Assignment Spotlight: Isabel Rummell

Written by Isabel Rummell, ESLLC 2015-2016


Sustainability at Cottonwood Hot Springs in Buena Vista, Colorado

On Chaffee County Road #306, heading west, you wind your way through trees, a happy river running to the right of your car the whole way. You hear a buzzing sound, and see some sort of movement through the trees. It is metallic. As you accelerate up a small hill you crane your neck and flick your eyes back and forth from the road to the brush to see what it is, barely able to separate the form of the thing from the tall needle-clad trees. You almost miss your turn, but manage to find the driveway safely, turning quickly at a bright yellow sign advertising happy times, a ram, and a river. You have arrived at Cottonwood Hot Springs, the hot ground-fed pools to your left, massive sparkling metal wind turbines to your right.

Cottonwood Hot Springs prides itself on being an environmentally sustainable business. In addition to using the heat from the springs to keep temperatures up in the hot-tubs and pools, it uses that same water for geothermal energy in the Inn, has four solar panels to provide electricity, as well as the turbines for offsetting high electrical costs. It uses varied forms of sustainable energy to keep up its reputation as a comfortable, and conscious establishment.

The water that comes directly from the ground at Cottonwood comprises much of the heating system for the Inn. As is stated on the businesses website, the water that comes from the ground is approximately 127 degrees F, hot enough to make it worthwhile to heat a hotel with. They still add heat to the water before pumping it through a pipe system that runs under the rooms to heat them, but since the water only has to be heated to 157 degrees F, it is pretty efficient. This geothermal heating system can’t be utilized everywhere as hot springs do not exist everywhere, but as they are easily available at Cottonwood it makes sense to make use of this natural source.

The solar panels and wind turbines are added features meant to offset electricity costs for the Inn and hot spring facilities. 4 solar panels alone reduce the energy costs of the main building by 30%, a portion that could consist of all the costs of lighting the main buildings main atrium. The two windmills do their part as well, contributing about 10% of the energy use of the main Lodge building. Both the solar panels and wind turbines are a main feature at the springs, located right next to the entrance in a sort of display for customers. I think it is great that these energy sources are thought of as a point of pride for the business, and not hidden away as they are in so many other places. This brings energy use to the surface, and celebrates responsible ways to improve.

After a big renovation in 2014, much of the facilities were upgraded to conserve energy as well as offset costs. LED bulbs replaced most outdated bulbs in the rooms and facility buildings, offsetting much of their electricity costs. They replaced most of their inefficient windows with triple-paned glass, meant to keep heat inside and cold outside. They even dug into the walls to replace old insulation with doubly insulated fibres, to keep heat inside as well. There are a lot of things that businesses and building owners in general can do to increase energy efficiency within buildings, and Cottonwood definitely covers it’s ground.

Cottonwood Hot Springs is a seemingly quaint place with some seriously conscious energy systems. It feels good to know you are supporting a sustainable business as you are lazing around the pools and enjoying the facilities at Cottonwood, relaxing both physically and consciously.


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