Ask Eartha: How Can I Be More Sustainable When I Visit Summit County?
Dear Eartha, I love visiting Summit County but wish I could be more sustainable when I’m there. What can I do as a visitor to reduce my impact next time I visit? – Pam, Steamboat Springs
Pam, your question comes at a great time. Summit County summers are bursting with bikers, hikers, boaters and festival-goers. In fact, our community of 30,000 residents swells to nearly 150,000 on a peak weekend. That’s according to the county’s 2013 Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan, so it’s safe to assume those visitor numbers have grown since.
Here in Colorado, the state’s Tourism Office reported that 2017 domestic visitors hit a record 84.7 million. Those kinds of numbers, not to mention a growing population, create big impact on our resources. More than ever, we need people like you to help us protect the place we all love to explore. Here are my seven practical steps love Summit County like home:
- Up your reusable game
While reusable water bottles may be standard on the packing list, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Add more reusable items to your packing list such as a travel coffee mug, reusable shopping bags, Tupperware containers, cloth napkins, and utensils. This arsenal will dramatically decrease your use of single-use plastic and paper items when you’re on the go. You can even use these items to pack snacks from home and save money on your flight or road trip.
- Think green when choosing your lodging
Before you confirm your lodging in Summit County, inquire about green practices and sustainable offerings such as recycling and composting. If no options exist, leave comments or suggestions in the feedback to encourage green practices at the property. Several local lodging companies are certified through Resource Wise, a county-wide sustainability program for businesses.
- Collect your recycling
If your lodging does not offer recycling bins, collect your recyclables and take them to one of the Summit County’s 24-hour drop off centers in Frisco, Breckenridge, or Dillon. A list of the drop off locations and accepted items can be found at HighCountryConservation.org or by calling (970) 668-5703.
- Utilize public transportation
Public transportation can feel like a pain to figure out for a short vacation. Thankfully, the county-wide Summit Stag bus system, is not only free, it can also transport your bike. Buses run directly to lodging, ski areas, town centers, and retail areas. Download the Summit Stage app to make figuring out it out a whole lot easier. In addition, the Town of Breckenridge has a free town-wide system called the Free Ride.
- Rent an electric car
If you need a car to get around Summit County, why not try out an electric one! Car rental companies are now offering electric cars as a part of their fleet. You may not think an electric car is the best option for the mountains, but our local electric vehicle owners would beg to differ. You will see them buzzing up to the Eisenhower Tunnel and navigating easily through the snow. Renting electric is also a great way to find out for yourself what it’s like drive one while decreasing your transportation footprint. And, several Summit County towns have charging stations. Find a map of all Colorado charging stations at Afdc.energy.gov/stations
- Buy local
Summer makes it easier to find local produce, so take advantage the Dillon Farmers Market every Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. You can also support local businesses that prioritize sustainability. Find a directory through the local Resource Wise sustainable business program: HighCountryConservation.org.
- Love this place like a local
We may be on vacation, but our everyday sustainable habits don’t have to be. Love this place like a local and bring with you the green habits you practice at home. This may be short showers, turning lights off when not in use, walking instead of driving, or conserving water. Remember, your daily actions add up whether you are at home or on vacation.
Pam, it sounds like you do love this place like a local. I hope these sustainable travel tips come in handy on your next visit to Summit County or wherever you may be traveling. We are all visitors or travelers at some point, and we can all do our part to reduce our impact on the places we love.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.