June 27, 2023

Get to know CAP Collaborative Board Chair Gail Garey

CAP Collaborative Board Chair and City Counselor Gail Garey is no stranger to environmental advocacy. Throughout her campaign and since being elected to City Council in 2021, she has emphasized the importance of ensuring both present and future generations can thrive in our community and enjoy its abundant offerings. Garey comes with years of experience in community engagement and public service. In addition to being Board Chair for the CAP Collaborative, she has served as a Board Member for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and the Organics Task Force.

As our current leader, we asked Counselor Garey to share her thoughts on the Routt County CAP.

What is your role in the CAP collaborative and how did you get involved?

I am honored to serve as Chair of the Climate Action Plan (CAP) Collaborative Board. The Collaborative Board was formed by Routt County, the City of Steamboat Springs and Towns of Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa through an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) as a means to collaborate on the implementation of the CAP. The Board is comprised of representatives from each of the five government partners and four community members.

As an elected member of the Steamboat Springs City Council, I serve as Council’s representative to the Board.

Why does the CAP matter? Why should Routt County residents care about the CAP goals?

The Climate Action Plan is a road map for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately preventing the most dire impacts of a warming climate.

Here in Routt County, the climate risks of drought, extreme heat, flooding, wildfires and shifts in seasonal weather patterns threaten the very things that we value most about our Community – the intrinsic beauty of the Yampa Valley, our agricultural roots, access to clean air and water and the abundant recreational opportunities.

Is there a specific sector of the CAP that you feel the most connected with?

The waste sector because to me it is the most tangible and controllable for each of us as individuals in our daily life. Almost everything has to be disposed of at some point, so whenever I buy something, I think about do I really need it, can it be re-purposed, re-used, recycled or am I going to have to throw it away.

Buying only what I need and choosing to buy from companies that are aligned with my values is one of the easiest and quickest ways to embrace sustainability not just by minimizing waste but also given the environmental degradation, energy use and transportation associated with the production and delivery of the items.

Composting food waste is another easy and cost-effective way to reduce emissions. I had the privilege of chairing the Organics Task Force created by the 2019 Waste Diversion Strategic Plan. That experience opened my eyes to fact that almost 30% of the waste stream is food and that methane which is emitted from decomposing food is a much more potent greenhouse gas.

I also love that recycling, reusing materials and composting not only reduces my carbon footprint but also creates more jobs and strengthens our local economy.

What do you see as the board’s role for driving CAP initiatives and strategies? 

Per the IGA adopted by each of the government partners, the purpose of the Collaborative is to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the implementation of the Climate Action Plan, and to track implementation of the plan and the reduction of emissions in Routt County.

The Board’s primary role is to provide oversight of policies, projects and priorities supporting the CAP strategies, to set annual goals, establish metrics to report progress and outcomes, to ensure adequate funding by working with local government partners for annual support and by identifying additional funding sources.

How can community members get involved?

There are a number of different ways that Community members can get involved. Broad community engagement and support is essential to achieving the goals set forth in the CAP.

The monthly newsletter and the events page on the CAP website are the best ways to learn about opportunities to take action and for ways to contribute.

There will be endless opportunities to volunteer, including the Yampa Valley Climate Crew, participating in ReTree this summer or by joining the Zero Waste Crew.

Spread the word by talking with your friends, family and colleagues and encourage them to follow Rout County Climate Action Plan on Facebook and Instagram and to sign up for the CAP newsletter.

Finally, engage in the policy making process and support policies to advance strategies that align with your values.

Climate change is a wicked problem, meaning it is complex and overwhelming. How does the CAP collaborative break down this problem into actionable items for community members to take? 

As part of the Collaborative process, working groups were established to advise the Board on each of the sectors identified in the Climate Action Plan: transportation, energy, waste, land use and economy.

As a result of more than 1400 hours of work by more than 65 members of our community who are experts in their fields, the CAP working groups developed 45 recommendations that are actionable steps for implementing the CAP strategies.

The working group members conducted an exhaustive review of the strategies set forth in the CAP, identified gaps and given the diverse perspectives of the members fully vetted each recommendation.

The working group members examined and ranked each recommendation looking at: greenhouse gas reduction potential, implementation costs, potential barriers, ease of implementation and co-benefits. They also identified partners and outlined implementation needs and steps.