilding fund. One hundred thirty thousand kilowatt hours of electricity and 13,500 therms of natural gas are also on the chopping block, helping to lower the carbon footprint of building footprint, which comes in just under an acre.
“The support and encouragement from CORE can’t be underestimated,” says Dalla Betta. She describes the nonprofit as “a great advocate and partner in helping push us further than we might have on our own.” Could this be continuous improvement at work? We’re betting that Gilbert, the kaizen disciple, would say yes.
Client: Habitat for Humanity – Roaring Fork
Architect: Green Line Architects
Building Envelope Consultant: Confluence Architecture
Engineer/Energy Modeling: SGM
Lighting Designer: Alpenglow Lighting Design
Solar Installation: Sunsense Solar
Grantor/Energy Advisor: CORE
Did You Know?
CORE annually awards more than $600,000 in grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the Roaring Fork Valley and offers free technical and financial advising. If you have a commercial, institutional or industrial development project (new construction or retrofit) that you would like to explore, please reach out — as early in the process as possible — to Marty Treadway at 970.925.9775 ext. 504. Learn more about CORE’s grant program here and note the deadlines: Design Assistance and Community Grants are rolling, while TRUE Pioneer (The Randy Udall Energy) Grants is May 1. CORE also offers a Net Zero Home grant for homeowners, also with a rolling deadline.
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