With its abundant fresh air, crystal clear blue skies and wide variety of natural wonders, it's no wonder that Denver takes being "green" seriously. GREENPRINT DENVER

In 2006, former Denver Mayor (now Colorado Governor) John Hickenlooper created Greenprint Denver, a comprehensive program that focuses on energy management and energy efficiency goals, and addresses specific goals for cleaner water, air, and land. www.greenprintdenver.org

Just a handful of the program's successful initiatives:

- Denver has one of the largest light-emitting diode (LED) traffic light inventories in the country. The technology uses a fraction of the power to produce brighter, longer-lasting lights that are less expensive to operate. This saves the city nearly $800,000 per year.

- In the early 1990s, Denver created the first "Green Fleet" program in the nation by purchasing alternative fuel vehicles for use by city employees. Denver's Green Fleet is currently one of the largest in the country. More than 43 percent of the fleet is powered by alternatives, including 138 hybrid electric vehicles, as well as vehicles fueled by propane, compressed natural gas and biodiesel.

- The city's expanded recycling program added seven new recyclable materials and sorting is no longer required. Since the launch of the program in 2005, recycling tonnage has increased by 18 percent.

- In 2006, former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced The Mile High Million, an ambitious tree-planting program with a goal of adding one million new trees in metropolitan Denver by the year 2025. So far, more than 200,000 new trees have been planted. More info: www.milehighmillion.org

A GREEN CONVENTION CENTER

The Colorado Convention Center (CCC) in Downtown Denver is the premier green meeting space for a sustainable meeting or convention. www.denverconvention.com

- In May 2010, the center received LEED Existing Building: Operation and Maintenance, the largest building in Colorado and one of the largest convention centers in the country to have achieved this certification.

- The CCC uses a 300-kilowatt solar power system which, in 2009, produced 383,760 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, saving the equivalent of 282 metric tons (MtCO2e) of carbon dioxide emissions.

- The CCC employs a full-time Sustainable Program Manager, Lindsay Smith (303-228-8123, lsmith@denverconvention.com).

GREEN ATTRACTIONS

From global warming and renewable energy to environmental cleanup, Denver is emerging as one of the premier places in the nation for a "green" learning vacation. For a truly green tour of the Mile High City, explore Denver's 85 miles of off-road, paved bike paths through the city's bicycle sharing program, B-cycle (the first program of its' kind in the nation). http://denver.bcycle.com

Several points of interest include:

- The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), 25 minutes from downtown Denver, is the world's foremost attraction for learning about the 21st century's hottest topic: global warming. The NCAR lab is open to the public, free-of-charge, seven-days-a-week, and offers a wide array of hands-on educational exhibits that visitors are welcome to explore on their own, on a guided tour, or with an audio tour. In the Weather Gallery, see a hailstone the size of a softball, watch as a miniature tornado is whipped up in front of your eyes, and get an up close look at how lightning is created. www.ncar.ucar.edu

- The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) Visitors Center in Golden (just 20 minutes from downtown Denver) showcases technologies that can save energy, improve the environment and lower the cost of energy bills. The NREL building itself is a model for energy-efficient design, taking advantage of the sun for heating and lighting. An innovative Trombe wall-the building's most striking architectural feature - lights and heats the exhibit hall. The huge, undulating wall has five sections, each angled in a "V" shape.

Windows on the south side of the "V" provide natural daylight and early morning heat. www.nrel.gov

- Denver Zoo's new Toyota Elephant Passage, a landmark $50 million exhibit which occupies 10 acres on the southern edge of the zoo, opened in June 2012. One of the most exciting components of Toyota Elephant Passage is the planned use of a biomass gasification system, which can turn human trash and animal waste into energy to power the exhibit. The gasification system will convert more than 90 percent of the zoo's waste into usable energy. www.denverzoo.org

- Just ten minutes northeast of downtown Denver, more than 330 species of wildlife (including bison, bald eagles, deer, and burrowing owls) roam the 15,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. This is a real "green" success story: once a toxic piece of land used by the government to test chemical weapons and pesticides, the Arsenal has been restored to its former glory. www.fws.gov/rockymountainarsenal

- Home to 45 different gardens and 33,000 plants, The Denver Botanic Gardens is on the forefront of sustainable practices. The Gardens installed a Green Roof in Nov. 2007, the first educationally interpreted Green Roof in the Denver area and one of only a few in the country with public access. In 2010, it opened a CSA (community supported agriculture) at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. The Gardens use LED holiday lights for the Blossoms of Light and Trail of Lights events each year, with the goal of being 100 percent LED-powered by 2014.

- The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA) is not only on the cutting edge of the arts world, it also is on the cutting edge of eco-friendliness. MCA's modern and elegant LEED-certified building (designed by renowned London architect David Adjaye) stands out amidst refurbished turn-of-the-century brick warehouses in Lower Downtown (LoDo). More than 50 percent of the building's exterior wall area is a double skin façade, with insulating tinted curtain walls and an interior of Monopan©, a translucent, honeycomb patterned material that allows natural light in without glare, saving energy. www.mcadenver.org

- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Denver is tasked with protecting human health and the environment through strategic short and long term planning, focused on five distinct goals: take action on climate change and improve air quality; protect America's water; clean communities and advance sustainable development; ensure the safety of chemicals and prevent pollution; and enforce environmental laws. The Denver office, located downtown, offers daily tours by appointment of its gold LEED rated building introducing visitors to the design features, green products, innovative technologies and business practices that make the building a model of sustainability. www.epa.gov/region8/building/

- Housed in the Alliance Center in Downtown Denver, the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado offers support to 38 nonprofit organizations all focused on some aspect of sustainable policies and practices. The building, built in 1908, was the first historic building in the world to earn two LEED-certifications. The Alliance Center offers self-guided tours during the week days (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), to learn more about the environmental impact of businesses in this building of collaboration.

AN ECO-FRIENDLY AIRPORT

Denver International Airport (DEN) - the fifth largest airport in the U.S. and the 10th largest in the world, with more than 50 million passengers in 2010 - is dedicated to eco-friendliness and energy efficiency. www.flydenver.com

- DEN is world-renowned for its pioneering Environmental Management System (EMS), which provides a systematic approach to managing the airport's environmental impacts and to promoting and encouraging continual environmental performance improvement.

- DEN completed its two megawatt solar power system in 2008, a 1.6 megawatt array in 2010 and plans to complete a 4.4 megawatt array in 2011.

- The DEN fleet is 100 percent alternative and includes vehicles powered by compressed natural gas, hybrid technology and biodiesel.

- In 2004, DEN became the first commercial airport in the country to attain ISO 14001 certification for its Environmental Management System, which encompasses all activities within the 34,000-acre site.

- DEN recycles more than 19 materials on a regular basis as part of standard airport operations.

VISIT DENVER'S TRAVEL CO2e EMISSIONS CALCULATION TOOL

The Denver Travel CO2e Emissions Calculation Tool, an easy-to-use online tool, calculates Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Equivalent (e) emissions that result from vacations in Denver. It covers all aspects of tourists' time here, from air travel to ground transportation to accommodations. Visitors can also purchase offset carbon credits that will reduce carbon footprints.