Zeroing in on Zero waste: How green is the Metro area?


Posted Sun, Mar 10, 2013


SECOND SPIN: The Aveda institute along with the city of Denver started to implement their zero waste initiative back in 2011 [Photo by Ted Heron]

DENVER — Is the ‘green movement’ simply a fad, or is it here to stay? If you live in the Denver metro-area, the answer is leaning on the latter. Many companies and several cities have been at the head of the zero waste frontier for years.

Even though it had a slow start, Denver’s recycling program has been going strong since 1999. Their curbside collection program is available citywide. Along with multiple community garden efforts and organizations throughout the city, local composting is picking up steam as well. Woodbine Ecology, based out of Sedalia, Colo., even helps businesses set up compost pick up. Café Europa off of South Broadway has worked with Woodbine for years now. Since they are a local favorite, they have so many coffee grinds customers are able to walk-in and pick up during business hours.

The Aveda institute along with the city of Denver started to implement their zero waste initiative back in 2011. It started with the “packaging take-back program.” Aveda consumers were encouraged to bring in any packaging waste of any of their products. Aveda’s Shermagne Carr said the goal of the take-back program, “is to hold ourselves accountable for the products we make.” The idea of this closed loop system is quite an accomplishment, considering how hard it is to maintain plastic waste.

Even the Denver Zoo has a zero waste goal of 2025. By regulating their waste to energy and recycling intake on their campus, the Denver Zoo expects to save approximately $150,000 a year and reduce their impact on the landfill.

The city of Denver and some local business within the metropolis are well on their way to becoming green. But the view from Boulder, might say otherwise. But Boulder has been saying “otherwise” for a lot of things.

Boulder’s recycling program is debatably the best in Colorado for consumers and businesses. If you live in Boulder, or own a business there, the city will give you as many recycling bins as you or your business may need. But once you agree on how much trash to pick up, needing any extra space for non-recyclables will cost you. That’s just the tip of the green iceberg.

In an effort to reduce waste, Boulder City Council recently voted in favor for implementing a 10 cent fee for every plastic or paper grocery bag used in any grocery store in Boulder County. The citizens of Boulder didn’t have much of a say in this because this is not going to be a new tax. This is simply a new fee for businesses, so it doesn’t need a vote to be implemented. The bag fee should be implemented by July.

CU Boulder graduate Alexandra Brower is directing her own approach on green living. Brower has received quite a few awards for her green efforts and has undoubtedly paid her dues as a real environmentalist. Her most recent project is and attempt to eliminate polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) from Boulder County entirely. As of Feb. 26, her petition on has over 170 signatures.

“It’s not about the signatures. I wanted to get the signatures just so I could show the legislators that this is what some people want, and that I have this backing for it,” Brower said. “We also need to get the community involved—to shift their priorities and address these environmental issues that significantly affect our health and land use.”

Brower already has an idea of how this could be implemented. That is, if she can get past the first and one of the largest hurdles: Changing Colorado state law to ban polystyrene.

“Well, I would like to see the restaurants be required to use recyclable or compost able take-out containers,” she said. “And you know that really ranges because there are so many great alternatives out there such as sugar cane based products, recycled paper products, some corn products. I have not really gotten to that point because I don’t know what exactly is going to be happening with the City of Boulder.

“I know the city of Boulder is looking at providing incentives—but that is definitely one of my points is that I want to see polystyrene be replaced. I don’t want to see it be replaced by the next worse thing or plastic based thing. I want to be post-consumer recycled/compost able part of that as I mentioned that we need this community engagement, we need to provide resources for the community to know.”

With Brower and the ever-growing environmentalist population in Colorado, the green movement seems to be moving along at a steady pace.

If you want to start recycling at your home or business, contact your city’s waste management. If you want to get involved with the EPA WasteWise program to volunteer and raise awareness about environmental issues, visit their website and put in your location:

If you want to sign Brower’s petition:

More information on the Denver Zoo zero waste plan:

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About Ted Heron

I'm a free lance writer with a passion for science. I'm working on a bachelor's in Biology with a minor in Journalism.

View all posts by Ted Heron

9 Responses to “Zeroing in on Zero waste: How green is the Metro area?”

  1. Grace Says:

    This is fascinating, I had no idea there was such an initiative out there! I love that there are links to sign the petition and ways for me to follow up on the zero waste plan too


  2. Davy Says:

    Great headline. Good job giving statistics, and good idead adding a link to the petition.


  3. Jen Sasser Says:

    Interesting story! A worth-while read!


  4. Stephanie V. Coleman Says:

    I applaud Colorado for their efforts on this matter. You’ve reported great information in this story. Smart to add additional websites and information at the end.


  5. A A Says:

    I would agree, I like that you did not just inform the reader, but went on to add how the reader could be involved.


  6. Stephanie Alderton Says:

    Great quotes! This is a very informative story.


  7. Emily Pennetti Says:

    Lots of businesses trying to promote “green-life.” Didn’t know there was a catch in Boulder.


  8. Maureen Says:

    Good info, although some of it wasn’t new to me, some was. good job.


  9. Geoff H Says:

    Very interesting…and well written. Thank you.


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