Going green: Fraser working on sustainability initiatives including free recycling, solar energy
Fraser is going green.
Through the introduction of new, green initiatives, the town of Fraser is setting a goal of reducing its carbon footprint and promoting sustainability. The town will be replacing lights, creating new options for recycling, replacing blowers in the wastewater treatment plant and more.
“We’re not actually very sustainable right now,” said Fraser Mayor Philip Vandernail. “The Fraser Town Board is very interested in looking at sustainability. … We just want to do right by the Earth.”
The first step of the plan, according to Vandernail, is the replacing of streetlights with more energy efficient LED bulbs, a project the town is undergoing with the help of Mountain Parks Electric. The first lights have already been put up as part of a series of tests to determine any possible issues of light pollution with the new bulbs.
“We did a test in a few spots to see how the LED lights look and whether they would cause dark sky complains, because we still want our citizens to be able to see the stars up here,” he said.
The replacement of the bulbs is ongoing and is expected to take about a year to complete.
The town is also looking into replacing the blowers at the Upper Fraser Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility. While the project is pricey in its onset — Vandernail estimated the new blowers would cost about $150,000 in total — the potential savings could be huge in the long run.
The new blowers should pay themselves off in about three years, and would end up cutting between 30 to 40 percent of energy costs long-term, he explained. The blowers are expected to be installed within the next year.
The town is also considering placing solar panels at the water treatment facility, though those plans are in their infancy.
“The wastewater treatment plant is the largest energy consumer for the town of Fraser, so we’re looking at ways that we can cut back on energy usage out there,” said Vandernail.
The town will also introduce a new “pay as you throw” garbage and recycling program in the coming months. Residents will be able to purchase specialized recycling bags from the town, then throw their recyclables away in the town’s transfer station dumpsters. That allows for free recycling.
“The cost of paying for the recycling bags pays for the cost of recycling, which is really cool, because everybody wants to recycle,” he said, “but we want to make it affordable to them, as well.”
Vandernail expressed concern with Fraser’s current garbage policies, and lack of recycling options. Currently the town hauls its garbage to a facility in Granby, before taking it back down passed Fraser into the Front Range.
“What kind of a sustainability model is that?” he questioned. “It’s not good for the Earth, and it certainly drives up our costs.”
Vandernail said the town is currently looking for an acre-and-a-half plot of land in Fraser to build a new trash and recycling transfer station, which would negate the need to haul garbage up to Granby. The new recycling program is expected to be up and running by the end of the summer.
Fraser’s efforts to increase sustainability are being used as a paradigm for other towns in Colorado looking to do the same. Gov. John Hickenlooper even recently lauded the town for its initiatives, specifically mentioning the town’s efforts.
“Renewable energy and energy efficiency are saving customers money, all the while reducing emissions and keeping utility prices low,” Hickenlooper said in his Colorado climate announcement last week. “In many cases our local governments are leading this charge without a mandate.”
Fraser officials last month signed on with the Compact of Colorado Communities, an agreement wherein mayors of individual towns agree to work together to take action against climate change. The association was founded by Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron as a reaction to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in June.
“If the national administration doesn’t want to handle this, we should probably look at it in state,” said Vandernail. “Climate change could mean more severe storms or shorter winters. How are you going to be a sustainable community if that happens and tourists stop coming because of issues like that?”
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