Mountain Village Environmental Initiatives Lead The Way To The New Normal

New Normal

Words by Bill Kight / Environment

Mountain Village may cover just over 3 square miles but the small community has big ambitions to help fight climate change, starting at home. Over Memorial Day Weekend, the town will shine a spotlight on its Green Gondola Project, and launch four programs to reward local residents for conserving natural resources and protecting the environment.

These cutting-edge initiatives are part of a grassroots, community-wide movement to work toward The New Normal — the Telluride region’s audacious goal of achieving carbon neutrality.

The New Normal movement sprung from Mountainfilm, the annual film festival premiering Memorial Day weekend that has shared the powerful stories of grassroots movements for nearly four decades. As it pinpoints climate change as the defining issue of our time, the festival has identified specific ways the Telluride community can take simple, impactful steps to preserve the planet for future generations. Festival Director David Holbrooke says Mountainfilm can help propel action against climate change by leveraging the power of story to fuel innovation and community building.

“Can we do this? Can Telluride really go carbon neutral?” Holbrooke asks. “We don’t know, but given what is clearly happening to our planet, we have to try.”

The Mountain Village Resident Incentive Programs are one way the community is rising to the challenge, working to establish The New Normal. The town is investing more than $120,000 in four programs that educate and reward local residents and businesses for taking a range of environmentally friendly actions. The programs include:

  • SOLAR ENERGY: Mountain Village homes and businesses are awarded a rebate of $0.40 per watt for power generated by solar energy.
  • ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Mountain Village offers free controllers for heat trace systems, promising to save 30-50 percent of electricity costs per winter.
  • WATER CONSERVATION: Mountain Village is paying for the entire cost of efficient irrigation systems for lawns and gardens.
  • HEALTHY FORESTS: Mountain Village is reimbursing property owners up to $5,000 for creating defensible space that reduce wildfire risks.

“These incentive programs are a great way to engage local residents in meaningful actions to address climate change and improve the environment in our own community,” says Bill Kight, director of marketing & business development at Town of Mountain Village.

Kight notes that Mountain Village has a long history of environmental responsibility, from protecting area wetlands to working toward becoming Zero Waste. Mountain Village’s mandatory recycling programs, efforts to protect native plants from noxious weeds, green power initiatives, and electric vehicle charging stations contribute further to its status as a leader in the fight to protect the planet.

The gondola, of course, may be one of the most impactful and inspirational of Mountain Village’s commitments to green living and reducing the town’s carbon footprint. It’s certainly the most unique — the only form of free transportation like it in North America! Providing more than 2.6 million passenger rides annually, the gondola offers an efficient mode of transportation that reduces carbon emissions, resulting in cleaner air and a community that’s less reliant on cars.

The Green Gondola Project, launched a several years ago, has worked to offset the large amount of electricity needed to power the gondola with alternative energy sources by raising money from gondola riders. Key achievements of the Green Gondola Project to date:

  • Funds collected through the Project have been used to install LED lighting and on-site solar panels, and buy wind power to provide the electricity used to operate the gondola.
  • Since 2007, the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association has offset 100 percent of the gondola’s remaining traditional electricity needs with renewable energy Green Blocks purchased from its electricity provider, San Miguel Power Association. These Green Blocks support energy efficiency and renewable energy programs throughout the region. 200,000 Green Blocks of renewable energy have been purchased, offsetting 20 million kilowatt hours of dirty electricity.
  • The gondola’s solar panels now generate 240,000 kilowatt hours of solar energy and prevent 463,200 pounds of carbon dioxide from polluting the environment annually.

“The renewable energy the gondola produces from solar panels is still a small fraction of the total it uses,” notes Kight, “but the goal is to reach 20 percent.”

In the face of daunting challenges presented by a warming planet, it’s important to celebrate the community-led initiatives that are making a difference on a small scale.

“The results of Mountain Village’s many green initiatives are powerful,” says Mountain Village mayor Dan Jansen. “They have cemented the town’s role as part of the vanguard actively working to fight climate change, and they help lay the groundwork for the Telluride region’s movement to establish The New Normal.”

To learn more about our incentive programs visit townofmountainvillage.com/green-living and for more information on the Green Gondola Project or to donate online, visit townofmountainvillage.com/green-gondola-project.