BRIDGET JOHNSON, Green Girl Recycling
It’s often said that one person truly can make a difference. There are so many examples of people who have had the courage and the determination to follow through with their ideas and passions to spark real, lasting change in the world. Bridget Johnson, owner and founder of Green Girl Recycling, is living proof that one person can make a difference and, if you’re willing to work for it, you can inspire real, meaningful change within your community.
“It all started back in 1998 when I used to live on Sugarloaf Road with four other girls. We were young and had a lot of parties back in the day – none of us were married yet – and I’m from upstate New York, where recycling was everywhere. I was a bit surprised to find out that it was hard to find recycling outlets here in Colorado. I’ve always been the kind of person to take it upon myself to make recycling happen, no matter where I was, so I started thinking about ways to make it more convenient here at home,” Johnson explained.
“I remember asking my roommates to help. I had a little Jeep and couldn’t fit that much into it and I got really frustrated after one particularly big party. I called a local trash hauler to ask about picking up our recycling and was told we’d have to haul it ourselves and they wouldn’t even take the glass items.” From there, Johnson decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I started knocking on doors in my neighborhood. I walked up and down the road I lived on and found most people were comfortable with about $15 a month for me to pick up their recycling for them. I found out pretty quickly there was a huge need for this and I was providing a service to go into peoples’ homes, garages and sheds to collect their recycling – making it very easy for them to recycle and stay green.”
Before she knew it, Johnson had a viable business in recycling. She quit her other job, bought a trailer for her Jeep and drove around picking up recycling all over town. “People were so happy that I was coming to their homes to get their recycling. I think I picked up over 50 customers in just a few days, and I was in business. And I never looked back.”
“People were so happy that I was coming to their homes to get their recycling. I think I picked up over 50 customers in just a few days, and I was in business. And I never looked back.”
It wasn’t long before her residential customers were asking for the same services in their businesses as well. “It just morphed from there,” Johnson explained. “In 2004 I bought out Green Mountain Recycling, as they were looking to get out right when we were looking to grow. We had the same accountant who connected the dots and I went for it and bought him out. I feel like I earned my MBA three times over when I purchased that company. It was the first time I had employees and a warehouse – it was just a huge undertaking.”
However, that undertaking was worth it, and Green Girl Recycling continues to drive all over the Front Range picking up the recycling and making environmentally-friendly, sustainable behavior an easy and achievable practice for everyone.
As Johnson recalled, “I took my kids on a field trip this last year to the Erie County land fill and I had 19 kids walking around on the trash. And they’re looking down and they’re looking at all the trash and all the gross and disgusting stuff that we’re walking on, and until you are standing on a pile of crap, you’ll always think it’s not my problem. Why should I think about it? Somebody else will fix it – but when those kids walked in it, they realized that this was where everything ends up. I think every child should have to walk in a landfill, because they’ll be more creative solutions to our issues, and if we look for solutions to our problems, we can avoid so many, bigger long-term issues and we have given our kids a much better life than we’ve had.”
JARED HÃGOOD, Lineage Seeds
There was a time when the word ‘organic’ was merely a buzz-word, with little meaning and lots of mystery behind it. Today, however, organic food is no longer just a trend, but is a regular part of the food industry, and the rising popularity in all-local, all-organic cuisine is helping to spark some truly exciting new businesses. Lineage Seeds is one of them and is the only locally-grown seed company on the Front Range, dedicated to bringing the art of seeds back to homes and farmers. Now, thanks to Lineage Seeds, you can create your own family seed bank, taking any mystery or guess-work out of where your food truly comes from, shining a light onto the seed farmers and creating a new demand for truly organic, completely locally-grown and locally-adapted heirloom seeds. Jared Hãgood, owner of Lineage Seeds, offers this quick look into his rapidly growing seed business.
“Lineage is a way to make seeds cool again – selling them in all kinds of places like juice shops and grocery stores and lifestyle stores.”
Yellow Scene: How did Lineage Seeds start?
Jared Hãgood: I’ve been an organic vegetable farmer for more than 10 years and I do lots of work with farms. I also have some private markets and restaurants and I’ve been involved in the Boulder/Denver food scene for about 10 years now. I started Lineage about a year and a half ago because I’m a seedsman. I transitioned from production to studying the work of seed which is a different branch of farming – so essentially Lineage was a way to update how people see seeds. People see them as this old thing that isn’t relevant any more, it’s not cool or modern – so Lineage is a way to make seeds cool again – selling them in all kinds of places like juice shops and grocery stores and lifestyle stores, and all that attention goes back into supporting local farmers. We don’t just buy from big wholesale markets like most companies who just buy seeds and repackage them. We don’t do that. All of our seeds are locally owned, regionally adapted and organically grown. It’s very legit.
YS: Why is it important to have local seeds?
JH: As it stands right now, seeds are not really in public domain – most seeds are owned by companies, and farmers buy their seeds from companies. For example, when you look at the farmers at the farmer’s market – they learned to farm by opening a catalog and ordering some seeds. Farmers don’t grow their own seed anymore. By teaching them to do so, Lineage empowers them in a local food system and we have our own regional seeds that have been locally grown and locally adapted to the climate – instead of importing from all over the country. Of course, it’s always a process to adapt and adaptation takes generations – but over time, we’re adapting seeds that will do better in our local climate.
YS: Why do you think Lineage is so popular?
JH: We’re kind of riding the tails of the organic food movement, which has been going on for years – locally grown and organic food is no longer just trendy – it’s a huge industry. It’s just normal to have organic food now, so the next level of that is the seed – where does the seed come from? We’re making it very digestible – in a clean, modern way – that reaches current culture to make seeds available.
YS: Where do you suggest a home gardener start?
JH: We recommend for beginners to start with the self-pollinators like tomatoes, beans and lettuce. That’s the simplest place to begin and are usually the first intro for people.
YS: Where can people get Lineage Seeds?
JH: We’re currently in seven stores in the Boulder area and we’ll be available online soon. We’ll also have a storefront in Boulder soon, but for now, you can find the full list of our locations on our website.
MARTI MATSCH, Eco-Cycle
As one of the largest non-profit recycling organizations in the country, Eco-Cycle has an international reputation as both a pioneer and an educator in the fields of sustainability and resource conservation. Established in 1976, Eco-Cycle runs several different programs from its home in Boulder County, including CHaRM (the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Products), and operates the Boulder County Recycling Center. Here, Eco-Cycle’s Deputy Director Marti Matsch offered a look into what Eco-Cycle does and how it continues to be at the forefront of sustainability throughout the United States.
Yellow Scene: Can you summarize what Eco-Cycle does?
Marti Matsch: Well, we do a lot here actually. We run the CHaRM, but we have also been operating the Boulder County Recycling Center for more than 40 years. In 1976, we brought recycling to town essentially with volunteers and school busses picking up materials at the curb and we created our own processing facility. We also have some great programs in K-12 schools – that’s a big part of what we do – and we have a composting program and a whole campaign program designed to help advocate for zero waste in terms of public outreach and in terms of changing public policy that favors zero waste. Also, we of course work with businesses to help them recycle and compost and we collect from them as well. And that’s really not everything, we do so much here.
YS: Why do you think Boulder is known for being such an environmentally-friendly city?
MM: I think there are a few reasons. First of all, Boulder has something in common with the more environmentally progressive communities in that it’s a university town and a lot of those towns tend to be environmentally aware and environmentally progressive. So, that is one underlying cultural aspect of it. But this community was one of the early innovators for things like recycling. So, when Eco-Cycle started its program in 1976, Boulder became one of the first 20 communities around the nation to have a curbside recycling program – I think that helped spur that kind of culture along and Boulder (and Boulder County) have continued in that vein of wanting to be a leader and an innovator environmentally ever since.
YS: What is the CHaRM exactly?
MM: The Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials started in 2001. When Eco-Cycle started in 1976, we used to work on a lot provided by the City of Boulder. When the Boulder County Recycling Center was built, we were able to move all of those operations indoors into a state of the art facility and that created an opportunity. We had this property where offices were still located, so it gave us the opportunity to look at what else are we throwing away besides the traditional recyclables (cans, newspaper, glass, etc.), and certainly one of the biggest issues was electronics. In 2001, there were no laws about throwing away electronics and it’s a very toxic component of our waste stream. Those electronics have toxic chemicals, heavy metals and valuable metals in there too, so those materials were being needlessly wasted. So we started the state’s first collection site for electronics. Now, the CHaRM has grown and we take textiles, plastic bags, we do block Styrofoam, we take yoga mats, bikes and bike tires and even small appliances.
YS: What resources does Eco-Cycle provide that the city may not realize?
MM: We have so much that we do. If you have a question, we’re happy to help and you can call our Recycling Hotline Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at (303) 444-6634 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, on our website is a handy tool that we use every day -in the upper right hand corner of the screen you’ll find an A-Z Recycling Guide, which is a comprehensive guide to everything recyclable in Boulder County and we update it daily. If you’re wondering whether it’s recyclable or compostable in Boulder County – you’ll find it on that guide.
SARAHDAWN HAYNES, CU’s Sustainability Practices Program
It’s no secret that Boulder is at the forefront of sustainability, recycling and eco-friendly practices. In fact, Boulder and Boulder County have been ranked among the greenest communities in the country, year after year. Of course, leading the way is the University of Colorado and its Sustainable Practices Program, which fosters sustainability in on-campus initiatives, research and academic programs that respond to the need for responsible engagement with the environment as a whole.
“We were founded in 1970 and since then, we have grown to have 14 full time staff, 130 paid student employees and around 300 volunteers in an academic year. It’s really so amazing,” offered Sarahdawn Haynes, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator at CU’s Sustainability Practices Program. It’s a world-renowned environmental program that has been at the forefront of the industry for more than 47 years. “We are definitely standing on the shoulders of people who fought really hard to set a precedence to help demonstrate the return on investment when it comes to green practices.” Thanks to decades of leadership from the student-run organization, there is a culture of learning, exploring and pioneering for different ways to support the community, the city and the world through sustainability. “There is this sense of entrepreneurship or eco-preneurship there on campus. It’s part of our culture.”
It’s the fact that this program is student-led that has really helped spark change and establish strong environmental behaviors all over the world. As Haynes explained, “We really pride ourselves on having been student-led, while there is myself and my colleagues, the students are really driving this ship. The young people often ask questions about certain practices or ideas and being around that kind of fortitude and determination is really inspiring.”
CU’s Sustainable Practices Program is the home of the first zero-waste college athletics program and college recycling program in the country. It’s also the first to receive a GOLD rating from the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (a nationwide system for ranking the sustainability of an organization), and was rated Sierra Magazine’s “Most Eco-Enlightened University” in 2009. As Haynes explained, “a lot of students choose to come here because it matches their values – they want to learn more about how to live a sustainable lifestyle. Then they are leaving and they have become culturally normed for having safe, convenient, rapid transit, safe and accessible bike paths and lanes that are well-maintained and prioritized. It’s kind of funny, but people tell me that when they leave and go back home – nationally or internationally – they are really missing these things. They want them and they’re starting them themselves. We’ve seen countless alumni who have started businesses or nonprofits, because they have that precedence here. They’ve seen how to do it and they know how to do it. And they have the fortitude and determination to actually do it at home too.”
Whether it’s through recycling programs, zero-waste initiatives or sports and athletics programs, there are myriad ways the University of Colorado’s Sustainable Practices Program is impacting the city, community and really the entire world. “Our mission is to foster and catalyze a culture of sustainability,” offered Haynes, “and when our students can connect the dots and work towards solutions to our problems – the campus, the city, nationally and globally – the world will be a lot more effective and a lot more powerful.”