The newly named director of the city of Aspen’s Canary Initiative, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said that she needs the community’s help to reach the program’s goals.
“I am not going to single-handedly reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020,” said Ashley Perl, who has worked in the city’s environmental health department for five years, referencing the Canary Initiative’s goal of cutting pollutants from 2004 levels.
Perl’s hire also represents a reorganization for the Canary Initiative, as well as the environmental health department. Previously, Canary was part of the utilities department, but it will now be under environmental health.
Perl, whose new salary will be $65,000 a year, was previously a senior environmental health specialist who focused her efforts on waste reduction. She helped design the city’s policy of banning plastic bags at the grocery store, as well as the “Aspen Tap” campaign to encourage reusable water bottles, and she has worked to get more homes and businesses to compost their food waste. She said she worked closely with previous Canary Initiative director Lauren McDonell.
Since 2004, community-wide emissions are down about 6 percent, mostly due to more renewables in the local energy mix. There’s still a long way to go in order to meet the goal set by the Canary Initiative, which launched in 2005 and has had three previous directors before Perl. The program’s ultimate goal is to cut emissions 80 percent by 2050.
In her role as director, Perl said she wants to engage the community more in order “to make people feel like this is our goal together.”
She plans more engagement with community organizations that are taking their own steps to reduce emissions. The Canary Initiative and the environmental health department could be a “resource” and a “one-stop shop” for homes and businesses looking to become more sustainable, she said.
In order to meet the emissions-cutting goals, Perl said her main focus will be on electric utilities and ground transportation, which together account for 71 percent of Aspen’s greenhouse gasses.
She said she has a “huge list of potential projects” that could lead to a more environmentally friendly community, and she is in the process of assessing effectiveness, cost and feasibility of the various ideas.
At some point, Perl will bring a menu of options to City Council, and let elected officials decide how aggressive they want to be.
“I’ll put it on council’s shoulders to decide where they want to use their political capital,” Perl said.
Perl, 30, holds a degree from the University of Colorado in environmental science and Spanish.
The city is planning a to hire someone new to replace Perl’s old job in the environmental health department; there is also an open data analyst position with the Canary Initiative.