Pinhead Institute

Pinhead Institute Executive Director Sarah Holbrooke, center, poses with Dr. Adam Chambers, right; Chris Arndt, left; and members of the Telluride Earth Guardians at the Telluride Foundation’s Innovation Prize event Wednesday evening at the Elks Club Lodge. Chambers and Arndt are Pinhead Climate Institute co-founders. (Courtesy photo) 


And the winner is…

The Pinhead Institute won the first-ever Telluride Foundation Innovation Prize of $50,000 for its Climate Institute idea Wednesday evening during a public contest of sorts at the Elks Lodge. 

One of three finalists, the Pinhead Institute narrowly defeated Nebraska-based company Liberty Mobility Now Inc. 

WorkAhead, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, also was a finalist. 

“I wanted to thank my board. When I came to them and said this climate scientist moved to town what do you think of Pinhead Climate Institute? They were all for it. I was so pleased with that,” Pinhead Institute Executive Director Sarah Holbrooke said. “It’s crazy. I’m pinching myself.”

The idea of the Climate Institute came about after Dr. Adam Chambers moved to Telluride and became involved with the organization as a consultant. 

The new institute will aim to reduce the area’s carbon footprint by initially focusing on emissions from the Galloping Goose buses, but Chambers said the model can be expanded to focus on larger sources of carbon emissions like the Telluride Regional Airport. 

“We can do this tomorrow,” Chambers said of implementation and data collecting. “We have everything in place and identified.” 

Chambers explained how Telluride’s carbon footprint of 33.1 metric tons per capita is more than double the national average of 16.4. 

“We knew there was a problem and we want to change it with the Innovation Prize,” Holbrooke said. 

Emissions can be reduced by using carbon-neutral fuels or offsets, Chambers said. The institute has collected carbon emissions data from the Galloping Goose fleet dating back to 2008 and found that emissions range between 200-400 metric tons per year. 

Plans to work with the Town of Telluride to develop farm and ranch carbon offset programs are in the works.

“We can lead the nation in this,” Chambers said of the possibility of setting up such a program in the Four Corners area.

After the final result was tallied, the foundation announced that it would award Liberty Mobility Now $10,000 contingent upon the company finding a matching donor. 

Liberty President and CEO Valerie Lefler explained how her company would implement a transportation service akin to Uber or Lyft for elderly residents and those who need medical services by partnering with medical stakeholders. A call center or mobile app would allow people to request rides to doctor appointments or therapy, she said. 

“We operate to connect folks that live in rural communities to all the transportation resources in the area,” Lefler said. 

By setting up such a service, 30 jobs will be created in the area, Lefler said. A timeline for implementation was not available. 

Via Skype from Helsinki, Finland, Ilona Mooney pitched WorkAhead’s idea of creating more fair and inclusive working conditions through anonymous mobile surveys. 

The three finalists pitched their ideas to a panel of five judges before answering questions from the judges. The judges were San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May, foundation Vice President of Innovation Marc Nager, and foundation board members Richard Betts, Jessie Johnson and Anne Andrew. 

The audience was allowed to vote, accounting for 30 percent of the final tally. 

The contest was the brainchild of Matt Teague, a VISTA volunteer at the foundation. It essentially followed the format of the TV show Shark Tank, in which start-up companies and entrepreneurs go in front of a group of potential investors to pitch their ideas in hopes of receiving an investment. 

Innovation Prize applicants were narrowed down to the top three over the past several months before the final pitch took place. 

“The board of directors said ‘Let’s challenge the community to come up with great ideas that improve the quality of life in the area,’” Telluride Foundation President and CEO Paul Major said. “…It’s really exciting to see the amount of people we were able to draw here.”