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Mother Nature heralded Earth Day 2023 on Saturday with nearly two inches of snow and cold, windy conditions.

Logo courtesy Central Colorado Climate Coalition

Despite that, a hardy bunch of marchers took park in the Parade of the Species from Alpine Park to Riverside Park. To the delight and cheers of onlookers along F Street, many dressed as their favorite animal, insect or plant for the event, sponsored by the Central Colorado Climate Coalition, (CCCC).

The parade featured people dressed as a giraffe, white rhino, spotted leopard, jungle cat, Monarch butterfly, cow and more.

Following the parade, community participants were treated to refreshments and an in-depth program by individuals and organizations working to enhance local environmental sustainability in afternoon presentations at the Scout Hut at the park. The audience enjoyed refreshments as well as music by local local musicians Bruce Warren and Andrea Coen.

Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker addresses efforts at
building local sustainability Saturday at the Earth Day event at
the Scout Hut. Dan Smith photo.

The Local Speaker series was led by Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker, who outlined the efforts at building a more sustainable future and ecological opportunities for citizens.

He also touched on ecology ‘laws,’ including that everything is connected in earth’s web of life; the fact that anything thrown away doesn’t really go away; there is no ‘free lunch’ – meaning there is always a trade-off for decisions about the environment, even electric vehicles involve rare earth minerals that are mined; and, noting the recent plague of floods fires and earthquakes across the globe means “nature decides ultimately.”

Baker also spoke of how the phrase Think Globally, Act Locally has impacted many of his own decisions and urged conservation, including less consumption and holding large corporations accountable for environmental destruction.

Julie Mach, owner of Elements Compost, (elements has been an important part of the community effort at community-wide composting efforts and narrowing the waste stream going to the county landfill.

About 30 percent of waste is food, meaning it creates atmosphere-destroying methane when it decomposes. Composting eliminates about 95 percent of that methane, she noted.

Mach spoke of the success of working with the City of Salida in creating community-oriented compost collection sites at city hall, in Smelter Town and establishing a new collection and distribution site near the airport.

Another opportunity for use of waste that would normally go to a landfill to produce energy for the community was presented by John Armstrong, founder of B1: Sustainable, Renewable, and Regenerative Energy, LLC.

Armstrong spoke to how the startup, backed by the local Ark Angels Investment Group and others could realize community involvement in a recycling facility with $1.5 – $2 million for equipment in a first phase, eventually using aerobic digestion and continuous improvement in recycling to produce energy as well as lengthen the life span of the landfill, which is filling quickly, and grow into perhaps recycled material manufacturing.

Merry Cox, a local native plant and permaculture expert, gave a presentation titled “Going Native: Creating Habitat in Your Yard for Native Plants, Animals and Pollinators”. She talked of the impact of invasive plants on the local environment, how native plants are crucial for pollinators, and how residents can promote their growth through seeds from local providers such as Western Native Seed in Coaldale.

John McGowan, co-founder of Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, along with activist Jen Swacina, spoke about the efforts to discourage use of plastic bottled water, focusing on the recent efforts protesting the pumping of up to 60 million gallons of Arkansas River aquifer water for multi-national corporation Nestlé starting in 2009 (now by BlueTriton Brands). They urged vigilance by residents to see that the complex 1041 agreement extension passed by a 2-1 county commissioner vote recently is strictly enforced.

McGowan noted that about 20 percent of the local water conservation district’s budget comes from BlueTriton, adding  that massive profit for the company is offset locally by relatively small community contributions to local schools and the Chaffee County Community Foundation.

McGowan pointed to the environmental group’s successful local efforts to build free, local water stations, with one completed and more planned. The effort is named ’Fill Good, Feel Good-  Ditching Bottled Water By Building Free Community Water Stations.

The audience also heard from Tom Plant, a member of the state Public Utilities Commission and Ark Valley Energy Future. He briefed the audience on renewal energy efforts at a grassroots level under the heading ‘We Have The Power! Working For Renewable Energy and Sustainable Practices in the Sangre De Cristo Electric Co-Op and Beyond.’

With Colorado’s goals of producing 30 percent of energy in Colorado from clean sources by 2030, Plant and Rich Shoemaker, chair of the Ark Valley Energy Future group, said that transforming the energy environment over the next ten years is viable decentralized power generation, less tied to big energy producer monopolies and bringing demand curves down through conservation.

The program was well-received, judging by the reaction afterward of those who attended. It was spearheaded by Angie Thompson, a community activist along with the leadership team of the Central Colorado Climate Coalition. CCCC was formed locally in 2018 under the leadership of the late Robert Parker, Fred Rasmussen, Mel Strawn, Mary Lou Church and others committed to environmental education and activism.

For more information, visit the CCCC website.

Featured image: Parade of the Species on Earth Day in Salida, Dan Smith phot0