Nonprofit SNO Seeks to Reduce Big Sky’s Carbon Footprint
By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – A local non-profit sustainable development organization recently completed a study on the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions in the region.
The Big Sky Sustainability Network completed its Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory in September, a report that quantifies emissions in Big Sky and creates a database to then suggest solutions to reduce its carbon footprint.
The report was produced by Patrick Miller, a member of the SNO board, which started in 2020 and analyzed data provided by NorthWestern Energy from 2018 and 2019.
âYou really can’t tackle a problem until you know what the problem is and can quantify it,â said Miller, an energy consultant.
SNO is a non-profit organization that started in 2020, born out of a series of community conversations in 2019 regarding sustainability at Big Sky. The goal, according to Lizzie Peyton, director of community engagement at SNO, is simple: to involve the Big Sky community in identifying and addressing local sustainability issues.
Peyton encouraged community members to enroll in SNO’s stewardship program and stressed that the group aims to be a resource for the entire community.
With the greenhouse gas study in hand, the SNO now has a good database that will inform projects and plans for the future, according to Miller.
From 2018 to 2019, the report identified a 5.5% increase in total emissions in Big Sky. The main contributors to Big Sky’s emissions are âresidential energy,â which is divided into electricity and liquid propane gas, and âtransportation and mobile sources,â including gasoline and diesel.
An important takeaway, according to the report, is that electricity is one of Big Sky’s largest and fastest growing sources of emissions. In 2019, electricity emissions accounted for 39% of Big Sky’s greenhouse gas emissions, and NorthWestern Energy’s electricity is the fastest growing source of emissions with nearly 9% from 2018 to 2019.
The study reports that electricity refers to an indirect emission based on energy generated by NorthWestern Energy and purchased by residents of Big Sky. NorthWestern provides power throughout the state of Montana and, in addition to traditional energy sources including coal and natural gas, also uses clean energy sources such as wind, hydroelectric facilities and solar energy.
âAbout 60% of the energy we provide to our customers is clean energy,â said John Bushnell, director of sustainability for NorthWestern Energy.
The company uses energy saving programs in place, like its E + Green program, which offers customers the option of paying an additional $ 1.25 per month to help reduce their carbon footprint by adding 100 kilowatt hours of renewable advantages of wind, solar and biomass.
âWe are working closely with our communities to have a program that works for us and for them,â Bushnell said.
Marne Hayes, treasurer of SNO, says the report has more important implications than just painting a static picture of Big Sky’s footprint or emissions.
“There are a lot of things related to this broad term ‘climate change’, but for Big Sky, these are projects focused on energy, transport and carbon emissions from both sources,” she said. wrote in an e-mail to EBS.
The next step for the SNO will be to draft a climate action plan that a sub-committee is currently working on and which will be tentatively announced within the next six months.
âWe all think it will take community participation,â Miller said. “We have to bring some enthusiastic people who really believe in this idea into our group to work on the plan, so I think it will grow.”
In addition to drafting the climate action plan, SNO aims to set an emissions reduction target with an ultimate goal of net zero emissions for Big Sky. Peyton noted that while emissions will still exist at Big Sky to some extent, the community may reduce them and consider purchasing carbon offset credits, similar to the Big Sky Resort program.
âIt’s not like it’s going to happen overnight,â Peyton said. âIt’s a practice that you have to wake up every day and make an intentional change, and that’s why we’re hereâ¦ We want to be a resource. “