Wretched Excess Dept: Aspen Vacation Homes


It is not surprising to find that vacation homes in Aspen use more energy when occupied than the average Aspen home of 3,272 square feet; what is really surprising is that they are vacant on average 277 days per year and still generate 43.8 tons of carbon dioxide a year compared with 32.4 tons by each full-time, single-family residence.

"Many energy demands are unnecessary and egregious, such as driveway heating, roof-melt systems, hot tubs (and) towel-bar heaters," said Richard Heede, who did a study for the Sopris Foundation. He noted there are also necessities like cigar humidors and wine cellars, and the flicking on and off of 24/7 floodlights.

"Rich people just don't care," said Howard Geller of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Program. "Financially, it just doesn't matter to them."

Steve Lipsher The Denver Post notes that Aspen now generates more than 70 percent of its power from renewable energy, and this week officials began selling carbon credits that allow residents to fund renewable-energy projects to offset the carbon generated through consumption of fuel and other goods. Officials in Aspen now require renewable-energy fees for new houses bigger than 5,000 square feet or those that exceed their "energy budgets" under the building code.

However he notes also:

While transportation - particularly air travel - is the single greatest generator of greenhouse gases in town, second homes are perhaps the most visible and vilified contributors, and are viewed by critics as a symbol of gluttony and decadence.

Even "green" second homes, they argue, are excessive and consume natural resources in construction and energy requirements.

Heede was cautious to point out that nearly every resident in Aspen could cut down on greenhouse-gas emissions and make his or her home more energy-efficient.

"We're not just singling out the second home owner living in the most monstrous homes and here only at Christmas and in June," Heede said. "We're just saying maybe we should look under our feet and do what we can to help." ::Denver Post

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