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Building for Tomorrow: Sustainability at El Pomar


Emily Orbanek

In 1987, half a century after Spencer and Julie Penrose established El Pomar Foundation, the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission developed the modern definition of sustainability: meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This definition of sustainability demands that the economy, the environment, and social equity are all accounted for in decision making.

Over the past 75 years, El Pomar Foundation has found unique ways to adapt and expand to Colorado’s ever-changing needs through thoughtful grantmaking and innovative programs. In recent years, that creativity has set the Foundation on a path to greater sustainability and has become a part of El Pomar’s daily culture.

The most dramatic changes have taken place at El Pomar’s Penrose House, including:

  • 19% decrease in energy usage at Penrose House from 2007-2011
  • 5% decrease in energy usage in the out-buildings at the Penrose House campus from 2007-2011
  • 4% decrease in natural gas usage at Penrose House from 2007-2011

In addition to noticeable decreases in energy consumption, Penrose House staff has made significant changes to further El Pomar’s sustainability efforts, including:

  • Transitioning to compostable plates/utensils from plastic
  • Replacing Penrose House light bulbs with 2 kw CFLs
  • Upgrading Penrose House Christmas lights to LEDs
  • Recycling all batteries and electronics

When visiting non profits across the state, El Pomar Fellows routinely ask, “How does your organization measure success?” Not surprisingly, answers encompass everything from tangible, hard numbers seen on an annual report, to subtle accomplishments like encouraging at least one high school student to consider college. Analyzing sustainability efforts is simply another opportunity for El Pomar Foundation to measure its success. Spencer and Julie had a vision to “build for tomorrow.” What better way to create a brighter future for Colorado than to operate sustainably today?