eTown Hall, an eco-friendly event facility located on Spruce Street, hosted a highly essential Zero Waste Boulder event on Thursday, October 15th, to educate and discuss Boulder’s environmental goals and action steps to becoming a more sustainable community. In the past year, eTown has recycled 127,000 pounds worth of material and 6,800 pounds of compostable items. They have 246 solar panels on their roof to preserve energy use and help pair with other businesses to share their vision of being carbon netural. John “Digger” Pelàez, eTown Director of Operations, sees this mission as a “common sense stewardship to the planet.” The slogans passed around the two hour conversation were enticing and motivating enough to be paraded in the streets: “Choose Used, Not New!” “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse!” “Say No To Waste in the First Place!” “Know Before You Throw!” I have my picket sign; who’s with me?

It is Boulder’s goal to be Zero Waste come year 2025, with a recycle and compost rateimage1-2 of 85%. Being the first city in Colorado to have eco-centered requirements, last year, Boulder ranked the diversion rate of trash to recycling and composting at 34%, behind Portland at 80%, and San Francisco at 85%. Boulder residents pride one another on our ability to prioritize living green and while we have come this far, we have quite a ways to go. The Zero Waste Community has done an incredible job collaborating with local businesses and nonprofits to support a mindful lifestyle, including the local universities, Western, and Eco-Cycle. Since June, the City Council has required commercial and property owners to provide compost, recycling, and trash bins at their locations, connections to have them sorted properly, and that all hosted events be eco-friendly.

Speakers from the City Council, Zero Waste Community, PACE (Partners for Clean Environment), Housing and Sustainability, Eco-Cycle, Boulder Housing Partners, Rally Software, The Buff Restaurant, and sponsors from many other local businesses advocated for their belief in not just being environmentally conscious, but in each Boulder resident to make a difference. David Driskell, city planner, claims “We’re not going to get there without everybody doing their part,” while Lisa Morzel, council member, says the mission is to “make landfills obsolete,” and that having zero waste is the “fastest, cheapest, and most effectie way to protect the environment,” but that it “requires an effort by all sectors.” Suzanne Jones of Eco-Cycle enthusiastically welcomes her audience with a big, “Congratulations! This is a huge damn deal. It’s all about people power; we’re going to make history here.” This past year, Jones reported that 43,000 tons of materials were reused, which is the equivalent to having 19,000 cars of the road for a year.

Statistics show that 90% of what goes into Boulder’s landfill is recyclable. Andrea Sanders, founder of “Be Zero” and a zero waste lifestyle resident, reflects that “trash tells a very important story about what we value.” It’s not just about recycling or composting the waste we have, but perhaps voting with our dollars to not purchase waste in the first place. Sanders makes her own toothpaste, soap and detergents, and fuels businesses to change their less eco-friendy products with social media and fiery communication. PACE partners offers a one on one free advising service to businesses and property owners. Tim Beal, of Boulder Housing Partners, provides affordable housing to the elderly and disabled in 30 surrounding communities. His process involves establishing what’s working, what’s not, and questioning how we can do it better. He discusses the give and take of this process and the importance to “keep working, celebrate, and start over again.” Geri-Mitchell Brown of Rally Software encourages employees to take the “Zero Waste Pledge,” which has three requirements, “Master Bins, Ditch Disposables, Spread Word.” Elena Parthemer of Eco-Cycle discussed the concept of “what goes where,” and the importance of being mindful before throwing away something in the wrong place and the repercussions of doing so.

The event was formatted to have a TedTalk type series of speakers, followed by individual break-out groups to discuss immediate action steps and local resources for education and awareness, with raffles, give-aways, and the beauty of community togetherness. Other sponsors and partners of the Zero Waste project involve the local Organic Sandwich Company on Pearl Street, Three Leaf Concepts, the umbrella of numerous restaurants in town, and the St. Julien Hotel & Spa. Some immediate action steps include:

  1. Study what goes where from the A-Z list provided on www.zerowasteboulder.com
  2. Sign on for free advising sessions with PACE at www.pacepartners.com
  3. Look for compost, recycling and trash bins at every local restaurant/shop you enter
  4. Support local businesses!
  5. Know before you throw! If you don’t know, ask!

This mission has no specific image2audience. It is not just for the environmental studies majors, the minimalists, politicians, or the eco-friendly hippies whom we all love; it’s for each and every resident on this planet. Climate change is happening, but we control the pace. Get creative! Get conscious! Take a second to chase away the waste; it’ll be the best workout of your lifetime. Give businesses a run for your money. What are you saying with where you are spending? What do you refuse to use? Let’s get together to connect and collect. Boulder may be trailing behind among the cities who share this mission, but we are one step ahead in pooling our hearts and heads into this lifestyle; we are the leaders of a citywide- no! nationwide- no! The ultimate GLOBAL impact.