Durango brewers turn to wind

Durango’s craft breweries are now serving up green beer, but don’t fret, it’s a good thing. All four local breweries – Carver Brewing Co., Durango Brewing Co., Ska Brewing Co., and Steamworks Brewing Co. – are now using 100 percent “green power,” electricity generated from a renewable resource.

La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), the local electric cooperative, offers businesses and individuals the opportunity to buy green power at a premium, paying an additional $1.25 per 100 kilowatt-hour block. All four breweries, banded together under the consortium of “The Bootlegger’s Society,” recently decided to take a leadership role in the green power effort and bought enough to cover all of their electricity consumption.

“I think it’s probably safe to say we’re the only community in the country where all the craft brewers are brewing with wind,” said Brian McEachron, Steamworks director of marketing and sales. “Among the four of us, we brew about 15,000 barrels of beer per year. Utilizing electricity from a renewable resource such as wind is just the right thing to do.”

This is by no means the Bootleggers first green step. In addition to traditional efforts such as recycling, the breweries donate nutrient-rich spent grain (grain used in the brewing process) to local ranchers for cattle feed and have replaced petroleum-based plastic beer cups with those made from compostable corn.

“We are continually looking at ways to leave a smaller carbon footprint and lead by example,” said Dave Thibodeau, co-founder of Ska Brewing. Ska recently broke ground on a new 20,000-barrel capacity brewery that is being designed to LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) or “green” standards.

Steamworks and Carvers have also met with officials from La Plata Electric to improve energy efficiency at their operations. “Even though we’re purchasing green power, we don’t want to waste it,” said Mike Hurst, co-owner of Carver’s. “Every effort helps, and we want to demonstrate that it can actually be beneficial and cost effective for businesses to go green.”

To reward other businesses who are making a similar commitment and purchasing green power, the Bootleggers, in conjunction with LPEA, are planning a “wind” party at the end of the summer. Only those purchasing green power will get an invite.


Recreation dominates economy

Recreation is rapidly replacing extraction as the West’s dominant resource. A new report by the Sierra Club documents a dramatic shift in the economics of the West in recent decades.

The report, “The New Economy of the West: From Clearcutting to Camping,” was released in early August and shows mining, timber and oil – industries that shaped the West – no longer drive its economy. Instead, it points to the increasing sway of recreational activities like camping, skiing, biking and hunting and argues that they support more sustainable jobs and economic growth than extractive industries. In addition, it argues that Western communities are increasingly dependent on public lands for jobs, economic growth and vitality.

“Our public lands are one of our nation’s most valuable economic assets,” said Sierra Club Conservation Organizer Keren Murphy, who authored the report. “The economy of the West has changed, and so should the way we manage it.”

Among other facts, the report highlights outdoor recreation’s contribution of $61 billion and 617,186 new jobs to the West’s economy in 2006. It also notes that communities in proximity to public lands have shown the strongest economic growth.

On the flip side, it calls for protection of this resource, noting that Western public lands face threats on many fronts. Oil and gas drilling, logging and global warming all jeopardize the future of recreation, according to the Sierra Club. The group argues that oil and gas drilling fragment wildlife habitat and damages hunting opportunities. In addition, the report argues that the oil industry imports its highly-skilled workers from other parts of the country and employs few local workers. Meanwhile, it counters that recreation and tourism provide a long-term, locally based source of jobs and income, noting that on Colorado’s Roan Plateau, near Grand Junction, hunting alone generates nearly $4 million a year.

“Public lands drive the tourist-based economies in our Western states,” Murphy said. “If we protect special places like Colorado’s Roan Plateau and New Mexico’s Valle Vidal, they’ll provide a source of income and enjoyment for generations to come.”

Murphy concluded that the findings indicate that unchecked logging, drilling and mining are no longer appropriate uses of public lands. “We have a choice to make, between treating our public lands as a giveaway to special interests, or as a gift to our children and grandchildren,” she said.


‘La Plata County Compass’ launched

Local residents have a new opportunity to steer the future of La Plata County. The county commissioners have announced a new strategic planning initiative known as the “La Plata County Compass.” Through the process, key issues affecting La Plata County will be identified along with goals and action steps to address them, and an evaluation tool will be developed to measure progress toward those goals over time.

“The La Plata County Compass will serve as the touchstone for La Plata County and serve as a vehicle to anticipate challenges and maximize opportunities to better serve our constituents and effectively utilize our resources in the years to come,” explained Wally White, chair of the commissioners.

The process will provide opportunities for public participation and will involve county employees, department directors and county elected officials as well. “Our hope and intent is that the strategic plan will reflect a shared vision for the community,” explained Joelle Riddle, vice chair of the board.  

To that end, local residents are encouraged to visit the La Plata County website at http://co.laplata.co.us to take a brief survey to share their thoughts regarding the future of La Plata County. Individuals may also sign up for updates and meeting announcements regarding the strategic planning process by completing the online survey. Lastly, the commissioners will host a community meeting Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Recreation Center to explain the strategic planning process.  


Battery recycling lands in Durango

La Plata County and the City of Durango are partnering to keep toxins out of the landfill. Through their joint effort, recycling opportunities for household batteries are being offered around the county.

Approximately 3 billion batteries are sold in the United States each year. Batteries may contain cadmium, mercury, nickel metal hydride, manganese, lithium, copper, zinc and lead acid, which may create a hazard when disposed of incorrectly. In landfills, pollutants from batteries have the potential to leach into the soil, groundwater or surface water.  

Local residents can look for battery collection tubes at area grocery stores and natural food stores as well as hardware stores, several department stores and public libraries. For more information about recycling household waste and rechargeable batteries, visit the city’s website at: www.durangogov.org.

– compiled by Will Sands