Jefferson County is on the verge of becoming a resource for residents who want to go green.
The county is forming a volunteer sustainability committee tasked with providing information and guidance to residents and businesses that wish to pursue environmentally sustainable projects and practices.
“It’s more of a database and a resource for whomever is interested in it,” said Kate Newman, the deputy county administrator. “They’ll have projects and do research and make it available for business or county divisions if they’re interested in it.”
The plan to form a sustainability committee, which was passed on Feb. 18 by the county commissioners, is the brainchild of Commissioner Casey Tighe. Since being elected, Tighe, a Democrat, has wanted the county to look into promoting sustainable practices.
Tighe pointed to the MillerCoors brewery’s efforts to eliminate landfill waste from its operations as just one example of the type of projects he hopes the committee will help facilitate.
“Hopefully it’s a place for people to know where they can go to answer their questions and leverage their ideas with people with similar interests and make a difference in their community,” Tighe said. “The way I envision it, it will be something like the coalition of the willing. We’re not going to mandate anything; that’s not what the purpose is. It’s a chance for people to get involved in their community if they want.”
Having the committee steer clear of issuing mandates for the county to adopt was key to gaining the support of all three commissioners, Tighe said.
While Tighe said he’s interested in finding efficiencies that promote cost savings, the committee will have its own direction and points of focus, whether that’s slash collection or promoting solar energy.
“The topic of sustainability is such a broad topic — I don’t know where the committee will go,” Tighe said. “The committee itself will identify where they think they can make a difference. It’s going to be driven by the committee.”
While the group might come up with projects for the county to participate in, Tighe said, the county would have to see a return on investment for a project to make sense, especially given how tight Jeffco’s budget has been.
“If the budget situation changes, maybe we can say we’re willing to make an investment with long-term goals,” Tighe said. “But if we going to put in time and money on a particular project, if we won’t have the return on investment, it will be tough for the county to do.”
Now that the committee is approved, the county will begin the five- to six-week process of advertising and accepting applications from residents wishing to serve on the panel.