LAKE PLACID — While measuring how much carbon dioxide they make (in tons), residents of this village took stock of something else: working together.Amid talk of fuel efficiency and climate change was lively banter about generating power, hotel-sized energy audits and eco-friendly chandeliers.On one side of the Climate Change Café, held in a meeting room at the Golden Arrow Resort, a row of sober-faced boy scouts sold energy efficient light bulbs for $1.Adults pored over carbon emissions questions.The Café was one of an estimated 1,700 Step It Up events held nationwide Saturday to send a message to Washington to slow climate change before it's too late.Lake Placid, seated at the edge of the Adirondack's highest mountains, has a lot to lose, said Jen Holdereid, whose family owns and operates the Golden Arrow Resort.The hotel, which can hold over 400 people on any one night, has spent much of the past three years going green.Holdereid described it as "a process."Lightening a carbon load happens over time.While 400 guests (or more) a day may like to leave all five lamps on and use two times more towels than they do at home, they're also a welcome "audience.""We are trying to get our guests more involved in the process," Holdereid said. "This is a great place to educate."Each of the 15,000 holiday cards the resort sent this year contained a promise that — for every card returned — the hotel would contribute $5 to the Nature Conservancy for protection of wild forest land.And hundreds have come back."They get it. The entire perspective goes hand-in-hand with the Adirondacks," Holdereid said.In their rooms, guests now flip on energy efficient lamps and reuse linens. The hotel installed low-flow toilets and put aerators in the water spouts.The Golden Arrow had a hotel-sized energy audit done last year."The Audubon Society has a 'Green Leaf' rating program for hotels," Holdereid said.It began with a 40-page questionnaire and a scrupulous inspection.It ended with a rating."A lot of the suggestions we were already doing because they are also cost effective."
The Golden Arrow rated three out of five leaves so far."I think four leaves is something we can get to. At five, you're making your own power," Holdereid said.The hotel is currently testing a motion sensor in one of the rooms that automatically shuts heating/cooling units off when guests exit.The monitor has been in place for about two months, Holdereid said, and hasn't drawn any untoward comments from guests.The Golden Arrow is also in the process of creating an eco-awareness program that will both educate and reward guests who make green choices.For visitors who adjust their carbon diet in a way that supports, for example, greener travel — by switching to a shorter plane trip or by traveling in a fuel-efficient car — the resort will match it with a donation offsetting their own carbon footprint."It's about working together. It's just the right thing to do," Holdereid said.And while Lake Placid sets a pace for eco-friendly travel, the Climate Change Café started 40 homes on a carbon diet.From 22,000 to 46,000 tons apiece, individual homeowners learned some new math."A single tree absorbs one ton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in its lifetime," said Arlene Day, who facilitated the event for the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors' Bureau.But every gallon of gas burned makes 20 pounds more."If every car driven in the United States got 44 miles per gallon," Day said, "we would completely eliminate the need for foreign oil."Mayor Jamie Rogers said the village is in discussions with New York State Power Authority to change the co-generation equation."The original agreement with NYPA said Lake Placid will not purchase any other power or generate any power because our rates were so low. But in the last year, they've come to us and said, look, if you have creative ways to start generating power, we'll look at them."And while the adults discussed the next necessary steps toward lightening the carbon load, the boy scouts in the back stared at the ceiling.Afterward, John Huttlinger, 14, and a freshman at Lake Placid High School, said what he thinks of climate change."Before people knew what CO2 was doing, they made a mess. And we're going to spend our lives cleaning it up. It makes me frustrated," he said."Politicians go on making agreements with the big oil companies. But I think they should acknowledge what people have been telling them for a long time: what hurts the environment is going to hurt us."Did Huttlinger glean any hope from what those gathered in Lake Placid are doing?
"Yes I do," he said. "I do."