Final response deadline Dec. 1
By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Organizers of a recent survey of Carbondale-area residents about the town’s “climate action plan” say the survey results clearly show a majority opinion in favor of the town’s actions over the past decade or so.
The survey, conducted with the combined efforts of the Carbondale Environmental Board (known as the E-Board) and a team of consultants, collected a total of 409 responses to surveys either sent out in the mail or offered online through Survey Monkey.
According to Brad Davis of the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE), which worked on the survey effort, the responses included 181 filled out online at Carbondale’s town website (www.carbondalegov.org), and 228 on paper.
E-Board member Patrick Hunter, who also worked on the survey effort, said the paper questionnaires were sent out with water bills sent to 1,800 of the town’s water customers.
The results, according to data provided to The Sopris Sun, show that respondents overwhelmingly support the idea that local government can and should be an active participant in work to reduce Carbondale’s “carbon footprint” by encouraging the use of alternative-energy technology (such as solar panels to generate electricity or heat domestic water, composting organic material to help landfills last longer, and others).
Due to an oversight by the survey creators, one question, about how the town’s energy programs should be paid for, did not initially offer respondents a “none of the above” option in their responses. Respondents also had to answer to all of the survey questions, or Survey Monkey would not accept any of their responses.
That oversight was soon corrected in the online version, after the issue was pointed out by a Sopris Sun news story, by adding the optional response, “I don’t know,” to the question about funding. Those responses were then added into the total results.
As an incentive to prospective respondents, the survey promised cash prizes to those who filled them out, and since responses are still coming in, the results detailed in this story are preliminary.
But, said Hunter, “I believe it is unlikely that additional responses would change the results we have now. There is very clear support for community action to take positive steps on climate change.”
According to the results sent to The Sopris Sun, more than 93 percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the Earth is warming rapidly, and that human activities are accelerating that warming trend.
And while 350 respondents indicated that a car is a main mode of transportation for getting them around town, a larger number indicated they either bike (284) or walk (272) around town as much as they drive.
On a different topic, 71 percent of respondents (291) indicated support for a town-wide ban on the use of plastic shopping bags at retail outlets in Carbondale, rather than the ban on bags at the City Market grocery store that now exists; and 59 percent (242) would support a town-wide ban on single-use plastic water bottles “sold in all stores, according to the results.
A total of 96 respondents, or 24 percent, answered that they would not support either proposal.
Regarding mass transit, about 62 percent (252) liked the idea of Carbondale partnering with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to expand the reach of the in-town circulator bus, which currently stops primarily on Main Street and at the RFTA park and ride lot on Highway 133. The idea, discussed for several years, is to expand the service to include the outlying parts of town to the south and west, including the Crystal Meadows senior housing complex.
As for paying for all this energy-conserving and alternative-energy activity, when asked how the town’s energy-related programming should be funded, the top three choices were:
• with a gasoline tax (35 percent, or 142 responses);
• using severance taxes or mineral lease fees paid by the energy industry both locally and statewide (32 percent, or 131 responses);
• and with a dedicated tax of some sort (27 percent, or 109 responses).
Carbondale’s voters, tellingly, rejected a proposed tax on utility usage last spring, which would have called for the tax proceeds to be used for the town’s energy-conservation programs.
Other questions in the survey touched upon a variety of issues, including but not limited to:
• local residents’ willingness or interest in composting their organic food waste;
• whether residents feel the town is doing enough, too much, or not enough to reduce the community’s carbon footprint, or the amount of greenhouse gases generated by consumption among residents, businesses and the local government;
• and whether respondents would support a car-share program in Carbondale.
According to CORE and the E-Board, the survey results should be posted on the town’s website (www.carbondalegov.org) by some time in December.
Residents who did not get a chance to fill out the survey are encouraged to do so between now and Dec. 1, by going to the link, https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Eboard2016.
Published in The Sopris Sun on November 24, 2016.