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City of Durango holds its first ‘sustainability forum,’ a progress report on efforts to be green

Local governments can set policy, incentivize conservation and cut back their own consumption
Marty Pool, sustainability manager for the city of Durango, led a forum Wednesday at the Durango Community Recreation Center to discuss the city’s sustainability efforts, programs and plans. He encouraged people passionate about sustainability to voice their ideas so he can relay them to City Council. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

The city of Durango held its first sustainability forum this week at the Durango Community Recreation Center where various sustainability programs and efforts were highlighted.

About 20 residents attended and asked questions about the city’s efforts to encourage energy conservation, what processes it uses to enact sustainability programs and how the city uses a sustainability plan to guide its programs.

Marty Pool, sustainability manager for the city, hosted the meeting. He mentioned several in-progress and up-and-coming sustainability programs, including:

  • An e-bike rebate residents can expect to be offered in mid-April or early May.
  • The Green Durango Grants program, which is accepting applications until April 24 and will provide up to $5,000 to approved organizations that apply.
  • An energy performance contract that will be considered by Durango City Council in a public hearing on April 4, among other programs.

The purpose of the sustainability forum, which the city plans to make an annual event, is to align the city’s sustainability efforts with its yearly planning and budget cycles, and to integrate sustainability into the city’s regular processes.

The city is pursuing an LEED for Cities certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which gauges communitywide sustainability efforts. Pool said the city is targeting five broad objectives in its push for sustainability: Energy, water, transportation, consumption and waste, and natural systems and ecology.

In the city’s efforts to reduce waste that ends up in landfills, Pool said Durango had the top diversion rate in Colorado last year. But he wants to see more mandatory reporting for commercial waste haulers. The city has several programs to reduce waste, including its recycling facility that accepts electronic waste and a paint care program, and other organizations and businesses around town use their own waste diversion programs.

One resident asked about the city’s role in reducing, reusing and recycling. Pool said partnerships with community organizations are key.

On food equity, Pool said Durango Parks and Recreation is partnering with Durango School District 9-R on its SOIL Community Garden project at Riverview Elementary School. Last year, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department earmarked $25,000 to contribute to the project. The city also supports the Durango Farmers Market and Table to Farm, a composting service.

Table to Farm recently held a pilot program offering three months of free composting service to residents. During the program, which aimed to incentivize residents to start composting, Table to Farm picked up more than 350 new subscribers. Pool said more than half of them stayed with Table to Farm after their free trial ended. In May, City Council will discuss finances related to composting efforts.

Sustainability also factors into the city’s efforts to improve affordable and workforce housing options. Pool said he works closely with housing developers and Eva Henson, the city’s housing innovation manager, to make new developments as energy efficient as possible.

“From a developer’s standpoint, they’re going to say there’s increased cost, but ... the goal to build affordable housing using utility costs is a major component of (affordable housing),” he said. “I’m involved in those efforts and I think folks across the board in the planning department understand the value in energy and water conservation.”

He said the city adopted the 2018 international energy conservation code for buildings, which is a “major step forward” compared with the 2015 code. Some people want the city to go further and adopt the 2021 code, but builders and developers indicated the new standards would make business difficult.

“If we want more aggressive energy conservation codes, that’s certainly something that you can bring up to council,” he said.

He said people who are interested in pressing the city to tighten regulations or codify sustainability efforts might have more luck if they are able to muster community support behind their efforts. Tightened water conservation, perhaps in the form of prohibiting lawn space, is something he noticed is gaining traction among residents.

cburney@durangoherald.com



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