Solarize the Springs: CC Students Work With Environment Colorado to Implement Sustainable Change

On Feb. 22, the Solarize the Springs campaign had its first public forum at the Wild Goose Meeting House. This meeting was the first move of Environment Colorado to encourage the widespread use of solar energy in Colorado Springs. The event was an attempt to mobilize the community and gain support from locals and students to participate in the push for clean energy.

Katie Otterbeck, a solar energy advocate for Environment Colorado, led the event along with Kyle Lisek, the Southern Colorado Clean Cities Coalition coordinator. “We want to increase access and affordability to clean electric vehicles and clean electric power of the sun,” said Otterbeck.

The event hosted citizens from all different walks of life. There were students, professors, and even a civil engineer. Colorado College first-year Sonia Klein was one of the organizers of the event and an intern with Environment Colorado. According to Klein, the campaign was successful in other cities including Boulder. “We saw a reduction in solar pricing by almost a quarter and an increase in environmental sales by 300 percent,” said Klein.

CC students partake in conversation with EnvironmentColorado. Photos by Daniel SarchÉ

In the immediate future, Solarize the Springs hopes to gain the backing of the Colorado Springs Sustainability office. They also have a lobbying group that works to encourage state and federal tax credits for clean energy. However, considering the current administration in office and the relatively low emphasis on environmental sustainability, Solarize the Springs is relying on community mobilization so that Colorado Springs and the greater Pikes Peak region can solarize before the federal and state tax credits are phased out in the next couple of years.

“We work with the local community and organizations to put out more support for solar and electric vehicles, and they offer us certain deals that they would propose that we would offer to our consumers,” said Lisek.

Solarize the Springs hopes to get as many dealerships as possible to offer discounted electric vehicles. There are already Nissan and BMW dealerships that are offering lower prices. Otterbeck and Lisek are also looking to encourage more businesses and homes to use solar panels as a source of energy. “The goal is to get two programs running by 2018,” said Otterbeck.

By increasing the affordability and use of clean energy within homes and in transportation, Solarize the Springs aims to make Colorado Springs rely 100 percent on clean energy. “Last semester I took a class on environmental sociology where we learned how our actions and inactions can influence the environment,” said Klein. “One of the most important pieces of information that I am always going to hold onto is that, while individual action does create change, it is not enough to create the reduction we want to see in the environment.”

Solarize the Springs is currently creating a petition in order to grab the attention of Mayor John Suthers and U.S. Congressional Representative Doug Lamborn to push the movement forward politically. Klein is also encouraging community members to spread the word to others and to write letters to news outlets in order to give more momentum to the campaign.

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