“As business owners, energy efficiency is the best investment we can make,” says Gretchen Leary, co-owner of Duemani. She and her team are hard at work optimizing the carbon footprint of the 110-seat restaurant, set to open at Thanksgiving in Aspen’s former Rustique space. PC: Michele Cardamone Photography

When Gretchen Leary and Luigi Giordani became partners in their second Italian restaurant in Aspen—the soon-to-open Duemani which will follow in the tradition of their popular trattoria Acquolina—it was natural that the new spot’s name would reflect “two hands” coming together on the project. Close observers might also notice a “terza mano” bringing success to the table: the invisible hand of energy efficiency.

For Leary, raised near Seattle and educated from a young age to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” being conscious about the planet comes second nature. Whether it’s conservation of resources or protection of wildlife, she is thoughtful in her approach. (Before moving to Aspen, Leary had traveled the globe, working in 33 countries on behalf of leatherback sea turtles, whale sharks, black rhinos and other threatened species.) As she and her partner embarked on their own journey six years ago, this one into Aspen’s hospitality scene, it was important to create spaces that tread lightly on the Earth. “We wanted to do our part to the best of our ability,” said the humble restauranteur.

So when they opened Acquolina in 2013, one of Leary’s earliest calls was to CORE. Curious about lowering their energy impact, she signed up for a free site visit—a complementary service available to any organization in the valley—“just to get a feel of what I could do to make it better.” CORE’s commercial specialist, an energy analyst certified by the Building Professionals Institute, walked through the facility with her, discussing options to save energy and money. The restaurant owners decided to invest in energy-efficient glazing, LEDs and ENERGY STAR® appliances, cutting 5,409 kilowatt hours annually, which saves them $540 a year on utilities and garnered a $2,011 CORE rebate. Over the project’s lifetime, their work will avoid 40 metric tons of carbon emissions.

“We’re trying to reduce energy wherever we can. CORE’s support and education make it easier to do our part,” said Leary. “Now we’re deep in energy efficiency.”

CORE’s Program Director Marty Treadway, who received an email earlier this year requesting a second site visit, this time for the new restaurant concept in the former Rustique space, was impressed with her passion for the subject. “I have to give credit to her,” said Treadway. “By the time we walked through the Duemani space, she was already well on her way.” 

Duemani will have a lot on the menu: Italian coastal cuisine with ceviches, tartares and Mediterranean-style whole fish. Plus a bunch of behind-the-scenes stars like triple-pane windows, all LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, room dividers that lessen the heat- and cooling-demand, air sealing, and insulation. During the recent site visit, CORE was able to validate her approach and bring new ideas for further savings, such as controls on the occupancy sensors and using a glass airlock (as opposed to a mechanical one) to keep the drafts out. 

Once the systems are in place, the CORE team will verify the energy intensity per square foot of the business and is anticipating 10-12% reduction in energy consumption and corresponding utility bills. Leary’s practical steps are on target to earn her a $10,000 community grant from CORE. 

“As business owners, energy efficiency is the best investment we could make,” said Leary.

To that, we raise our two hands and applaud.

Could your business, nonprofit or institution benefit from a free energy assessment? CORE’s here to help. We invite you to reach out to Mike Bouchet, CORE’s Commercial Energy Programs Manager by email or at 970-925-9775 ext. 506 to schedule your site visit today.