Good morning, Colorado. This is a pause week. The Halloween candy has been transferred from your kids’ plastic pumpkin to your waistline. The Thanksgiving guests are not in the air yet. The leaves are down and many are bagged. Or happy to be decomposing quietly in a corner of the garden while they catch up on “Yellowstone.”
Next week, that well-intentioned aunt with a noodgy streak is going to demand that you say something grateful. Out loud. We here at The Temperature make no such demands during Pause Week. Take a walk. Buy yourself a hot drink with exactly the amount of sweetener you desire, not just the amount you can rationalize.
Treat yourself to a veg-out tool my kids with tiny apartments and small cable budgets have turned me on to: YouTube continuous-play aquariums on your big screen TV. This week I’m on sea turtles, but the vibes of your own Pause Week might suggest the jellyfish or the sea horses.
If you need a reference for a sick day to take that lazy mountain drive you’ve been putting off, we’re here for you. Feel free to catch up on climate and health news below. Or not. Your membership, much appreciated, will carry on into the hustling holidays.
Colorado’s recycling rates leave a lot of room
Number of tiny shampoo bottles not thrown away after a Breckenridge hotel switched to refillable pumps
Solving Colorado’s atrocious 16% recycling rate is not entirely on Chook Chicken restaurant chief operating officer Elizabeth Nicholson.
But her roast chicken haven is one of the few places Colorado consumers are trying new ways to pluck cardboard and plastic out of the state’s disappointingly deep waste stream.
Chook’s multiple locations have adopted a reusable plastic takeout container from Deliver Zero. Customers who ask for the service pay an extra 99 cents, as if reusables were a menu item like a side of mashed potatoes. The customer has up to three weeks to drop off their used containers or face a $3 charge. The #5 plastic containers can be reused 1,000 times after being picked up and washed at Deliver Zero.
“Selfishly for us,” Nicholson said, “it’s a good marketing tool, because when they drop off here, they smell the chicken cooking and buy more.”
Colorado recycling leaders releasing this week’s annual State of Recycling report chose to highlight small victories like washable takeout boxes, and they were up front about the reasons why. Despite many residents’ green-tinged self-image, Colorado has been stuck at taking only 16% of materials out of the waste stream for the full seven years of the report. That’s half the national average of 32% recycling, composting and reuse in municipal waste.
Long term, things are finally looking up, said report authors Eco-Cycle and CoPIRG. State and local governments have recently released a flock of recycling laws that should start moving that needle by 2026, at least, they said. One big victory was a 2022 state law setting up a producer responsibility board, with the power to tax packaging-makers and use the proceeds to pay for universal curbside recycling across Colorado. Denver voters passed mandatory recycling for previously neglected multifamily apartments, while communities like Broomfield are exploring broad recycling contracts.
In the meantime, they’re hoping for smaller efforts like Chook’s to take flight. CoPIRG’s Danny Katz also cited innovations in waste reduction such as a Breckenridge hotel removing single-use shampoo bottles in favor of fixed, refillable containers. Breckenridge Grand Vacations took a half-million plastic bottles out of the waste stream in a year, and lowered their costs 40%, Katz said.
The best way to reduce garbage is “to not produce waste in the first place,” Katz said. Consumers and recycling sorters remain frustrated over properly separating what actually gets reused from what either gums up machinery or contaminates valuable resources like compost.
We’ll have more on the Chook solution and other signs of hope for Colorado’s reuse efforts next week at ColoradoSun.com, just in time for all that holiday waste.
Hell on Earth: Can Colorado tap its underground geothermal energy?
Colorado officials are steaming up the windows with warm, optimistic words on the potential for geothermal energy in our hot springs state to speed the transition to clean energy.
But they’re a bit cooler on when private capital will truly step up to fund geothermal projects, which can include expensive drilling, pipelines, heat exchange structures and power lines to get off — or out from under — the ground.
So the state is dangling $5 million in grants in the next year for geothermal projects. Those can range from individual homes using ground-source heat pump technology to potential utility-scale electric generation drawing on steam from those trusty hot reservoirs. Colorado also sees potential in so-called “district heating” from underground heat, using heat exchangers to control temperatures in a group of buildings such as a Colorado Mesa University project.
“We’ve got great wind and solar resources that are moving towards very high levels of adoption of wind, solar and batteries,” said Colorado Energy Office executive director Will Toor, in an interview Monday. “Geothermal electricity production also offers zero carbon electricity generation that’s available 24/7. So it’s a really important complement to wind and solar. And Colorado’s got a really attractive resource because we’ve got a lot of heat beneath our feet.”
Ground-source heat pumps have been around for a while, but can add expense to a home or office heating and cooling plan because of the digging and infrastructure involved in getting pipes to that constant 50-degree temperature source. Subsidies will help speed the adoption of those technologies, state leaders believe.
The Sun has also written about the potential and the challenges of bigger electrical generation projects based on Colorado’s numerous underground superheated water sources. A proposal in the Mount Princeton area is a good example, with entrepreneurs trying to get it out of the ground for years, and neighbors worried it will spoil the pristine, remote views.
The state grants, which will be repeated next year, are open for applications, launched Tuesday. Get more information here, and click over to ColoradoSun.com for a longer explanation of geothermal’s potential in Colorado.
MORE CLIMATE NEWS
A new public health campaign tries a different kind of approach to addressing gun violence
Colorado has launched a new messaging campaign that addresses one of the more pernicious public health issues of our time: gun violence.
But the campaign is taking something of a novel approach. It’s not attempting to reduce the number of guns in Colorado.
“Colorado has a rich history of gun ownership. There’s a gun-owning culture in parts of Colorado,” said Jonathan McMillan, the director of the state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention. “Rather than ostracize or leave people out of the conversation, I am very much for finding an approach that brings everyone to a common ground.”
So the campaign, which is called Let’s Talk Guns Colorado, focuses its messaging heavily toward gun owners. There’s discussion of trigger locks or other safe-storage methods. There’s information on how to file for extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag orders.
“Let’s lead by example and show the world that Colorado gun owners are committed to safety,” the campaign’s website urges.
The Office of Gun Violence Prevention was created by legislation in 2021 and housed within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to take a public health-focused approach to studying gun violence in all its forms and working toward solutions. In addition to the new campaign, the office has also worked to create a resource bank of data and studies on firearm violence prevention. And it has distributed more than $500,000 in grants to 35 community organizations that are tackling the issue locally.
McMillan has three decades’ worth of experience in violence-prevention efforts, primarily those focused on youth and concentrated in the Denver metro area. He said a public approach is necessary to gun violence — as opposed to, say, something more heavily focused on law enforcement efforts — because the issue is so multifaceted. It spans not just firearm assaults and homicides but also accidents and, most significantly, suicides.
McMillan’s new role has taken him on a listening tour across the state to talk with people in rural areas about gun violence in their communities.
“The value has always come back to: We want to make sure that our families are safe, our children are safe, that our spouses are safe even with a firearm present,” McMillan said. “So centering the conversation around that common ground just seemed like the right thing to do.”
MORE HEALTH NEWS
CHART OF THE WEEK
Recent news about rising global temperatures and the difficulties of cutting carbon dioxide out of the Colorado economy can be discouraging. But it’s hard to glance at a chart like this one and not feel at least a bit hopeful about human progress on challenging policy issues. In this chart, red is good, at least if you like your electric power generated by clean solar and wind rather than coal. The portion of electricity powered by coal keeps plummeting, down to a modern low of just under 14% this spring, down from highs of nearly 30% in the winter of 2019.
Expect this chart to keep changing colors through at least 2030. Colorado’s last coal powered generating plant will close by the end of 2030, with other closures pegged between now and then.
Ah, you’re still here. Thanks for doing that. Was just pausing to scratch the dog. And the other dog we’re sitting for this week. Name of Duffy. Handle and personality perfectly suited for Pause (or Paws) Week. Come to think of it, it’s time to take them for a walk. Enjoy your day, and see you next time.
— Michael & John