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Earth Day 2020: Colorado activities that are good for the earth

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Now more than ever, our hearts are turned to the importance of taking care of this beautiful world. 

As the first U.S. state travel office to develop a comprehensive destination stewardship plan aimed at inspiring travelers to reduce their impacts, the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO), along with destinations across the state, is creating opportunities for people who love travel to visit responsibly when restrictions are lifted.

Colorado already is home to two of the seven U.S. cities powered 100 percent by renewable energy, meaning travelers to both Aspen and Glenwood Springs can enjoy a vacation with little carbon impact. Visitors can experience Vail knowing they are in the first certified sustainable mountain resort destination in the world. And with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis pushing for a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions statewide by 2050, opportunities for low-impact travel in Colorado will continue to grow. But even in 2020, the Colorado Tourism Office is making it easier for Colorado travelers to find plenty of ways to travel responsibly:

Care for Colorado Principles: In a first of its kind partnership, the CTO joined with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to create the Care for Colorado Principles to educate both visitors and residents about traveling the state responsibly. Visitors can learn about Care for Colorado in the CTO’s “Are You Colo-Ready?” brochures, animated videos, as well as through CTO publications and in the 10 Colorado Welcome Centers. The Principles aim to inspire low-impact travel, from the care of Colorado trails and mindful interaction with wildlife to the use of refillable beverage containers.

Colo-Road Trips’: The “Colo-Road Trips” microsite on Colorado.com is a searchable online collection of nearly 200 itineraries aimed at inspiring travel in less-visited destinations and seasons resulting in less impact on some of the state’s most popular attractions. Each multi-day trip idea includes great places to stay and eat and fun things to do, along with a “Sustainability Activity” and “Insider Tips,” giving visitors the downlow on traveling like a local.

Electric Byways: By this fall, Colorado travelers should be able to traverse at least five of the state’s 26 Scenic and Historic Byways with an electric vehicle. The CTO has been working closely with the Colorado Energy Office, the Colorado Department of Transportation and other state agencies to provide a fast-charging EV network across the state’s thoroughfares by 2021.

Below is a sampling of destinations with a focus on sustainability, activities and events that feel good and are good for the earth, unique eco lodging options and voluntourism opportunities from across Colorado. Find more information about all of these travel opportunities and more on Colorado.com:

Activities and Events That Feel Good and are Good for the Earth:

ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch, Basalt: Discover the source of locally grown food at ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch, a 113-acre wildlife preserve and educational ranch, accessible right off the Rio Grande Trail. In the summer, the ranch’s produce, meat, and eggs are available at the Basalt Sunday Market or enjoy a farm-to-table dinner.

Colorado Stargazing: Experience the Night Tour, various destinations: This new dark skies tour of Colorado launches this spring and connects several of the state’s locations known for their low light pollution, dark skies and stargazing opportunities. It will also highlight dark sky events and encourage the conservation and preservation of all of Colorado’s natural and cultural resources.

Colorado Wilderness Rides & Guides, Boulder: This carbon-neutral company offers a variety of tours year-round to explore and appreciate Colorado’s natural beauty and resources with an emphasis on environmental stewardship.

Lacuna Juice And Yoga, Denver:  Lacuna is Denver’s newest and chicest fully plant-based and organic restaurant. On top of offering a completely vegan menu and a large array of cold-pressed juices, they also have a beautiful yoga studio. This hip new hotspot is completely plastic-free, organic and working toward zero waste.

Park to Park Shuttle to Chautauqua, Boulder: Park to Park runs on summer weekends and holidays, from late May to early September. The program provides satellite parking and free shuttle service to and from Chautauqua in Boulder to create a better visitor experience while reducing vehicular and parking impacts on neighbors and the area’s natural and cultural resources.

Ridgway Farmers Market, Fridays May to October, Ridgway: The market operates with a philosophy of supporting vendors who are local and follow sustainable practices. Nothing is mass-produced; everything from vegetables and jams to hand lotions and purses are lovingly created by artisans and cottage industry entrepreneurs.

Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon: Walking Mountains Science Center provides locals and visitors from pre-k to gray with opportunities to explore nature, gain a scientific understanding, and learn about the many wonders of the mountain environment through natural science and sustainability programs. They envision a future where everyone in the community understands the science of nature and is inspired to take action as an environmental steward.

Destinations With a Focus of Sustainability:

AspenAspen is one of seven cities in the U.S. that runs on 100 percent renewable energy. To help promote responsible tourism, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) created the Aspen Pledge, an initiative with positive messages on how to visit and play in Aspen. For 2020, ACRA is launching a partnership with Pledge for the Wild in order to encourage locals and visitors to support local nonprofit Independence Pass Foundation with their goal of protecting Aspen’s wild surroundings. Aspen has many complimentary car-free transportation options, including buses and We-Cycle, the local bike-sharing program, as well as timed shuttle service to manage visitation at the spectacular Maroon Bells. In direct support of climate action, Aspen Ski Co. launched Give A Flake in 2018, an activist campaign geared at rallying skiers and the ski industry in the fight against climate change.

Glenwood SpringsGlenwood Springs also runs on 100 percent renewable energy and offers countless opportunities for mindful travel. With its location along Amtrak’s California Zephyr route, even the trip to Glenwood Springs can be environmentally-friendly. All three hot springs attractions use geothermal heat and recycle BTUs to reduce energy consumption. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, is dedicated not just to creating heart-stopping thrills, but to the preservation and education of the caverns. With a new reservation system and shuttle for Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs is ensuring that this natural wonder and surrounding public lands are protected for generations to come, while creating a special experience for visitors.

BreckenridgeKnown for its world-class outdoor playground and historic downtown, Breckenridge has a goal of preserving what makes it special for generations to come. This September, Breckenridge will host the Mountain Towns 2030 Summit to gather like-minded mountain destinations from across the nation with the unified goal of operating at net zero by 2030. The Town of Breckenridge has invested more than $22 million in protecting land from development since the inception of its Open Space and Trails program, including $4.5 million toward its free public transportation system in 2018 alone. When faced with the sudden fame of a 15-foot troll sculpture named Isak Heartstone, Breckenridge created a sustainable trail experience accessible for all ages and abilities to enjoy.

DenverThe Mile High City is consistently ranked among the most sustainable cities in the country. From the moment visitors arrive at Denver International Airport, they’re surrounded by local dining options, water bottle filling stations and more – and can make their trip to downtown low impact by taking the University of Colorado A-Line to Denver Union Station. Many of the city’s attractions – including Denver ZooDenver Museum of Nature & ScienceDenver Performing Arts Complex and Red Rocks Amphitheatre – are constantly working to reduce impact and operate more sustainably. And even the city’s famed breweries and distilleries are setting green standards – Great Divide Brewing CompanyStranahan’s distilleryDenver Beer Co. and more have engaged sustainable practices.

Fort CollinsSustainability is a priority in Fort Collins; the city has a three-pronged Sustainability Services department. From the Pace Bike Share Program to city Transfort buses that run on bio-diesel/compressed natural gas and a new e-scooter pilot program, examples of sustainability abound. Fort Collins is home to over 50 protected Natural Areas encompassing more than 36,000 acres and more than 100 miles of trails. The idea of reuse/recycle extends even to local building projects, like Jessup Farm Artisan Village where businesses focused on handcrafted and locally-sourced products are housed in 100-plus-year-old rebuilt and remodeled spaces. And local companies have woven sustainable practices into the very fabric of their business. New Belgium Brewing Company is one of the most eco-friendly breweries in the world, focused on reducing their carbon footprint while donating $26.6 million (since 1991) to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. At the new Colorado Shoe School, students turn materials destined for the landfill — old tires, rubber flooring and more — into custom shoes.

Steamboat SpringsThe natural environment is the core of Steamboat Springs’ identity. To keep it pristine, sustainability is a value that permeates many areas of the community, as exemplified by the free mass transit system and a plastic bag ban. The community’s trails, especially the Yampa River Core Trail, allow people to bike or walk around town instead of driving. The Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund (TMEF) funds trail and trailhead maintenance projects on public lands and in 2019, they introduced new “donation stations” — refurbished parking meters with credit card readers — at 11 popular local trailheads. Steamboat Springs recently joined Pledge for the Wild, a responsible tourism initiative educating the public on how to visit wild places responsibly.

VailVail partnered with Walking Mountains Science Center and Sustainable Travel International to become the first sustainable mountain resort destination in the world and the first certified sustainable destination in the United States certified by a GSTC-Accredited certifying body, Green Destinations. Vail achieved certification under the Mountain IDEAL standard in 2017 and has been honored to receive the Global Destinations Top 100 Award in 2017, 2018 and 2019 through Green Destinations and is in the process of recertification for 2020. For certification, Vail must meet and maintain progress on 44 sustainability criteria including: environmental stewardship, year-round economic development, cultural heritage protection, low impact transportation, energy efficiency, waste reduction, public health and safety, workforce housing, climate adaptation and sustainability education.

Eco Lodging:

Badger Creek Ranch, Canon City: Guests to Badger Creek Ranch (BCR) are provided with an off-the-grid, authentic and sustainable ranch experience. BCR practices sustainable agriculture and manages the land in a mindful way with respect for the relationship between people, land, animals and ancestors. BCR is minimal in consumption and waste and composts all organic materials, reuses many materials and uses only organic/non toxic cleaning supplies.

C Lazy U Ranch, Granby: C Lazy U Ranch maintains a century-long legacy of caring for and preserving the land for its guests to enjoy. In keeping with its environmental philosophy and interest in protecting the land for the next century of guests, C Lazy U is proud to announce that, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, the property has placed an additional 1,221 acres under permanent easement as of 2020. This addition brings the total acreage of ranch land protected from development in perpetuity up to 25 percent of the property, or approximately 2,000 acres.

Limelight Hotels, Aspen and Snowmass: The hotels have implemented various green programs: An opt-out guest fee at the hotel directs a small donation toward the Environment Foundation. In fall 2019, the fund gave away $86,843 to various groups and initiatives throughout the Roaring Fork Valley working to protect land, air, water and climate. Other sustainably conscious hotel operations include using environmentally safe cleaning supplies, placing glasses in all bathrooms rather than plastic, as well as using refillable bath products. The restaurant seeks to source ingredients locally and uses only compostable to-go containers and drinkware.

Marble Distilling Company, Carbondale: A zero waste operation that recaptures 100 percent of its process water and reuse energy harvested from the distillation process to heat the facility, which includes a distillery, tasting room and five-room luxury lodge. Through this process Marble Distillery saves more than 4 million gallons of water annually and captures for reuse enough energy to heat 20 homes. All grains are sourced locally and all stillage from the distillery is sent to local Carbondale ranchers. The facility boasts an expanding solar array that will bring the facility to net-zero electric this year.

Mellow Moon Lodge, Del Norte: This 1940s motor lodge opened last year as an eco-friendly family-run property focused on outdoor adventure travelers. With the renovation of the motor lodge, the owners conserved and recycled the original building materials and repurposed in the current design. Mellow Moon offers 100 percent organic Coyuchi linens washed with non-toxic soap, environmentally-friendly toiletries and snacks, no single-use plastics on the property and more.

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon: The Westin was the first Colorado resort to earn Silver LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and is expanding its efforts to become Ski Country’s most sustainable hotel with the creation of the new Westin Riverfront Eco Journey. The first major Westin Riverfront Eco Journey initiative is to eliminate the use of all single-use plastic water and soda bottles by May 1st. This will result in the Vail Valley resort using 133,000+ fewer plastic bottles each year.

SCP Hotel, Colorado Springs: Standing for Soul, Community, Planet, SCP Hotel was born out of a vision to help make the world a better place by serving those who value personal wellness, social good and the environment. SCP merges earth-friendly and socially responsible practices with modern, clean lodging accommodations and nutritious ‘vegan-forward’ food choices. They also give trees back to the forests through their “One Tree: One Forest” program.

Weston Pass Hut, Leadville: Those seeking a unique off-grid overnight experience should check out the Weston Pass hut, set at 11,950’. This remote escape is built with locally harvested and milled beams and an earth-covered, naturally insulated tundra roof. Hikes from this high perch lookout to the tops of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges, including Colorado’s two highest peaks, showcasing Mother Earth’s splendor.

Be sure to check-out our event calendar for Earth Day events!

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