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Conserve and protect

Nonprofit offers help to residents, saving money and the earth

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JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

With their spiky appendages, the dryer balls look a bit like plastic replicas of the escape pod Superman used to flee Krypton. By putting them in with a soggy load of clothes, their manufacturer claims, you should be able to cut your drying time by a quarter.

Richard Skorman, director of a new Colorado Springs nonprofit aimed at promoting conservation, relays the marketing pitch with a note of caution.

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"We feel that's quite a leap to cut down the drying time by 25 percent," he explains. "It's more like 10 percent."

The downtown business owner and former City Councilor shows off the tiny dryer balls inside a stripped-down Tejon Street storefront that soon will open as the Conservation Hardware Store & Center (conservationhardware.org).

Some products that will be offered there are tried and true ways to cut your utility bill: compact fluorescent light bulbs, furnace filter whistles and programmable socket strips. But the store's other aim is to figure out what works, so customers can walk away with the best products and advice.

"The center itself is a learning experience," Skorman says.

The store, expected to open in May, is a twist in Skorman's campaign to cut local energy use and stave off the need for a new power plant by distributing and installing compact fluorescent bulbs. The bulb effort spawned the Colorado Springs Conservation Corps and now the store.

"What we realized is, we need a place for people to come," Skorman says.

Skorman left his most recent position running Sen. Ken Salazar's local office to lead the light-bulb campaign. The new store, at 409 N. Tejon St., actually shares an entry with his old office (which now falls under the direction of Sen. Michael Bennet, who took over after Salazar was appointed Interior secretary).

Visitors to the store will be able to buy energy-efficient products, and they will see examples of environmentally friendly design in what Skorman hopes will become one of the state's few storefronts with a LEED-certified interior. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification more commonly applied to entire buildings.

The certification process has complicated store renovations. A worn-out piece of carpet at the back of the store had to be assessed for possible recycling before it could be hauled off to the landfill (it was too old to be reused). The plan for the front of the store was to lay down an eco-friendly bamboo floor, but even that became complicated.

"[We learned] bamboo flooring is not all great," says Jacquie Ostrom, the nonprofit's associate director, explaining the need to find manufacturers who grow bamboo sustainably.

Skorman carefully avoids politics or global-warming concerns as he talks about the store: It's about saving money and resources. The plan is to loan out "Kill A Watt" meters to help residents find appliances that are driving up their electricity bills, as well as special thermometers to locate places where cold is leaking in.

Outside the store, he hopes to add recycling locations downtown and he's working on plans to hold a "streetside" farmers market on Wednesdays, when local gardeners can sell their produce and give downtown workers a chance to buy veggies on their lunch breaks.

It seems like a lot to get rolling at once, but Skorman makes it sound like it's just the beginning as conservation ideals spread and take hold.

"We feel," he says, "that people are ready to roll up their sleeves and do things."

lane@csindy.com

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