Letter From The CEO: Oct 2015

Oct 1, 2015, 13:46 PM by

There was a time when businesses or organizations could call themselves "green" just by placing blue recycling bins around their offices.

Sure, those are important and valuable changes to make. But our members and community (and our consciences) now hold us to a higher standard. We can't do the minimum anymore. It's too important not to act broadly and boldly.

You may not know this, but the Y's promise is to "strengthen the foundations of community." We do that in three areas: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. That last one is important — because it's a broad category that represents our commitment to society as a whole. It's the reason why we open our doors as a Red Cross shelter. It's the reason why we have started a program helping young immigrants who want to be contributing members of our community and society. It’s the reason why we host events for LGBTQ teens and why we are working to give kindergarten and pre-school children free swim lessons.

It’s also the reason why we are making our facilities more sustainable and earth friendly.

The newest of our green efforts is the Clear Comfort system at the Mapleton pool. Clear Comfort is a local cleantech company that creates sustainable water disinfection systems for pools. This year, they installed a low-chlorine pool system to reduce the use of chemicals that come into contact with our swimmers, staff and environment.

Why the Y is Reducing Chlorine

Being a long-time YMCA guy (we are talking decades), I’ve come to know a lot about swimming pools. Sometimes it’s more than I want to know, actually. But here’s an important point: Because of the “disinfection byproducts” (also known as DBPs) in chlorine some people can have negative reactions to it. Chlorine has been used for generations and is considered safe when used properly, but just one whiff of it tells you that you don’t want to be exposed to it in a concentrated form. DBPs produce the heavy chlorine smell we associate with pools.

By reducing chlorine, we reduce harmful DBPs by up to 90 percent. That makes our pool a healthier place for you, your family and our staff.

Plus, adding fewer chemicals to our shared water supply is a sustainability win. Our new Clear Comfort system is the most sustainable commercial disinfection system available, using less energy than other systems. Not only is that good for the planet, it’s good for our bottom line. We are a nonprofit, so we must be good stewards of donations and fees as well as the planet.

Pool Treatment by Nature

I don’t want to get too technical here (though, I know how much you love hearing about disinfection byproducts), but I do want our members to understand how this technology works.

Clear Comfort’s system is inspired by the way the atmosphere makes our air clean and breathable. They use an advanced oxidation process that destroys contaminants quickly and effectively. In addition, the system produces low, safe levels of hydrogen peroxide for residual sanitation in the pool. And hydrogen peroxide does not produce DBPs.

The Clear Comfort process — as well as our ultraviolet system at the Arapahoe pool — is pretty cool. Apparently, swimmers even notice a difference in the water. The water feels cleaner and silkier. But you tell us what you think. Not a regular swimmer? Next time you are on the elliptical or taking a yoga class, stop by to see if you notice a change in the air throughout the Y.

The new system at Mapleton is similar to the ultraviolet pool system at Arapahoe, which also reduces the chemicals in the water. They both act in similar ways. When the bubble is up at the Arapahoe pool, this system helps to ensure both the air and water are clear, clean and not harmful to our families.

9 Ways The Y Works to Lessen Its Impact on the Earth

The new Clear Comfort system is getting a lot of attention. We’ve had people from all over come to check it out. But it’s not the only eco-friendly change we’ve made. Here are a few other notable efforts:

Silver Bullet on the Ice

Four years ago, the ice rink at Arapahoe was using many chemicals to maintain the ice. To help with this, we turned to a system called Silver Bullet Water Treatment. This new technology requires us to use fewer chemicals, instead using oxygen as a sanitation system. It also helps us extend the life of our equipment and make the ice rink a healthier environment for our staff and guests.

LED Lights

Between our two facilities, we need a lot of light bulbs, so having efficient lighting is extremely important. Our properties staff members a few years ago changed out light fixtures to the latest T8 fluorescent bulbs. It has dramatically reduced our energy consumption. We paid for the light change in 18 months, so we are now in the process of analyzing the newest LED technology. We will develop a plan for the future of lighting in the facilities to further reduce our costs and save energy.

This summer, we installed LED lights in the Arapahoe Y locker rooms. It’s meant improved lighting and lowered energy costs. Again, this is a win-win. Good for the planet, good of the pocketbook.

Water Usage

Water usage continues to be a big concern, so we request that anyone using the showers shut off the water tight and keep water use to a minimum. We also work with our natural environment, so we shut off automatic sprinklers when we feel the effects of the rainy season.

Solar Garden

In 2014, the YMCA joined in partnership with the Solar Garden in Lafayette. Based on that relationship, 20 percent of our energy usage is offset by the solar power produced by the garden located on East Baseline.

Natural Gas

We recently switched to a different purchasing option for natural gas. That means that we only pay for the natural gas we use and we only use the natural gas we need.

Other Efforts

  • Eco Cycle picks up recyclables twice a month from our facilities. We will work with them more in 2016.

  • The Y uses a green product for weed abatement, and during winter months, we use a TruGreen product to melt ice and to help our guests get from the parking lot to the doors and back without slipping and sliding.

  • To help limit smells — you know those smells — in bathrooms and locker rooms, we have switched to a green deodorizer.

  • We continue to encourage employees to make sure our events are zero waste or low waste.

  • I have a goal to make the Y a paperless organization. We continue to take steps to use less paper and more online tools.

I want to emphasize that this is an ongoing process. We are by no means finished, and this is by no means a complete list. The YMCA of Boulder Valley Properties Committee and staff continue to look at new methods to limit our impact on the environment. We are working diligently to ensure our Ys are becoming healthier places for you, your families and our planet.

The ultimate goal is to balance cost against conservation. Sure, sometimes cost wins. But at our YMCA, more often conservation wins.

As always, don’t hesitate to email me with any concerns you may have about the Y, [email protected].


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley