2010 Sustainability Champion Awards
As sustainability becomes mainstream, it's a tougher task to honor people, companies and organizations that transcend business as usual.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Environmental Partnership have partnered with Connected Organizations for a Responsible Economy (CORE), and ColoradoBiz to present the 2010 Sustainability Champion Awards. The program is sponsored by PAETEC, a New York-based telecom company that delivers data and voice services in 84 metro markets including Denver.
This year's winners are comprised of three individuals and three teams that have not only reduced waste and greenhouse gas emissions but in many cases have created substantial cost savings and economic opportunities.
A team of judges from the state of Colorado and CORE selected the winners from nearly 100 entries, examining how they met criteria for the environment, economy, society, innovation and education. The profiles on these pages offer a snapshot of how the winners addressed those issues.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN MASONRY INSTITUTE
The Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute is a nonprofit trade association of more than 110 companies throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Jaffari, RMMI's sustainability director, has worked for five years to change how architects look at construction practices. A native of Iran, Jaffari has studied structures in the Middle East that are 2,500 years old. Stretching the lifespan of buildings to a century doesn't sound unusual to her.
"We need to build buildings that will be our cultural heritage for the next generation just like the previous generation built their buildings for us," she said.
Environment: Jaffari chaired a group helping to develop the first International Green Construction Code. The average age of nonresidential buildings in the U.S. is 25 years. Jaffari's team developed a draft that calls for buildings to last a minimum of 60 years and awards extra credits for those designed to last 100 and 200 years. New construction and demolition account for 40 percent of raw materials and 30 percent of waste in the U.S. annually.
Economy: The initiatives would reduce the operating costs of buildings as well as demand for fossil fuels and clean water.
Society: Jaffari has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency on draft language that calls for buildings to be within walking distance to schools, offices, banks, cultural centers and shopping.
Innovation: Jaffari directed a regional task force of the U.S. Green Building Council on revisions to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. New credits would award points for water conservation, passive design and other sustainability measures.
Education: Jaffari teaches seminars on LEED and green building.
CEO, UMB FINANCIAL CORP.
UMB CEO Mariner Kemper says one of the best things about winning this award is that it gives him another platform to talk about sustainability.
"For me, it's very equally split between being good for business and being good for the planet," Kemper says. "The planet doesn't get any bigger, and we add more people to it every year. People are living longer lives. If we don't ultimately start caring more, you can't argue that it has a negative impact on the lives of our kids and our grandkids."
Environment: Kemper has led UMB's efforts to ensure new branches and upgrades are completed using green practices. In 2007, UMB opened its first "green" building in Stapleton, which included a grass roof as part of its structural design. In 2008, UMB completed a carbon calculator for the company's entire footprint, which showed a 2 percent overall decrease in emissions from 2007.
Economy: UMB's energy conservation measures have saved the company nearly $181,000 during 2009. Recycled toner and ink cartridges saved an additional $8,500 from May to November 2009.
Society: UMB has partnered with the Denver Botanic Gardens for a three-year agreement that supports the gardens' annual operating budget and a capital campaign that aims to enhance the gardens as a model of sustainability.
Innovation: The company created the UMB Eco Rewards credit card that allows consumers to earn double points on qualified "green" purchases. Points may be allocated as a donation to environmental organizations.
Education: Three years ago, Kemper helped led the creation of the UMB Green Team to work on initiatives to reduce greenhouse emissions.
ANN LIVINGSTON, SUSTAINABILITY COORDINATOR, BOULDER COUNTY
Ann Livingston developed and implemented the city's ClimateSmart Loan Program, which enables homeowners and business owners to invest in efficiency and renewable energy through a financing program tied to property taxes. The program led to investment of $10 million countywide in its first year.
"What we're finding prior to launching the ClimateSmart loan program is that while we offered access to energy audits and energy counseling and some technical assistance there was still a major barrier for many people who wanted to improve their homes and businesses," Livingston said. "They didn't have cash up front to make the improvements and in many cases didn't have access to private sector capital and conventional bank loans."
Economy: The ClimateSmart Loan Program is structured to support local businesses and retain and create local jobs.
Society: Boulder County has helped initiate similar programs in other counties and cities in Colorado. Livingston is working with state legislators to help regionalize the program.
Innovation: The program makes it sensible for homeowners and business owners to invest in energy measures because the debt is repaid through property taxes that stay with the property.
Education: ClimateSmart's website (beclimatesmart.com) includes sustainability strategies for individuals and households.
Environment: Livingston was responsible for managing the development of Boulder County's Sustainable Energy Plan, which includes reducing the county's emissions to 11 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Coolerado manufactures and sells air conditioners that use one-fifth or less of the energy required by the most efficient conventional systems, creating five times less greenhouse gases from power generation, improving indoor air quality and creating substantial savings on electrical bills.
"If we can get a large percentage of the population to move to this air conditioner, we can save a substantial amount of coal or whatever the source of power generation is," said Rick Gillan, whose brothers Lee and Alan also work for the Denver company. "There is no chemical refrigerant. It's a very simple and elegant system. Essentially you can cool a building for the amount of power that you would normally use to just run fans."
Environment: Laboratory testing by the U.S. Department of Energy indicated that the company's new system, the Coolerado H80, beat the 2010 standards by 60 percent at peak demand and will use 80 percent less energy overall when compared to traditional cooling systems.
Economy: In 2009, Coolerado added 33 jobs, growing from 14 employees to 47.
Society: Coolerado hosted the "Green Buildings, Green Jobs" energy event at the Denver Library last summer.
Innovation: Coolerado's air conditioners deliver fresh, clean air at or below wet bulb temperature, thought to be impossible by many scientists, the company says. (Wet bulb temperature is the lowest temperature an object can be cooled by evaporation.)
Education: Through presentations, such as video tutorials, Coolerado is showing how technology can help solve energy problems.
DENVER ZOOLOGICAL FOUNDATION
In 2008, the Denver Zoo was recognized as one of only 33 Gold Members in the state's Environmental Leadership program. The zoo's Work Place Conservation Committee has been working for several years to make the zoo's operations more sustainable.
"We're a conversation organization, and we're here to protect a secure habit for all species," said Jennifer Hale, the zoo's sustainability coordinator. "Being sustainable just rolls into that mission."
Environment: Denver Zoo employees logged 156,000 commuter miles in 2009 using alternative transportation. The zoo diverted about 320 tons of compostable material from the landfill in 2009 and recycled 2,600 pounds of electronic waste, 15 tons of commingled recycling, 54 tons of cardboard and 6.25 tons of metal.
Economy: The zoo's product procurement database aims to highlight sustainable products and services.
Society: Denver Zoo was a sponsor and presenter at the 2009 Green Festival, where staff highlighted efforts toward making the zoo the greenest in the nation.
Innovation: The zoo is developing a way to use waste to generate heat and power through gasification, diverting about 90 percent of its waste stream from landfill disposal.
Education: Outreach efforts include offering $2 admission discounts to guests who use RTD to travel to the zoo.
COLORADO MEDICATION TAKE-BACK PILOT PROJECT
This program aims to create a safe way to dispose unwanted household medications. It's a joint effort of the Colorado Pollution Prevention Advisory Board, King Soopers, Denver Water and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Keeping waste medicines out of the hands of children and drug abusers and out of the environment is an emerging challenge," said Greg Fabisiak, environmental integration manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in a statement released in December to kick off the program.
Environment: The detection of trace amounts of medication in wastewater treatment plant effluent and drinking water supplies has raised concerns about the potential impacts to ecosystems and human health. Within a month of the program's start, 93 pounds of pharmaceuticals were collected.
Economy: Current waste systems are not designed to filter pharmaceutical wastes.
Society: The project aims to prevent unused medications from falling into the hands of children.
Innovation: Before the eight collection boxes were placed along the Front Range and in Summit County, organizers had to resolve such issues as liability, cost, regulations and how to transport the waste.
Education: Organizers aim to reach the entire state.