Friday, March 14, 2008

Going green takes a community

Green Symposium offers ideas for thinking green

Express Staff Writer

Aimée Christensen and Rocky Anderson spoke to a packed house at the Community Library in Ketchum for the "Green Your Scene" symposium. Photo by Sabina Dana Plasse

It was standing room only as eager listeners gathered at the Community Library in Ketchum for the first evening of the "Green Your Scene" environmental symposium for climate change and mountain lifestyles. It was the kick-off event for the weekend's 48 Straight festival and Jeep King of the Mountain series snow sport competitions.

Every participant who filled out a carbon-footprint card received a green bracelet from symposium sponsor FirmGreen. Food was donated by Buffalo Bites accompanied by plenty of green beer from Hayden Beverage.

The evening began with opening comments and thanks from Wood River Valley resident, professional skier and 48 Straight spokesperson Reggie Crist. Two hours later plenty of attendees were still asking questions of moderator Aimée Christensen and the three guest speakers--Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, Auden Schendler, executive director of community and environmental responsibility at Aspen Skiing Co., and Nancy Taylor, author of "Go Green."

Christensen, a valley native, has done extensive work in environmental law and energy matters that led to her current job as a team member for, Google's philanthropic arm. Her focus on global warming and its broader relationship to poverty, development and public health has allowed her to create and advise energy and environmental strategies for over a decade. She led her own company, Christensen Global Strategies, handling clients such as Virgin and Google. While earning her degree at Stanford Law School she wrote and led efforts to obtain the adoption by Stanford's Board of Trustees of the climate change and investment responsibility policy that now governs Stanford's investments.

Anderson, who has led the charge for Salt Lake City's carbon-emission reduction plan, which has since become a model for cities across the nation, presented an extensive worldview on the current environmental crisis.

"Climate change is a greater threat to global stability than terrorism," Anderson said. "We are all going to be severely impacted."

Anderson covered the gamut of environmental crises, presenting hard evidence and statistics on carbon and methane emissions as well as the effects of global warming on weather. Images of melting glacier caps and glaciers were very daunting, especially those of Glacier National Park. He said the park's name will someday soon be the only reminder of its past.

"We have the means to combat global warming," Anderson said. "And everyone can do their part."

Anderson's ideas not only reduced Salt Lake City's carbon footprint but saved the city money. His carbon-emissions reduction plan actually gave back to the city's citizens by allowing anyone driving a hybrid or alternative-fueled car to park for free. Anderson's mention of ridding Salt Lake City municipal fleet of 41 gas-guzzling vehicles was met with audience applause.

Focusing a little closer on specific issues concerning the Wood River Valley, Schendler presented an energetic and inspiring talk on his work for the Aspen Skiing Co.

"How do you make something happen when the barriers are so broad?" Schendler asked. "The technology is there, but we can't get past social barriers."

Schendler's prophetic example of instilling environmental consciousness in Aspen began with changing The Little Nell hotel's garage lights. Today he is working on plans for a hydroelectric plant on the Colorado River.

"We have to change how we talk about it," Schendler said. "I borrowed this quote from Charles Bukowski—'What matters most is how you walk through fire.' Let's go for it and think like Vikings running into battle. We are going to solve it or not in the next decade."

Coming from Jackson, Wyo., a mountain town often compared to Ketchum, Taylor focused upon how we can live green in our everyday lives. Taylor built a green home in Jackson Hole and told a story on how the construction workers who built her home thought she was crazy, but when the home was finished thanked her for the experience.

"I believed in solar energy and not coating the house with toxic products," Taylor said. "Seize the low-hanging fruit first and convince elected officials to begin with light bulbs—it makes sense."

Taylor said saving money, time, fuel and achieving better air quality happens on a community level.

"Together change will happen," Taylor said.

Handouts with a list of the speaker's favorite green Web sites were distributed to everyone, along with information about the Sun Valley Sustainability Conference to be held October 23-26. The symposium also gave continuing education credits for architects and engineers.

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