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Sustainability Roundtable Great Use of Time

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On May 26, I attended the 2010 Alliance for Sustainable Colorado Regional Sustainability Roundtable in Rifle. Grand Junction was well represented with 17 of the 65 event participants hailing from the Grand Valley.

You may not be aware that Rifle is on the cutting edge of sustainability measures. The area will soon have a biofuels plant, which will turn grass and other materials into fuel for transportation.

One of four pilot communities, Rifle was selected to take part in Colorado's Sustainable Main Streets Initiative. Rifle also is home to Rocky Mountain Alternative Fueling, a company working on compressed natural gas stations.

Just to refresh your memory, the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado is housed in a rehabilitated historic Denver building constructed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. The group's motto is "Advancing sustainability through collaboration."

The alliance subscribes to the African proverb, "if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others." Kelly Landau, who works on outreach and education for the organization, epitomizes this philosophy. She takes great pride in making collaboration simple by handling meeting details and essential follow-up data dissemination.

Once again, the roundtable was conducted in a sustainable fashion and was very productive. Facilitators stressed the Triple Bottom Line for business. This perspective looks at any action through the prism of this question: Does this benefit people, planet and profit?

We were informed about the latest in progress around the state. An exciting development is that the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) has hired a new sustainability director and recently adopted seven principles of sustainability.

Seven Principles of Sustainability

DOLA integrates planning and investment by partnering with other local, state and federal
agencies to strengthen Colorado Communities. DOLA's approach centers on seven basic
sustainable community development principles. Adapted from the federal sustainability
principles agreed upon by the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban
Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, DOLA tailored them to fit Colorado.

o Increase economic competitiveness
Invest in education and training for the global economy, attract and position
employment centers near housing and transit, expand business access and promote
rural economic development that preserves and enhances community identity

o Promote equitable, affordable housing
Identify, encourage and invest in quality, energy efficient, affordable housing near
jobs, shopping and public and recreation amenities

o Support existing communities
Strategically optimize goal driven infrastructure funding to maximize investment,
support long term viability and revitalize communities

o Provide more transportation choices
Improve safe, reliable and affordable transportation choices to reduce traffic
congestion and improve air quality; create transit-oriented neighborhoods with biking
and walking opportunities

o Conserve, responsibly utilize and protect valuable natural resources
Focus investments which plan for and conserve a clean water supply, improve air
quality, protect natural resources, and promote local and regional food systems,
energy efficiency and renewable energy

o Value healthy communities and neighborhoods
Support unique and historic community characteristics by investing in quality
schools, prosperous and sustainable downtowns, and healthy, safe, walkable
neighborhoods

o Enhance integrated planning and investment
Align policies to remove barriers, maximize and leverage funding and increase
accountability and effectiveness of government programs

Housing Resources of Western Colorado shared information about a state legislation effort (House Bill 1328) that creates a Colorado new energy improvement district to provide a potential funding source for clean energy projects. H.B. 1328 promotes Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE programs.

According to the Colorado House Democrats website, "these are convenient finance programs that raise funds for residential and commercial projects that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy and remove the upfront obstacle of obtaining funds to finance the project. PACE payments are made through individual property assessments from those who voluntarily choose to participate."

Roundtable participants spent a great deal of time brainstorming about local food and water issues, as well as transportation. Numerous ideas were discussed, prioritized and presented to the group.

The entire assembly then decided what items were ripe for development. Details about the session can be found at the alliance website.

By the end of the session, I realized I had learned quite a bit since the 2009 roundtable during which I remember feeling amazed at how much was going on in Colorado that was new to me.

Since then, I have researched many ideas for this column, attended the Energy Management Symposium at Mesa State College and several energy briefings and the gas rig tour through the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

To create continuity of progress, a Sustainability Council is being formed for the Grand Junction area that will coordinate with a regional group through the alliance.

Hopefully, many of the great ideas from the roundtable will soon be put into action locally.

This blog originally ran as a SustainAbility column in the Daily Sentinel/gjsentinel.com.