Telluride local takes on The Challenge

Telluride local takes on The Challenge

[click "Play" button to hear David Allen speak about "The Challenge"]

IMG_0350 In 2003, Telluride local David Allen graduated The University of the South (Sewanee) in economics and environmental studies then promptly moved to Telluride to fish. The guide for Telluride Outside is still fishing, only now his primary target is no longer trout. It's disposable bags.

David is the engine behind an initiative of The Colorado Association of Ski Towns known as The Challenge, which sounds like a variation on the theme of the "X" Games but isn't. The Challenge is a competition of a different sort.

The impetus for the 2009 CAST Reusable Bag Challenge grew from the success of the 2008 Telluride/Mountain Village/Aspen Reusable Bag Challenge. Under the auspices of Kris Holsrom's The New Community Coalition, The Challenge – and David – is all about raising awareness about the environmental and social costs of single-use plastic (and paper) shopping bags and promoting the use of reusable shopping bags through a friendly competition between CAST towns, 31 in all this year:

Mountain Village
Steamboat Springs
Grand Lake
Winter Park
Estes Park
Crested Butte
Mnt. Crested Butte
Jackson Hole, WY
Park City, UT
Sun Valley, ID
Ketchum, ID
Hailey, ID

The environmental implications of the single-use shopping bag industry are vast and sobering, with adverse effects on human health, climate change, resource consumption, terrestrial, and marine ecosystems, and solid waste management.

Here's a for instance:
• Each plastic shopping bag requires .005 gallons of oil to produce.  At a consumption rate of 100 billion per year, the United States uses 12 million barrels of oil each year to sustain its plastic bag habit.  Even with the price of oil hovering around $40 a barrel, a five-year low, Americans will spend nearly half a billion dollars on plastic shopping bags this year.
• Fourteen million trees are cut down every year to support the demand for paper bags in the United States.

Here's how The Challenge works.

Each participating grocer/retailer has agreed to tally the use or purchase of a reusable bag at Point Of Sale, and only the use or purchase of a reusable bag can be counted. The winning CAST town will be the community that tallies the most uses of reusable bags on a per capita basis.

CAST Challenge organizer David Allen and Alpine Bank welcome PCL Construction Services, Inc. as a Challenge sponsor.  PCL is a General Contractor located in Edwards, CO. with other offices in Denver, CO and throughout the United States and Canada. Together, Alpine Bank and PCL are donating $10,000 toward a solar panel installation to the winning town. PCL also has over 3,000 reusable bags to distribute to participating towns.

The Challenge ends in three months, on September 1, 2009.

The work David is doing on The Challenge is all pro bono, however, he and mechanical engineer Kim Wheels have turned their passion for preserving the environment into a viable business opportunity. Their Lotus Energy Solutions is a home energy auditing company whose mission to reduce residential carbon emissions and monthly utility bills by consulting on cost effective home energy efficient measures. 

For more on The Challenge and teasers on his new business, press the "play" button and listen to David talk. (Try and stop him.)

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