Telluride Mayor DeLanie Young attended a hearing in Denver last week, during which young activist Madhvi Chittoor, center right, spoke about plastics pollution. (Courtesy photo)

Local government officials met in the Mountain Village Town Hall Monday for an intergovernmental meeting. On the agenda was a wide array of issues that included waste studies analysis, green energy plans, state legislative measures relating to important local issues and updating the county’s master plan.

County Commissioner Kris Holstrom began by updating officials on a local waste analysis study that she helped organize as a private citizen interested in waste and composting issues. 

“The EPA had funding, and they put out the word,” Holstrom said. “I applied, and they chose our region.”

The project collected 8,000 pounds from two short-term rental properties and sorted it into 22 categories, collecting data to analyze how much waste could be diverted away from landfills. The study revealed that during peak ski season, roughly 35-45 percent of the waste analyzed was compostable, while 25-40 percent was recyclable. The EPA was then able to provide additional funds for educating the public on redirecting waste to avoid landfills, as well as a follow-up waste audit.

Next up, Commissioner Lance Waring reported on the most recent meeting of the Sneffels Energy Board, an organization formed in 2009 by EcoAction Partners in an effort to bring local leaders together to set and achieve regional sustainability goals. Through a multi-faceted approach targeting community engagement, completion of projects, and policy change, the board seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce consumption of natural resources in the region.

“I am deeply encouraged after that one meeting,” Waring said.

Discussing the board’s action plan and “what can be added to the list and what they can take off the list to reduce greenhouse gasses and reduce our carbon footprint, it made me feel better to be in that room.”

Commissioner Hilary Cooper also supported a collaborative approach to regional energy goals, adding, “We use about 1,000 tons of carbon per year, and we want to pretty quickly find a program to offset those tons.”

She noted that local governments can put their numbers together in calculating a total carbon footprint and work to offset that impact by participating in offsets programs such as tree planting. 

“We’re taking the steps we can,” she said, while emphasizing the grave state of the climate crisis.

Later in the meeting, officials addressed the current state of local governments’ legal inability to ban single-use plastics in their communities. 

Telluride Mayor DeLanie Young traveled to Denver last week to attend the state senate hearing regarding Senate Bill 20-010, which sought to repeal the Colorado law that prohibits local governments from banning single-use plastics. Although there were an estimated dozen or so people in the room to speak in support of the bill, and only three or four people who opposed the entirety of the bill, Senator Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose, moved to have the bill postponed indefinitely.

“It was not very encouraging,” Young said. “Unfortunately, it was killed. There is some talk of it being resurrected, but personally I don’t see that happening during this session.”

While Young explained that there appeared to be some support for other bills at the state level that would only prohibit specific items like straws and to-go containers, heavy pushback on restricting plastics remains from sectors of affected industries such as ranching and agriculture.

She added that 8-year-old environmental activist and Colorado native Madhvi Chittoor also addressed the assembly, which was “the highlight of the meeting.” Chittoor, founder of Madhvi 4 Eco Ethics, has been an outspoken activist on the issue of plastics pollution for the past three years, when she was inspired by a documentary on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“She spoke eloquently and beautifully. She is truly Colorado’s version of Greta Thunberg,” Young said.