The world’s coolest commute is about to get even cooler, and greener. That’s because the Colorado-based Green Gondola Campaign is aiming to turn the gondola that connects Telluride with neighboring Mountain Village into a solar-powered facility. The initiative is also re-defining carbon offsetting in the process into a reliable, accurate and transparent system.

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Image: rtadlock

To get from Telluride to Mountain Village you can hop on the free, quiet, electrical gondola, for a beautiful ride over the 10,000 foot San Sophia Ridge. The gondola ferries up to 2 million people a year, and while it’s more eco-friendly than driving over the mountain, the gondola is powered by electricity that comes from a coal plant. So while it’s green, it’s not that green.

That’s where the Green Gondola Campaign comes into play. Their plan is to install solar panels in the local mountains in order to reduce the electricity used for the gondola by up to 20%.

But beyond the solar panels themselves, the Green Gondola Campaign’s bigger goal is to create a new, effective strategy for carbon offsetting. There is growing skepticism about the efficacy of carbon offsetting. Faceless organizations collect money and claim to offset your carbon footprint, which leaves a whole bunch of unknowns. What project are you funding with your donation? If it’s a project already in existence, then how are you actually offsetting anything? And how did they figure out how much it costs to offset your carbon footprint? Carbon offsetting is a bit like driving to a mountain, hiking it, and then driving home – all the while boasting of how green you were just because you didn’t drive all the way to the top of the mountain.

Not so for the Green Gondola Campaign. First off, there is no solar project in place yet. As such, donations go directly to the installation of new solar panels, so those who donate, can see their money in work, and enjoy their carbon offset. Also, once the project is funded, that’s it – no more donations for a feel-good sense of paying off your carbon footprint, because with a completed project, no energy is being offset. And most of all, the Green Gondola Campaign has painstakingly researched the cost of producing carbon in the Telluride area, so their math is reliable, accurate and transparent.

Going local is a huge part of conscious environmentalism, whether it be in food or travel. And the Green Gondola Campaign has show us that it could work for carbon offsetting too.

+ Green Gondola Campaign


Lead Image: summitchesse