According to an Events Industry Council definition, “Sustainability for events means taking action towards preserving our natural environment; promoting a healthy, inclusive society; and supporting a thriving economy.” In this section, we are going to focus on taking care of the environment and being thoughtful regarding resource use.

There are all sorts of sustainability initiatives going on in Colorado as it’s a way of life here to protect valuable resources. The Colorado Tourism Office has its Care for Colorado initiative, and Destination Colorado Meetings is one of the program’s stewardship partners.

Colorado also is aiming to electrify all 26 scenic and historic byways, with 10 already completed as of the end of 2022. This means drivers have access to Level 3 charging at intervals no greater than 100 miles between a byway’s start and finish.

In the most recent rankings for the number projects LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Colorado came in a solid fourth in the nation in 2021, resulting in buildings around the state that use less energy and water resources, reduce carbon emissions and create a healthier environment.

Destination Initiatives

Denver has made sustainability a priority. In 2019, Denver became only the 11th community worldwide to be certified LEED Platinum through the LEED for Cities program after looking at a variety of measures such as climate action plan, vehicle miles traveled, mobility data, water efficiency, quality planning, green infrastructure, waste management and more. The USGBC also highlighted Denver’s push for 100 percent renewable electricity in the city by 2030.

In addition to landing LEED Gold certification for an existing building, operations and maintenance in 2009, the Colorado Convention Center (CCC) also has achieved EMS ISO 14001 certification as part of the City of Denver’s Environmental Management System and is recognized as an Environmental Leadership Program, Gold Leader through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The venue has a sustainable program manager, a 300kw rooftop solar array, paper towel recycling in bathrooms, electric vehicle charging, a light rail stop, and a donation program for leftover conference materials.

Key to a successful convention center is a quality airport. Denver International Airport (DEN) has “investing for sustainability” as one of its seven core objectives and in 2022 embarked on the largest Energy Performance Contract ever performed in the state of Colorado. Through this effort, DEN will implement various measures that will significantly reduce energy and water use and decrease carbon footprint. The contract will help DEN reach its goal of becoming one of the most sustainable airports in the world.

Visit Denver works closely with CCC, DEN and other key meeting and event partners around the city and has an online green vendor directory and event carbon footprint calculator. The organization was the first convention and visitor bureau to achieve ASTM/APEX Level Two certification for a sustainable meeting destination, and the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program has certified VISIT DENVER at the Gold Level for going beyond compliance with environmental regulations and advancing sustainability in Colorado.

In the mountains, Glenwood Springs became the seventh U.S. city and the second in the state after nearby Aspen to be 100% powered by renewable energy in 2019; this includes homes, businesses, streetlights and more.

The Town of Snowmass Village also is doing its share by powering all its buildings and lights with 100% clean energy through Holy Cross Energy’s Renewable Energy Purchase Program, with the hope of getting buildings not owned by the town closer to 100% renewable energy. In the base village, Snowmass Base Village Plaza is LEED Neighborhood Development certified, and The Collective Snowmass is LEED Gold certified.

Breckenridge has been recognized as a sustainable mountain resort destination using the Mountain IDEAL standard, received certification from Green Destinations, and was the third destination in the United States to become certified through a program accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Sustainability on the Slopes

Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) is the parent of four resorts (Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Aspen Highlands) and has pioneered sustainability at ski areas. ASC was the first in the ski industry to set green building guidelines, and the Sundeck restaurant on Aspen Mountain is recognized as one of the first LEED-certified buildings in the world. ASC also is implementing green operations across its four mountains, from using solar energy and offering low-impact dining options to forging change at the public policy level.

Starting in 2012, ASC began partnering with Oxbow’s Elk Creek Mine, Holy Cross Energy, and Vessels Carbon Solutions to convert waste methane from a coal plant in Somerset, located an hour away from Aspen. The conversion results in three megawatts of baseload power each year, which is as much energy as ASC uses annually at all four of its resorts, including hotels and restaurants.

Vail Resorts announced a bold sustainability goal in 2017: to achieve a zero net operating footprint by 2030. This operator of 37 ski resorts in 15 states and three countries is well on its way to achieving zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill, and zero net operating impact on forests and habitat.

Just one example of many sustainability initiatives is a large-scale wind farm that Vail Resorts enabled to supply more than 90 percent of the company’s current North American electricity use.

Eco-Friendly Meetings & Events Properties

Several Destination Colorado Meetings member hotels also have placed eco-friendly initiatives at the forefront.

With a mission to honor the great outdoors and our natural resources, Devil’s Thumb Ranch continues to center sustainability-first practices. The Ranch has been recognized for a variety of sustainability efforts including Environmentally Sensitive Remodeling & Expansion by the Environmental Protection Agency, named one of the World’s Most Eco-Friendly Hotels by the International Business Times and Travel + Leisure Magazine, River Conservation award winner from Trout Unlimited,  and one of the Top 10 Green Spas by Organic Spa Magazine.

The Westin Riverfront & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley became the first hotel in Colorado and ninth hotel in the country to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Silver LEED status in 2008. The property has more than 100 environmental initiatives in place and was recently awarded Actively Green Certification from Eagle County’s Walking Mountains Science Center. The hotel’s food and beverage outlets compost food scraps, coffee grounds and other waste with the resulting organic material used in the resort’s Mountains of Wellness Garden.

C Lazy U Ranch near Granby recently added an automated vertical hydroponic farm to grow seed-to-harvest produce on-site. C Lazy U also has a hay harvest operation to feed the property’s 225 horses, uses the water supply from its own spring, and has beehives.

Viceroy Snowmass was built with sustainability in mind and secured LEED Gold certification upon opening in 2009. The property is engaged in an ongoing process of implementing sustainability initiatives such as a water and energy savings plan and comprehensive recycling.

Aspen Meadows Resort also is in continuous pursuit of minimizing its ecological footprint. The Doerr-Hosier Building is LEED Gold certified, and the Paepke and Koch buildings are heated and cooled using state-of-the art geothermal ponds. The resort composts and recycles as much organic waste, paper and single-use items as possible through Aspen SCRAPS City composting program. Local sourcing and an on-site herb garden are used as much as possible, and refillable glass bottles are provided in guest rooms.