Every gardening season in Summit County is unique. Obviously, Spring 2020 created its own surprises and challenges. I was elated to get outside of the house the last week of April 2020. After roughly 7 weeks jobless and quarantined, the snow melted and the plants awakened. It felt great to finally get outside and back to work earlier than usual, returning to my flower and plant companions, assessing who had survived the winter dormancy. However, I couldn’t help but feel troubled with the lack of the typical late season (or early Spring) snowfalls that arrive most years in April and May. I generally welcome these late storms, prolonging my off season, allowing a few more days on the hill with my snowboard, and providing another big dose of moisture to the area.
For the last 3½ months I felt generally grateful despite the staggering worldwide pandemic. I had a relatively safe job, working outside in small groups, commonly away from the tourists. Unfortunately, something changed in the last few weeks. With Colorado on track for the hottest August in 150 years and drought conditions in 99% of the state, wildfire season arrived in full force. As of August 25th, according to Colorado Public Radio, the 4 main wildfires in Colorado have burnt roughly 198,513 acres with no end in sight. I am fortunate that I am not currently at risk of evacuation or any drastic life changes, but struggle with the air quality as I work outside for long hours. This year, my outdoor oasis and safety net failed to prevent headaches, breathing issues, and visual problems related to the atmosphere. I had to restrict my time at work, which forced me indoors more than I desire.
Since 2011, Mountain Roots has been passionate about our impact on the environment, practicing sustainability in our gardens and landscapes, and advocating to counteract Climate Change. I firmly believe that this should not be a political argument, but science-based and universally accepted for the overall good of the earth and future generations. So I am deeply discouraged by our current leader’s approach to this issue. Since 2017 the Trump administration has drastically changed US environmental and science policies, decreased funding, backed out of the Paris climate agreement, and prioritized oil and gas drilling over protected habitats. According to Brookings, as of August 4, 2020, the Trump administration has taken 74 actions to weaken environmental protection.
Climate is different from weather. According to NASA, weather describes conditions in the atmosphere that occur over a short period of time. Think of rainfall, snowfall, thunderstorms, clouds, winds, and floods, for examples. Climate explains yearly or decade averages of global rainfall, temperature, and humidity. Climate change refers to the long-term change in weather patterns due to fossil-fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, increasing average temperatures. Humans largely cause this. To date, the US has the highest amount of fossil-fuel consumption per capita in the entire world.
I am blessed to live in beautiful Frisco, Colo., right in the heart of Colorado ski country. Visitors from all over the world flock here each year to experience the endless outdoor options. Our economy is tourist-driven and depends on these activities. Nonetheless, with the scientific-proven research of increasing temperatures, expanding weather extremes, and harsher storms (including dueling hurricanes!), it’s just a matter of time before these activities have a shorter (or non-existent) season. The 2019/2020 season included a 100% snowpack. However, drought conditions starting in Fall 2019 created a greater need for snow to stay in the local landscapes. But there was a decreased amount of runoff and lowered river levels around the state. Drought conditions and higher temperatures greatly stress our forests, creating high wildfire risk, threatening wildlife and entire communities.
It seems there are three different groups when it comes to Climate Change and Sustainable practices. Some people:
1: Do not believe the scientific research that Climate Change exists
2: Believe that it is happening, inevitable, and that there is nothing we can do.
3: Drastically dedicate their lives and change their habits to do their part to reverse what has already occurred.
We know it’s hard to conform to all the sustainability best practices, but I believe we can all change a few simple things in our own lives (and gardens) to slow the decline. If you are a ski-season pass holder, enjoy camping, hiking, biking, fishing, and boating in our area, I’m sure you want these options to remain viable. I encourage you (and everyone else) to make a small change in your garden or lifestyle. Here are a few suggestions.
- Choose low-water plants
- Eliminate turf, or create smaller turf areas and create more beds with low water trees, shrubs, and perennials
- Train gardens and landscapes for water conservation and restrictions, watering 3 times a week. Give gardens and turf a longer soak, less often, promoting deeper root growth and allowing plants to dry out between waterings and become familiar with the feeling of drought
- Make a rain barrel
- Schedule an irrigation audit
- Avoid chemicals and man-made derivatives. Use locally made compost and organic fertilizers for nutrients
- Create a pollinator garden or habitat to support struggling species vital for food production
- Start a vegetable garden to supplement your family’s food intake
- Recycle in local programs, and compost your food scraps
- Consider a plant-based diet, or decrease meat consumption
- Invest in zero home waste products and plastic alternatives for sustainable living. Locally I recommend www.minimalimpactlifestyle.com
- Use alternative transportation. Bike, walk, carpool, take the bus. Be mindful of the number of flights you take each year
- Invest in renewable energy at home with energy audits, and take action with insulation improvements, solar panels, energy-efficient light bulbs and more
- Avoid Amazon and online shopping, support local businesses and companies that promote sustainability
- Volunteer or contribute to environmental non-profits like the High Country Conservation Center or Protect our Winters (POW)
- Give it another chance! Bring old clothing to consignment stores and shop used. Locally I recommend The Clothing Cooperative in Breckenridge
At this critical time for our country and planet, I encourage everyone to participate in local and national elections. With various issues propelling my decisions for leadership for the future, the issue of Climate Change is top priority to me. Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, I will continue to promote and participate in making small changes. The reality is that our kids and grandkids might not be able to enjoy the same mountain activities that we love. Wildfire danger is a reality, already devastating communities. Ski resorts around the world are suffering from a lack of snow cover and communities that enjoy these activities needs to step up. If you haven’t already, check out the documentary titled “Save the Snow,” and “Dear Mother Nature” regarding plastic waste.
Pablo Picasso said, “Some painters turn the sun into a yellow spot; other painters turn a yellow spot into the sun.” By all of us making some small changes, we can make this wonderful region even better for years to come.
Resources/Scientific Facts/Non-Profits to Support