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Getting a greener Glenwood

Dennis Webb

A Glenwood Springs City Council member is finding he’s got some company when it comes to the vision of a greener Glenwood Springs.Dan Richardson recently launched what he called a Sustainable Cities Initiative for the city. Already, he said, he had heard from nearly 60 people who say they want to participate. And 35 attended an initial meeting on the concept.”Much to my surprise there was a great turnout, and I think it’s kind of exciting,” he said.Richardson is planning to hold a second meeting in which participants will formalize a vision statement and probably split up into groups to focus on specific topics.Richardson said his goal is to look at how the city can act in a more environmentally sustainable fashion in everything it does. Some possible approaches include putting more emphasis on alternative transportation, promoting more energy efficiency and use of alternative and renewable energy sources by city utilities, and creating a recycled-content policy for city purchases.Richardson said the initiative could lead to policy recommendations being made to the city and to other governments such as Garfield County and local school districts. Participants might also choose to focus on only one of many possible projects, he said.The initiative is not a city-led effort, although city manager Jeff Hecksel moderated the recent meeting and some City Council members attended. Rather, it’s more of a grassroots effort, Richardson said.”Whatever we do has got to be driven by citizens, not me,” he said.Yet the idea reflects personal philosophies that have guided him for years.He owns Sustainable Design Concepts, which he calls a performance building/consulting business, and which focuses on green construction methods. Richardson said his initial interest in the field was fostered when he lived as a caretaker at a No Name property, relied on water that came from a cistern, and lived “not off the grid, but close to it.” The experience got him thinking about resources and how they affect the building industry.Richardson studied environmental design at the University of Colorado in Boulder.He said cities are the largest consumer of goods and services in the world. That gives them a huge responsibility to act in a sustainable fashion, and the most opportunity for making positive environmental changes, he said.One of his goals since being elected to City Council has been to see what Glenwood Springs can do differently in order to operate in a more sustainable fashion, for the sake of generations to come. But he said he hasn’t been sure how to pursue that, and realizes he is perceived by some as a “super-liberal, tree-hugging, spring chicken” council member.He felt that the best way to give his ideas some weight would be to show council that there is a larger community interest in them.While Richardson realizes critics might view his initiative as self-promoting for his business, he said he’s doing it for the city’s sake, not his own.”One of the reasons I wanted to get other people involved is because it’s not something I can do by myself,” he said.He said he was happy about the cross section of community members who are getting involved in the initiative. They’re not just traditional environmentalists, but professionals in fields such as medicine, law and finance, he said.Fellow council member Larry Beckwith, who attended part of the initial meeting, agreed that a diverse group attended.”I’m anxious to see what kind of recommendations they come up with,” he said.He said he thinks the initiative has potential.”I hate to see us change just for the sake of change. However we should be kind of trying to restore and maintain our community and … be self-sufficient and sustainable as well,” he said.One example of how the city already is trying to do that is through its current effort to improve its storm drainage system to reduce pollution of local rivers, Beckwith said.He said it’s important that the city think twice before passing regulations that hinder citizens just “for the purpose of thinking it’s a nice thing to do.”Richardson said that his Sustainable Cities concept is not based on any set program used by other cities, but that there are books that promote ways for communities to behave in a more sustainable fashion.Hecksel said he’s never seen such a city initiative take place at a grassroots level. But he has been involved in components of sustainability programs earlier in his career, in Oregon. Some of the focus was on energy conservation, use of renewable energy, and recycling.In Oregon, some of those measures were instituted due to mandates at higher levels of government, he said.Hecksel sees possibilities for Glenwood Springs to take more steps toward environmental sustainability.”I wouldn’t say Glenwood’s done nothing, but I would say there’s always room, I don’t care what city you’re talking about, there’s probably always more you can do,” he said.The question is what Glenwood Springs can economically do, and what is palatable to the community, he said.For example, Hecksel said, renewable energy sources generally cost more than traditional ones.He also noted that what’s sustainable also can be open to some debate. In Oregon, cities relied largely on power from hydroelectric dams, which have come under criticism due to their effects on fisheries.”They were certainly renewable, but they weren’t considered green,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.comFind out moreFor more information on Dan Richardson’s Sustainable Cities Initiative, he may be reached at 928-0141 or dan@sdconcepts.net.A second Sustainable Cities meeting is planned, and Richardson will announce the meeting date later.


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