Sustainability Spotlight: Denver, Colorado
While recently visiting Denver, I found compelling evidence that this city is on its way to becoming a green superstar! I had the chance to try out a B Cycle bike from the bike share program on the Cherry Creek Parkway, eat organically, "sleep green” and visit a Superfund site – a former munitions brownfield that is now a national wildlife refuge. With over 200 parks and 62 miles of bike trails, Denver is protecting its green space for the public to enjoy, creating green jobs, and finding innovative solutions for its challenges.
A few quick facts:
- Denver uses LEDs in its traffic lights, saving the city $800,000 per year
- Over 6 million tons of concrete from the former Stapleton Airport runways were removed over six years, and were reused in many other city and state projects.
- Denver has both a car sharing program with hybrid cars and even trucks for that one-time haul, as well as a bike sharing program, with 50 stations and over 450 bicycles
- When weeds started taking over Denver’s landscape, they hired a goat herder to solve the problem. Cashmere goats, native to Mongolia, are transported wherever the city needs them to help revive a healthy ecosystem.
Check out some of Denver’s other sustainable highlights:
One of the most recent green retail happenings is that Ikea just built its first Denver-area store, powered with solar panels! Over 2200 panels put out 498 kilowatts (kW) of power, which produces about 740,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. This is the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of 100 cars or powering 62 homes annually. In addition, Ikea is using geothermal energy to provide heating and cooling for the building.
A quick Google search for "Sustainable Lodging Denver CO" is enough to produce a quick list of options. I had the pleasure of staying at a sustainable B & B near the downtown area, which uses green cleaning products, dual-flush toilets and organic bedding. Coincidentally, the locally-sourced organic breakfast there included the chance to meet Michael Johnson, the Founder of the ReDirect Guide, a printed guide available free at many public locations in each city they cover. Designed to highlight qualified sustainable businesses, this guide makes it easy to both travel green and live sustainability on a daily basis by directing consumers to a wide variety of businesses with green products and services.
LOCAL & ORGANIC FOOD
I had the chance to test out two of the best-known Vegetarian restaurants – The Watercourse and its more edgy sister restaurant City, O’ City. Ecovian, a site which rates green and organic restaurants based on factors such as local food supplies, green certifications, organic food use, disposables and food waste, slots online lists 24 restaurants in Denver that qualify. The ReDirect Guide includes several more restaurants in addition to iSaveGreen coupons. Don’t want to eat out? Stir up a great organic meal by signing up for Door to Door Organics – fresh fruit and veggies delivered to your doorstep!
Amazing things are happening at the farms operated by FeedDenver.com, a non-profit educational organization that empowers local economic independence through sustainable small-scale farms and markets in urban settings. They also partner with Denver Refugee Services to utilize the vast farming knowledge of the Bhutanese people as well as local community leaders and universities to take on projects that provide jobs, education and local healthy food sources.
Denver boasts several LEED-certified buildings, including the Colorado Convention Center – the largest LEED-certified building in Colorado, with a 300 kW solar array, and a Sustainability Program Manager to direct its sustainability efforts. On the University of Denver campus is the Sturm College of Law, a LEED GOLD building which uses 40% less energy than a comparable conventional building. On the USGBC website, I found 86 certified LEED projects in Denver – both new construction and existing buildings.
SITES TO SEE
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge: A Superfund cleanup of munitions, nerve gas production and pesticide production, now sporting a herd of bison, nesting eagles and restored prairie ecosystems.
- Denver Zoo: named the greenest zoo in America, with ISO 14001 certification for all of its operations. In addition, it has plans to convert 90% of its waste stream to clean energy and has already innovatively reduced its water use by 60%. Creating a partnership with Real Food Colorado, they source local produce for their animal collections’ food needs.
To get involved with like-minded environmentalists meet up at the monthly Green Drinks event, which is a social networking group featuring a different GREEN topic each month. To catch up on Denver’s goals for the next five years, check out http://www.greenprintdenver.org/.
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