Gift from Wal-Mart will help small Colorado communities go green

By Staff

Colorado's small communities are going green, thanks to the Colorado Municipal League (CML) and a gift from the Wal-Mart Foundation.

The University of Colorado Denver plans to expand a community outreach program to help Colorado's smaller towns and cities conduct urban infrastructure reviews and greenhouse gas evaluations, followed by the development of customized action plans to reduce their carbon footprints. The $30,000 Wal-Mart gift will help offset the costs of conducting the reviews in Colorado communities with populations of 35,000 and lower. The Colorado Municipal League is helping to connect these communities with UC Denver.

"Sustainable energy and infrastructure planning can help save money, protect the environment, and build vibrant communities across Colorado," said Anu Ramaswami, Ph.D., professor of environmental and sustainability engineering and director of the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) and Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) programs on SustainableUrban Infrastructure at UC Denver. "It is often difficult for a community to know how to get started on developing a sustainability plan; this grant is helping us to conduct outreach so we can help Colorado communities become leaders in sustainability."

The outreach program offers carbon footprint measurement and sustainable energy benchmarks for individual communities, along with future scenario models and customized sustainable infrastructure action matrices. The carbon footprint baseline helps measure and benchmark how much energy is consumed in various essential sectors such as buildings, industry, transportation, waste management, water treatment, food production and infrastructure materials. The benchmarks allow communities to track their progress in energy efficiency, use of renewable and conservation, while the scenario models allow communities to envision their future with and without sustainable actions. The action matrixes give a variety of options for each community to consider, taking into account public participation, cost, long-term monetary savings, and long-term energy savings.

"UC Denver is pleased to partner across private industry, government and the nonprofit arena to support Colorado's small and rural communities as they work to create more sustainable infrastructures for their citizens," said UC Denver's Chancellor M. Roy Wilson.

The Wal-Mart Foundation gift, facilitated by the University of Colorado Foundation, is the first for a planned collaborative center at UC Denver that will focus on research, teaching and outreach programs with a spotlight on sustainability and sustainable infrastructure development. UC Denver's Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems will be anchored by UC Denver's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and will partner with the School of Public Affairs, joining engineers who design innovative technologies with experts who look at implementation and public policy solutions. UC Denver's other schools and colleges likely will join the collaboration as the center grows.

Towns and cities in Colorado that are scheduled to work with UC Denver's sustainable infrastructure experts include Golden, Dillon, Fowler, Eagle and Steamboat Springs/Routt County. This work builds upon UC Denver's research and outreach in sustainable urban infrastructure conducted over the last five years in partnership with such cities as Denver, Broomfield, Arvada, Aurora, Central City and Durango.

"Wal-Mart is very proud to be partnering with the Colorado Municipal League, UC Denver and these towns," said Joshua Phair, senior manager of public affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "Our hope is that this program brings cutting-edge knowledge to all corners of the state to help make Colorado's communities more sustainable."

The innovative community outreach program at UC Denver was initially launched in 2005 through a GAANN award from the U.S. Department of Education. The initial award to UC Denver's College of Engineering was used to foster innovative research and curriculum to address sustainable urban infrastructure in U.S. cities — recognized as an area of national need. That initial grant was followed by a $3.2 million IGERT grant from the National Science Foundation. The resulting work done by UC Denver's sustainable infrastructure research team is estimated to have directly affected more than 1 million people across the state.

The Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems at UC Denver will focus on five major areas of research and service related to sustainability:

  • Measuring sustainability baselines via tools developed by UC Denver's faculty/researchers and students (carbon footprints, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.);
  • Developing innovative technologies and designs for sustainable infrastructure systems;
  • Coordinating strategic planning and policy for creating and implementing sustainable infrastructure systems in cities;
  • Designing public participation and engagement processes; and
  • Assessing and implementing outcomes of urban sustainability projects.

For more information about the upcoming Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems, please visit