You’ve found your way to sustainablecb.org, so you must want to make changes to live a more sustainable life here in the Gunnison Valley. You’re aware of your impact on our Valley and the planet and want to learn how to make choices that reduce your impact.
Achieving the ambitious goals outlined in the Crested Butte Climate Action Plan will require participation from everyone. The town government can’t do it alone; each of us contributes to the greenhouse gas emissions of the Gunnison Valley. We’ve created a 7-Day Challenge to show you different ways you can change your behavior in small ways every day to make a big impact. We hope you’ll try it out.
- Day 1: Reusable Mugs & Bottles
- Day 2: Reduce Household Water Waste
- Day 3: Buy Smarter (when you have to buy at all)
- Day 4: Use Reusable Bags
- Day 5: Eat Less Meat & Dairy
- Day 6: Write Your Representatives
- Day 7: Watch an Environmental Movie
Day 1: Reusable Mugs & Bottles
GOAL: Use your own mugs and water bottles when going out.
The goal for Day 1 is simple, at least during normal times. Just use your own mugs and water bottles when you go out.
Many of us were taught the three “Rs” in elementary school or middle school: reduce, reuse, recycle. Now it has been updated to five “Rs” though: reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle, and remove. Recycling is important, but a huge amount of the waste we humans create is due to plastic and 91% of it is not recyclable. Much like the plastic bags that inspired this organization in the first place and the plastic straws we are currently fighting with our Straw-Free Gunnison Valley campaign, coffee cups are a single use item that is only used for a few minutes and then discarded. They also can’t be recycled in spite of being mostly cardboard.
While it may seem like a hassle to lug around a coffee cup and a water bottle all day, the more you do it, the easier it will get. Just think of it the way you think about your keys, wallet, and sunglasses. You don’t leave home without them. Many of our stores in town carry great options for reusable bottles and mugs. For those who don’t like to carry bulky items, we’ve found the brand “Que” makes a great collapsible bottle.
COVID-19 Option: Since the state has outlawed reusable mugs at coffee shops during the pandemic, we suggest buying bulk coffee or tea from your favorite local shop, making it at home, and using your own to-go mug. You may even find a new roast or flavor you love and can keep buying locally.
Day 2: Reduce Home Water Use
GOAL: Reduce home water waste by taking a look at some of the most common sources: shower, dishwasher, laundry, and faucets
Can you take a shower in 6 minutes or less? Showering is something we all do and it can also be a nice way to relax. However, the amount of water and energy used for a long shower might surprise you. According to studies by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 30% of the water used in a shower is wasted and much of that wasted water is heated as well. In fact, water heating is 17% of total home heating!
While it may not seem like much, simply cutting your shower down by a few minutes can make a huge difference. Approximately 2.5 gallons of water are used every minute in an average shower, so saving a few minutes per day can really add up over a year or a decade! Another way to save water in the shower is to make sure you hop right in as soon as the water gets hot. Not only will this help meet the goals in the Crested Butte Climate Action Plan, but you’ll probably save some money on your heating bills as well!
Washing Machine and Dishwasher
How many loads of laundry do you do every week? Wouldn’t you like that number to be smaller? Not only would it save you some time, but you could also help save a lot of water by only doing your laundry when you have a full load. The US Department of Energy estimates 3,400 gallons of water per year per family could be saved by running washing machines only when you have enough for a full load.
If you have a dishwasher, using it to wash dishes is a great way to save water and energy. It can wash full loads way more efficiently than washing all of those dishes by hand. But in order to realize those energy and water savings, you need to make sure you only run it with full loads. There are several other ways to reduce the energy consumption of your dishwasher. Check it out!
When it comes to faucets, they’re much like the shower. Many of us have already gotten in the habit of turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth. What if you also did it while shaving or washing dishes? Five minutes of faucet-on dishwashing wastes 10 gallons of water, and, just like the shower, it’s usually water that you have heated.
Other simple acts of daily living can add up to large amounts of water and energy consumption. Luckily, there are always people innovating and finding new ways to do these tasks in more sustainable ways. Some other things to check out:
- EPA Showerheads reduce the water flow from a showerhead to less than 2 gallons per minute.
- Thermostatic shut-off valves can be installed to limit the hot water coming out of a showerhead to reduce hot water waste.
- Every time we wash our laundry, our clothes shed microparticles, including microplastics. Installing a filtrol on your washing machine allows you to capture these microplastics and microfibers and dispose of them properly.
- Drain water heat recovery systems can be installed to allow for energy efficiency.
- Tankless hot water heaters allow for instant hot water only when it is needed.
There may be financing, rebate, and grant programs available to help you make upgrades to your home. Check out the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority’s GV-HEAT page for more information! Our CB Climate Action Plan Toolkit has even more ideas for energy savings.
Day 3: Buy Smarter
GOAL: Reduce your carbon footprint by buying local products and looking for things around your home that you could re-purpose.
Supporting local retailers and makers is a great way to make smart buying choices. Not only can shopping locally help support a local business that employs your neighbors or supports local non-profit organizations, it can also help reduce your carbon footprint. While online shopping may be easier for you, it’s almost never easier on the environment.
When you order something that is made in another country, the carbon footprint of your item is especially large. It has been shipped on a boat or plane, then packaged in a warehouse, then shipped again via plane or truck, then driven by a delivery driver, most likely in a diesel vehicle, before it finally ends up at your door (or at the post office!). While there has been some debate on whether online shopping has a higher carbon footprint than in-person shopping, online shopping with high speed delivery tripled the environmental impact of freight transportation (see the study). If at all possible, choose the slowest shipping option. You’ll probably save some money and make a positive impact on the environment.
Buying locally allows you to find products that were either not shipped at all or already shipped to a local store, potentially with a lower-impact shipping method, before resorting to products from somewhere else. If you live in the town of Crested Butte, you can probably walk or bike to stores or restaurants and make some of your purchases without the aid of a car at all. When you do make the drive to City Market, consider whether you could take the bus instead of driving or make sure to do a big shopping trip so you don’t have to go as frequently. While you’re there, look for products labeled as made in Colorado so you can make more sustainable choices in your shopping.
In general, consumerism is environmentally wasteful. If you think you need something, first take a look around your house and see if there is anything else you can repurpose to fit your needs. The next time you need to give a gift, see if there is something you could make instead. Local thrift shops and consignment stores also give you the option to reduce your impact. New products take a lot of energy to produce. Instead of purchasing a brand-new item online, see if you can find something locally that has been lightly and lovingly used.
COVID-19 Option: If you’re not comfortable with going into stores right now due to the pandemic, some of our local shops have added pick-up options. Reach out to your favorite stores and ask how you can still support them. You may be surprised at what options exist!
Day 4: Use Reusable Bags
GOAL: Use only reusable bags from around your house when shopping or going out and refuse all single-use plastic bags.
This one is near and dear to our hearts because our organization was founded to fight for a plastic bag ban in Crested Butte. Single-use plastic bags are terrible for the environment. They are made from plastic, usually used once for a very short period of time, and then discarded. While ending up in a landfill after only being used for 30 minutes is already a bad end, many of them have an even worse fate for wildlife and the planet: they end up in the ocean and cause all kinds of trouble.
Luckily, this one offers an easy solution. Just stop using plastic bags. The Town Council in Crested Butte recognized this problem and passed a plastic bag ban in 2016 that went into effect in 2018. But there are other places in the Gunnison Valley that haven’t enacted similar policies. It is on you as the individual to take responsibility.
For day 4, we ask that you commit to putting easily accessible reusable bags in your car (if you have one), your bike basket, and your backpack or bag that you take with you. If you forget, take advantage of one of our Boomerang Bags that can be found throughout Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. If you’ve already done this, good work! Now take a look at other types of single-use plastic bags. Can you use reusable produce bags or bulk bags (after the pandemic restrictions ease)? Can you replace sandwich or snack bags with other reusable options? Earthday.org offers a great toolkit to calculate your plastic footprint and figure out ways to use the 5 Rs: reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle, and remove.
Day 5: Eat Less Meat & Dairy
GOAL: Realize what you are eating and where it comes from and take the day to limit your meat and dairy consumption.
For some of you, day 5 may be easy. For others, this may be the hardest day of them all. It’s also the day that potentially holds the biggest opportunity for you to make an impact. A study published in the journal Science in June of 2018 found that the biggest thing consumers can do to reduce their impact on the earth is to avoid meat and dairy. An article in Forbes magazine summed up the findings like this:
“After investigating the impact of meat and dairy on Earth, the authors note that a vegan diet is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. Buying an electric car, lowering your thermostat, and taking quick showers all pale in comparison to simply eating less meat and dairy. Particularly, reducing the consumption of beef, dairy, and pork cuts out some of the largest culprits.” “This is the Single Biggest Thing You Can Do To Reduce Your Impact on Earth: Avoid Meat and Dairy”Trevor Nance, Forbes.com, June 7, 2018
We’re not asking you to go vegan from here on out, or even for a day. Instead, thoughtfully look for ways to limit the overall meat and dairy consumption within your household. Maybe you join in on the “meatless Monday” trend if you eat meat for dinner every night. If you’re already doing that, consider going to two or three nights per week with no meat.
Cutting back on meat and dairy consumption and replacing it with a plant-based diet dramatically reduces the amount of Carbon emission released into the atmosphere. The farming industry as a whole is one of the most impactful industries when it comes to contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. But, there is a lot of variability when it comes to the environmental impacts of different styles of farming. If you are looking to attain a more sustainable lifestyle, incorporate more plant-based options into your weekly meals. When you do eat meat, be cautious of where it came from because there is a difference in greenhouse gas emissions depending on the type of animals and where and how the animals were raised.
Day 6: Write Your Representatives
GOAL: Take the knowledge you’ve gained so far and use it to write to your representatives in local, state, and/or federal governments about environmental issues you care about.
Making changes in your day-to-day life is important. Being an environmental activist requires that you encourage other people to make changes also. Reaching out to your representatives in your local, state, and federal governments and telling them how you would like them to work for you when legislation impacting the environment is in consideration is so important. Your voice matters. Take ten minutes today to contact your representatives and tell them to enact policies that protect our environment.
Here’s How to Contact Your Reps
First, search your address on commoncause.org to find your federal and state representatives. Then you can choose to write or call them.
- For an email or letter, begin by stating your name and address so they know what you have to say is relevant to who they represent. If you are a consistent voter, be sure to tell them that, too. Make your message clear about the topic and your viewpoint, and remember to speak from your own experiences. After you are done, proofread your message and make sure it says all that you want to say. Then hit send on your email or stamp your letter and drop it off in a mailbox.
- Phone calls are also effective. Writing out what you would like to say may help on the phone, especially if you get their voicemail.
- Signing petitions is another quick and easy way to raise your voice for the planet, and many can be found, researched, and signed on change.org, or you can research and seek out your own!
Some topics you can focus on are climate change in general, single-use plastic waste, water waste/contamination, consumerism, the farming industry, carbon emissions, energy waste and efficiency, deforestation, public lands, the Green New Deal, river pollution, ocean pollution, wildfires, the Colorado river, etc. By using our resources or finding your own resources, send an informed email regarding upcoming votes or policies you believe should change. Contacting your representatives does make an impact. Make sure to stay current on climate policies, and make climate platforms a part of how you vote- it makes a difference!
Day 7: Watch an Environmental Movie
GOAL: Educate both yourself and the people around you on sustainability by watching films that highlight environmental issues.
Congratulations! You made it to day 7 and have learned a lot about different ways to live more sustainably. As a reward, we’ve made today the easiest day of all. Choose one of the environmental movies below (or find your own and be sure to let us know what you watched) and watch it with your family, friends, or household.
- An Inconvenient Truth: A warning and explanation on the severity of climate change by former Vice President and Presidential candidate Al Gore
- An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power: Al Gore’s sequel on how the impending threat of climate change can still be overcome and solved.
- Wasted! The Story of Food Waste: an explanation on the growing food waste and how the problem can be solved
- Bag it! A man from Colorado realizes the wastefulness of plastic bags and challenges himself to not use them. In the film he explores just how non-disposable plastic bags really are.
- Racing Extinction: How mankind has contributed to the extinction of different species across the world
- Our Planet: 8 episodes addressing the world’s beauty as well as Climate Change in different ecosystems
- A Plastic Ocean: The truth about single-use plastics and our ocean along with solutions to the problem
- Earth’s Natural Wonders: Shows the extreme environments that people have adapted to living in and how their life is in the face of adversity
- Down to Earth with Zac Efron: Actor Zac Efron journeys around the world with wellness expert Darin Olien in a travel show that explores healthy, sustainable ways to live.
While you have technically made it to the end of the 7-Day Challenge, we don’t want this to be the end of your sustainability lifestyle shift. Continue reusing bags, mugs, and water bottles. Use less water. Be aware of the food you’re eating and the products you’re buying. Join us in advocating for policy changes. Never stop learning about how to protect the environment and reduce your emissions.
How to Quit Plastics Workbook from Eco-Cycle
Our friends over at Eco-Cycle in Boulder have developed a workbook to help you do a complete audit of your life to look for additional ways to reduce your use of plastics. Download it today and learn additional ways you could live a more sustainable lifestyle.
If you’re ready to take on the next challenge, check out our volunteer page. We’re always looking for more people to get involved and help us do more to promote sustainability in Crested Butte!