“The beauty of living in a small community is people are there to help,” says Aspen resident Kristine Gatdula. This was an unexpected bonus for the dental hygienist who dreamed of a move to the valley “for a ski season” and then, like many locals, found lots to love. That was five years ago. 

Landing in the Valley felt right from Day One. She initially secured a job at Aspen Skiing Company, meeting people who are “still my friends,” before getting back on her career path. Her first position was with a dental practice, then she returned to school for a degree in public health, and today provides oral health care within a family medical practice. “Being in Colorado has helped me push my career to the next level,” says Gatdula.

While Gatdula’s new home state has vaulted her career, what she didn’t expect was that her career would also help push her home to the next level. 

One day at the dental clinic, she asked a regular patient, whom she kept up with during his six-month visits, “What’s the latest?” The man in the chair happened to be Ryland French*, then a City of Aspen Climate Office staffer collaborating with CORE on the Aspen Energy Challenge (AEC). Despite the awkward marbles-in-the-mouth conversation that one usually has with a dental professional, he was able to communicate about a variety of monthly energy-efficiency promotions and suggested she sign up for CORE e-newsletters to get news more frequently than twice a year.

As a renter, Gatdula took French up on the AEC promotions for carbon-reduction tools that she could install and take with her if she moved, such as the LEDs and composting buckets. And she signed up for those CORE emails, dreaming one day of being able to take bigger steps as a homeowner.

In January of 2019, Providence stepped in when Gatdula pulled the top number in a housing lottery, winning an APCHA studio apartment in Aspen. Eager to put her burgeoning energy-efficiency knowledge into practice, she now needed to figure out how to fund it. Luck was on her side again when a solution arrived in Gatdula’s inbox: an e-newsletter story about CORE’s Income-qualified Program (IQ). The program, known statewide as Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy Program, is a partnership between Energy Outreach Colorado and CORE that provides free home energy assessments and select energy upgrades to eligible homeowners in Pitkin and Eagle Counties.

Through the IQ Program, Gatdula was assigned one of CORE’s energy analysts to assess the energy performance of her 500-sf condominium and identify efficiency priorities including: air sealing, a programmable thermostat, LED lighting, hot-water pipe insulation, and a water-heater blanket. All told, the program covered $1,335 in energy improvements at no cost.

“It was nice to get the blower-door test [a diagnostic tool that is part of the home energy assessment] because I definitely noticed drafts in the winter,” says Gatdula of her noticeably warmer space. Her sense of coziness is backed up by data, projecting that she will reduce her utility bills by $318/year and her carbon footprint by 2.37 metric tons of carbon each year.

“Everyone at CORE was super helpful throughout the IQ Program process,” she says. “They made it convenient, despite my work schedule, and when I had questions, they dropped what they were doing to help me.” 

We couldn’t agree more: that is the beauty of living in a small community.

Above: Kristine Gatdula, Aspen local and Income-qualified Program participant. PC: Dan Bayer

*Kristine Gatdula recommends that everyone “sign up for CORE emails and stay up to date with promotions that they have going.” You can register today here and check your eligibility for the Income-qualified program here.

*Following privacy protocols for health professionals, Kristine Gatdula shared this story without divulging the name or any personal information of her client. Because of our work with Ryland French, we surmised who it was, and reached out to Ryland for permission to publish his name and story.