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Q&A WITH GREENPRINT DENVER DIRECTOR MICHELE WEINGARDEN:

Greenprint Denver is the Mile High City's innovative plan to provide leadership and green and sustainable solutions to ensure a prosperous eco-friendly community where people and nature thrive. Implemented in 2005 by Mayor John Hickenlooper, the program has already put Denver on the cutting edge of sustainable urban practices. VISIT DENVER spoke with Greenprint Denver's Director, Michele Weingarden about Denver's green past, present and future.

VISIT DENVER: FOR THOSE WHO AREN'T FAMILIAR WITH GREENPRINT, WHERE DID THE CONCEPT COME FROM? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ORGANIZATION'S PRIMARY GOALS?

Michele Weingarden: In 2005, Mayor John Hickenlooper (pictured right) was one of the first 49 mayors to sign the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, committing Denver to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases by 10 percent per capita by 2012. By now, more than 850 mayors have signed on to this historic document. To help the City reach this commitment, the Mayor created Greenprint Denver, our action plan for sustainability. He appointed a group of 33 civic, business and government leaders to form the Greenprint Advisory Council and study best practices from around the country that could help Denver reach its greenhouse gas reduction goal. As a result of the Greenprint Advisory Council's efforts, the Mayor adopted Denver's first Climate Action Plan in October 2007. Since then, Greenprint Denver has begun implementing the many programs needed to reach the goals of the Climate Action Plan. As the City's office of sustainability, Greenprint Denver partners with City agencies, civic and business leaders, and the community to ensure there are services available that allow citizens to live sustainable lives. In 2008, Greenprint is focusing on seven primary objectives: water and energy conservation,greening homes and businesses, greening the operations of City agencies, building green,expanding recycling opportunities, and planting trees.

VISIT DENVER: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES THAT DENVER FACES?

MW: Climate change is one of the leading environmental challenges of our times. In April 2008, a study conducted by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the American West is warming 70 percent faster than the planet as a whole. The most significant temperature increase was found to be in the Colorado River Basin. As one of the largest cities in the American West, Denver is in a prime position to lead our region in mitigating climate change and encouraging sustainability. Sustainability benefits our environment, our community, and our economic stability.

When the City conducted a carbon footprint assessment in 2005, we found that carbon emissions had increased in almost direct proportion to population growth, with roughly a third coming from our transportation choices and over half coming from our energy use in the built environment. Today, 2.6 million people call the Denver region home; another one million are expected to move here by 2025. Each of these individuals has an impact on the region's carbon footprint. Each can improve our region's environment by reducing energy use - in our homes, businesses, and transportation choices. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and better yet, help all of us save money on our energy bills and fuel costs.

Of course another challenge we face in Denver is water. As a large city in the arid West, Denver will always face the need to conserve water and protect the quality of our water supply.

VISIT DENVER: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CITY'S MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS IN THE ECO-FRIENDLY REALM?

MW: [We're] thrilled about the commitment we have received from our community partners. Notable achievements throughout the Denver community include Colorado's first methane gas-to-energy plant at the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site landfill, a 3.2-megawatt plant that will generate enough energy to power 3,000 homes per year. This plant was made possible through the partnership of Xcel Energy, Waste Management, and the City of Denver. Denver has several new solar projects, including a 2-megawatt solar plant at Denver International Airport, which will generate enough energy to power the tram system; a rooftop solar array at the Museum of Nature and Science; a rooftop solar array coming soon to the Colorado Convention Center; and a solar-powered scoreboard at Coors Field. Denver's City fleet is one of the greenest fleets in the country, offering a hybrid motor pool for City employees and a diesel fleet that is run entirely on biodiesel. The Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building is LEED-Gold certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and all new municipal construction will be built to a minimum of LEED-Silver standards. Six City agencies are being recognized this year by the State of Colorado as Silver partners in the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program for their efforts to make their agencies' operations and services sustainable.

VISIT DENVER: WHAT ARE A FEW TIPS YOU CAN GIVE DENVERITES WHO ARE LOOKING TO "GO GREEN?"

MW: It is important for all of us to remember that the resources we depend upon today - fresh water, clean air and trees - will not be around for future generations if we do not take care of them. One way for each of us to do our part is to join Mayor Hickenlooper in the Take 5 Pledge. As Mayor Hickenlooper notes, some of the greatest threats to our natural resources come from things we do out of habit. By changing five habits, together, we are making Denver greener and more sustainable for generations to come. The Take 5 Pledge helps each of us reduce the community's energy use, water use, waste, air pollution, and improve Denver's land today and for the future. Once a Denverite succeeds in changing these five habits, the Greenprint Denver Office can provide guidance on additional steps, through our Green Your Home toolkit. Denverites may call our office at (720) 865-9017 to request a kit.

Greenprint also works with a number of nonprofit organizations that reach out to Denver residents with home energy audits, low-flow toilet installation, and other resources and information to help residents save money and protect the environment. Those looking for additional ways to take green steps at home, please visit www.greenprintdenver.org for information about the Greenprint Insulate and Seal rebate program, made possible through our partnership with the Governor's Energy Office. Denver businesses can register to participate in the Greenprint Greener Denver Business Program, which provides tools to help businesses become sustainable.

VISIT DENVER: WHAT ARE A FEW TIPS YOU CAN GIVE PEOPLE VISITING DENVER WHO WANT TO TRAVEL IN A MORE ECO-FRIENDLY FASHION?

MW: Thanks to the terrific support from VISIT DENVER, there will soon be information available on this website about ways to be a green visitor to Denver. The Convention & Visitors Bureau has a great new walking and biking map for visitors who wish to see the historic and cultural sites of Denver in an eco-friendly and fun way. Several Denver bicycle shops rent bicycles, and Denver has a beautiful riverfront path for cyclists and pedestrians. Many of Denver's hotels promote green practices, such as encouraging guests to reuse towels and linens and turn lights off when they leave their rooms. Several Denver restaurants promote water conservation and other sustainable practices. Thanks to the commitment of the Denver hospitality industry, opportunities to travel through Denver in an eco-friendly way are boundless!

VISIT DENVER: WHERE IS GREENPRINT HEADED IN THE FUTURE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CITY'S PLANS FOR INCREASING ITS SUSTAINABILITY?

MW: Greenprint Denver is planning a number of exciting sustainability projects that will benefit Denver and help the community reach its Climate Action Plan goals. Currently, we are working to make solar power more accessible to the average homeowner and commercial business; expand recycling programs into public spaces and business districts; guide municipal construction on incorporating sustainable elements into design and construction; plant 75,000 trees as part of the Mile High Million initiative; collaborate with neighborhood groups across the city on greening homes and businesses; and continue the City's efforts to lead by example through water and energy efficiency, waste diversion and environmentally preferable purchasing.


Want to make your trip to Denver as eco-friendly as possible? Use the Denver Travel CO2e Emissions Calculation Tool, an easy-to-use online tool that calculates Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Equivalent (e) emissions that result from your vacation in Denver.

Planning an event? Make it as eco-friendly as possible by using the meeting planners' Denver Events CO2e Emissions Calculation Tool.