The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about our daily lives, but it hasn’t altered the love we have for this planet. We’re still committed to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! The Alliance Center is working with a team of partners across the Denver metro region to create a week of celebrations. Once it became clear that it was no longer safe to hold in-person events, we quickly made the shift to virtual engagements. Our idea is to replace gatherings we initially planned with online resources and calls to action so people can remain involved and connected. We are calling this virtual week of engagement Denver Earth Week 2020: Inside Edition. 

Part of this digital transition includes launching a brandnew Climate Bridges podcast! The podcast will premiere on Earth Day, April 22. Our goal is to create an intergenerational bridge – to encourage conversations between leaders of all ages and to learn how civic and climate action can translate to real results during this time of social distancing and beyond. We’ll pair youth climate leaders with veteran climate activists to discuss what drives them, the challenges they face and how they think we can best solve our most pressing problems. The conversations will range from food security to the circular economy, from what we each can do in our own backyards to our global impact as citizens of this earth. Each podcast will end with a call to action – steps you can take after listening to celebrate Earth Day every day. Our first interview will feature Denis Hayes, the organizer of the first Earth Day, and Liliana Flanigan, a high school senior and youth climate activist from Grand Junction, Colorado.

Amid, and in spite of, present challenges please join us in celebrating Earth Week and the 50th Earth Day celebration! Share how you’re celebrating Earth Week with #DenverEarthWeek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! To learn more, check out Denver Earth Week 2020: Inside Edition to explore various ways you can celebrate our incredible planet.

Read about The Alliance Center’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, this is yet another communication to share how an organization is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. And we’ll get to that. But first, we want to say thank you. Thank you for being part of our community. The Alliance Center was founded on the belief in the power of collaboration through community. Even though we’re unable to be together physically, we believe this pandemic is showing the true power of community. How quickly we were able to come together to protect those who need it most, how easily people turned to their neighbors to see how they could help – these are the small acts of kindness show the strength in community.

The Alliance Center’s doors are closed to the public temporarily, but our community stands strong. As the hub of sustainability in Colorado, we aim for innovative solutions in all we do. We feel fortunate that our staff and many, if not all, of our tenants are able to continue their crucial work with the help of technology, and we are in the process (one started long before the current pandemic) of developing a communications center that will enhance our ability to adapt as the workplace of the future, reduce our CO2 emissions and increase our connectivity. Unfortunately, a situation like this might arise again in the future, and The Alliance Center will be ready.

Our community’s health and wellbeing is and always has been The Alliance Center’s utmost priority and concern. Here is what we are doing for our staff and wider Alliance Center community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let us know if we can do anything else to assist you during these unique times. We hope our collective responses to the COVID-19 threat allow it to pass quickly and we are able to welcome you back to The Alliance Center in person soon! In the mean time, please utilize these resources:

Census 2020: Online resources in place of our Counting on Resilience event

Earth Week 2020: Inside Edition

We’re adapting our week of Earth Day activities to include online resources and actions you can do from your home! You can celebrate daily from April 17 – 25 with documentaries, podcasts, articles, crafts and civic actions. Learn more!

Happy Women’s History Month! My name is Esperanza, and I recently joined the Alliance Center as the Programs and Communications Intern. I was born and raised in Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico. I graduated from Amherst College last year, where I studied Environmental studies and Latin American studies and became especially interested in environmental justice issues. After graduating, I worked abroad for a summer as a research assistant studying Peru’s forest conservation program. After that, I moved to Colorado to be close to family. I found The Alliance Center because of my interest in exploring an environmental career, and the organization’s holistic view of sustainability especially resonated with me.

Because March is dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements, I’d like to spend some time this month reflecting on the environmental accomplishments made by women around the world.

Climate change will affect all of us, but the poorest and most vulnerable people in our societies will experience especially acute consequences. On a global level, the majority of the world’s poor (70 percent) are women, and poor women continue to face unequal representation in climate-related decision-making processes (IUCN). Despite this, women everywhere are some of the most persevering and effective climate leaders in the world and in their communities.

Today, I would like to honor the work of five incredible women environmentalists and climate leaders who inspire me to believe in and fight for an equitable and sustainable future:   

1.  Wangari Maathai (1940- 2011)

“We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!”

Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts in establishing The  Green Belt Movement in Kenya. The Green Belt Movement began in 1977 as a way to improve rural Kenyan women’s livelihoods, while simultaneously combating environmental degradation, deforestation and food in security. The idea for the movement started off simply – engage women in tree planting – but evolved into a powerful, multi-pronged approach to address issues of equity, democracy and government accountability.

Wangari Maathai’s legacy lives on today as The Green Belt Movement continues to plant trees and work on issues related to climate change, advocacy and gender livelihood issues.

2. Terri Swearingen (born 1956)

“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.”

Terri Swearingen, a nurse, led her community and the United States to take action against toxic waste incinerators. When Waste Technology Industries began attempting to construct a waste incinerator in her hometown of Chester, West Virginia, Swearingen became extremely concerned about the health effects this construction would have on her family and community. By 1991 she organized over a thousand residents to protest the construction of the incinerator in West Virginia and went on a nationwide-tour protesting similar constructions around the country. She was arrested in front of the White House for a demonstration in 1992. The day after her arrest, the Clinton administration announced the decision to improve the EPA’s regulations overseeing hazardous waste incinerators, which is what Swearingen had proposed a year earlier. She was awarded the 1997 Goldman Environmental Prize for her achievements as a grassroots environmental hero.

3. Liz Chicaje Churay (born 1982)

“We, the indigenous peoples, are the guardians of Yaguas.” 

Liz Chicaje Churay, an indigenous woman belonging to the Bora community of Pucaurquillo in Peru’s Loreto region, was awarded the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights in 2018 for her contributions to the creation of the Yaguas National Park. Covering over 2 million acres of tropical rainforest, this national park is an amazing global conservation achievement that also uniquely includes a Communal Reserve and acknowledges native peoples. The year before that, in 2017, Liz Chicaje Churay was invited to represent her region’s Federation of Native Communities in the COP 23 in Bonn Germany. In the summer of 2019, I had the immense privilege of visiting her home in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest and listening to her first-hand discuss the critical importance of meaningfully including indigenous peoples’ in conservation and global climate change efforts. Her humility, passion and dedication to the future of her community and our planet inspires me every day.

4.  Ridhima Pandey (born 2008)

“I want a better future. I want to save my future. I want to save our future.

I want to save the future of all the children and all people of future generations.”

Ridhima Pandey is a 12-year-old climate activist from Haridwar, India who, alongside Greta Thunberg and 14 other youth activists, filed a petition to protest the lack of international government action on climate change. In addition to being passionate about pushing governments around the world to take meaningful action on the climate crisis, she is also passionate about speaking out against the pervasive use of plastics. Young, outspoken leaders like Ridhima Pnadey, give me immense hope in our future.

5. Kimberly Wasserman- (born 1977)

“My community is my family. They are my boss, my co-worker, my inspiration, my drive, my fight, and I will do my damnedest for them.”

Kimberly Wasserman was the recipient for the 2013 Goldman Prize for her successful leadership in closing two of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in the United States. Born and raised in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, this Chicana joined Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) after her 3-month-year-old baby suffered an asthma attack. The doctors told her it was related to environmental pollution, which made her determined to stand up for her community’s health. After 12 years of ongoing negotiations with the local government, the coal power plants finally closed in 2012. After this closure, LVEJO and other partner organizations created the Community Benefits Agreements, which prohibits the fossil fuel industry from operating on the newly closed property and ensures residents have a say in how the property develops in the future. Today, Wasserman continues her leadership by training young people in her community to transform old industrial areas in Little Village into public, recreational spaces.

These five incredible women, geographically spanning the globe and coming from very different cultures and backgrounds, all share a common vision: a more equitable and sustainable future. They inspire me this month, and every month, to continue fighting for a world I know is possible. Once again, Happy Women’s History Month!

How Will the 2020 Census Affect Coloradans’ Ability to Adapt to Climate Change?

Data collected by the census determines congressional representation and funding for the most vital needs of each state. Population undercounting can reduce community members’ resilience in the face of climate change. The census is the federally mandated count of our country’s entire population every ten years. The results of the census provide the demographic information the federal government uses to allocate congressional seats, electoral votes and trillions of dollars in funding.

The goal of the census has always been to ensure all Americans receive their fair share of resources especially in funding and governmental representation. However, the census has not escaped the history of racism and the disenfranchisement of minorities in our country. For example, during the 1790 census slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person. Native Americans were not counted at all until 1870.  A mix of grassroots activism, legal battles and general public and institutional awareness have shaped the content and process of the census. It wasn’t until the 1960s, thanks to the civil rights movement, that the census finally became specially focused on including all people rather than excluding them.

People have not only fought for the right to be counted but also for the right to keep the census data honest and confidential. That confidentiality is not only granted by federal laws, like the Privacy Act of 1974 and Title 13 of the United States Code, but also the Supreme Court repeatedly ruling against letting any entity federal or otherwise to access private census data. So what is public? Only statistics generated by the census that include consolidated data without any identifiable individual data are open information. For example, individual addresses cannot be disclosed,not even through civil discovery or request  under the Freedom of Information Act.

Furthermore, under no circumstances is census information ever shared with immigration enforcement or law enforcement agencies. This information is never used to determine eligibility for government benefits.

What Does All This Have to do With Climate Change? 

Climate models project that natural disasters, including drought, flooding and wildfires will increase in intensity and frequency across Colorado. Data gathered during the census is crucial for evacuation planning, emergency preparedness and disaster response.

Evacuation plans depend on knowing the number of people that will need to safely access evacuation routes. This is especially true for children, seniors and people with disabilities. Emergency preparedness takes place long before a natural disaster hits. The long-lasting decision to establish fire departments and hospitals in a specific area depends on the size of the population they will serve. Census data also determines the number of emergency responders, shelters and response centers that will need to be set up during an emergency. During the recovery and rebuilding phase following a natural disaster, census data helps determine the amount of money needed to cover those efforts.

All of this preparation will require one very important thing:funding. Statistics from the 2020 census will provide baseline numbers not only for funding of federal disaster relief, but also preparation, rescue coordination and even locations for new fire stations. 

Conclusion 

An accurate census provides the data required to provide Congress leaders the vision and capability to instill proper political action in the face of the climate crisis.  Throughout history, people have fought hard for the right to be counted. In fighting for that right, our antecedents also made sure that filling out the census was safe for all. Our privacy is guaranteed to ensure participating in the census is a protected civic duty for all those living in the United States.

Interested in diving deeper into the census and help ensure everyone is counted? Join us for Counting on Resilience with the 2020 Census on Thursday, March 26 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. At this event, you’ll hear from experts about their experiences and challenges in regards to the census. We will review and deconstruct the census’ language, explore available resources and point out cultural barriers posed on historically undercounted populations.

Discover how YOU, as individuals or an organization, can overcome the unintentional biases and be part of the effort to count everyone! Buy tickets today at thealliancecenter.org/2020census. 

Sources:

www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/10/key-player-in-disaster-response-the-us-census-bureau.html

www.census.gov/history/pdf/ConfidentialityMonograph.pdf

In 2019 we celebrated The Alliance Center’s 15th anniversary, and now we’re excited to launch our 2020-2022 strategic plan. We have 10 years to drastically change the trajectory of the climate crisis, and this ambitious plan puts the Alliance on track to lead this shift in Colorado. 

In early 2019, The Alliance Center embarked on the strategic planning process. As we began to lay out our vision for the next three years, we started with a marketplace analysis to review and learn from the work of our peers. From there, we looked introspectively at our work through a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. We gathered input from staff, Board, tenants, community members and partners on our existing work and our impact over the last 15 years. 

Building on our strengths as leaders in high-performance building innovation and connectors and empowerers of change agents, we developed a three-year strategic plan to guide us through 2022. The plan continues our trajectory of demonstrating sustainability in the built environment, grows our capacity to mobilize change agents and drives our ability to accelerate solutions. 

We are excited to continue harnessing the power of business as a force for good through our Best for Colorado program, and we are excited to engage leaders from across sectors in our democratic systems through our Climate+ Democracy program. We continue to operate our building at the highest levels of performance, and we’re ready to move the needle in building technology through partnerships and our Living Lab program. Supporting all these programs is our new academic partnership initiative that will build an employment pipeline into sustainability careers that will provide valuable skills and experience to young professionals, diversify the sustainability movement and increase The Alliance Center’s capacity to implement effective programs.

Check out the two-page version of the strategic plan below. The comprehensive plan can be downloaded here. We have big plans for the next three years, and we are ready to launch into our next era of impact. Thank you for being a member of our community and joining us on this journey!

This year, I’m focusing my resolutions on how I, as an individual, can continue to act in the face of climate change. We have 10 years to drastically change our trajectory in regards to the climate crisis. As Greta Thunberg says, “No one is too small to make a difference.”

Resolution #1: Switch My Bank

I’ve banked with the same big-name bank since I was 14 and never batted an eye at the thought. The fossil fuel divestment movement has increased over the last few years, but only recently did I realize my personal bank account was a contributor to the climate crisis.

Fossil fuel divestment encourages people to remove investments from large institutions and organizations that support the fossil fuel industry. The mentality is that if large amounts of people move money from establishments such as banks, universities and retirement funds who support this industry, collectively we can decrease carbon emissions and reduce fossil fuel usage. The alternative is investing assets in values-aligned institutions who support more sustainable practices.

Switching banks has been on my mind. After hearing Greta Thunberg and Thomas Lopez at the Denver Climate March encourage divesting and seeing The Alliance Center better align its finances with its values, I know it’s now my turn to move my account to Amalgamated, one of our amazing tenants.

Resolution #2: Ongoing Battle with Plastic

The effort to reduce the plastic in my life is ongoing (and exhausting). With the new year I’m going to renew my plastic avoidance efforts. My goal is to replace one plastic item in my life each month with a more sustainable option to prevent enviro-burn out. The plan for 2020 is to switch from the following:

  • Plastic floss to silk alternative in a glass container – January
  • Toothpaste tubes to powder or paste in a glass jar – February
  • Plastic hairbands to compostable options – March

In March I will plan out the next few non-plastic swaps for the following months. Luckily, we have many Best for Colorado businesses, like EarthHero, who make finding sustainable alternatives easy!

Resolution #3: Explore more sustainable food options

My New Year’s resolution is not committing to one particular diet, but to incorporate sustainable eating habits that fit within my lifestyle. I’ll participate in GroundworkDenver’s CSA, because The Alliance Center is a drop off location. I will supplement this with weekly trips to the farmers markets throughout Denver this summer and fall.

I will reduce the amount of meat in my diet. There are many vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and ecovores at The Alliance Center. Such a community makes it drastically easier to reduce the amount of meat in my diet since cooking suggestions, ideas and encouragement circulate constantly. 

While New Year’s resolutions tend to be short lived, sustainability is an ongoing journey we all can take part in throughout 2020. It is critical we each reduce our environmental impact, especially in this new decade. According to the UN International Panel on Climate Change, we have 10 years to cut global emissions in half to prevent 2° Celsius temperature increases. While no one person can do this, collectively we can and will make an impact. Together, we are greater.

Written by Shay Hlavaty, Communications Specialist at The Alliance Center

Four years ago, the Hard to Recycle station began as a single bin under a desk. Today, the Hard to Recycle station lives on the first floor of The Alliance and we are proud to say that we collected over 200,000 items! It is our honor to announce the launch of our latest Hard to Recycle station! Equipped with new signage and sponsors, we invite everyone to utilize this community resource!

“Back in 2016, our family would generate about two bags of trash for the landfill every week…We committed to cutting that landfill waste in half by utilizing The Alliance Center’s hard to recycle station. By 2018, our family reduced our landfill trash to one full trash bag a month, beating our goal by 175 percent.” Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Senior Attorney, Public Lands, Center for Biological Diversity

Since it’s beginning, the Hard to Recycle station has been about diverting waste. When the station began, we collected minimal items, such as personal care and beauty products as well as foil lined wrappers. Two years later, The Alliance Center launched a pilot program in the basement. By the fall of that year, The Alliance Center fully backed the Hard to Recycle station, we increase our recycling streams and installed a permanent location! 

What’s the point of the station?

The Hard to Recycle station exists to divert waste from the landfill. In the United States alone, 1.4 billion pounds of trash are created daily. By offering this resource, our community can properly dispose of waste that is not accepted by traditional recycling methods.

What does the Hard to Recycle station collect?

Batteries, light bulbs, writing utensils, ink cartridges, e-waste, plastic bags and liners, pet food and treat bags, foil lined bags and wrappers, hygiene and beauty products, baby food pouches, cleaning products and water filters. Have suggestions as to what else we should collect? Email hardtorecycle@thealliancecenter.org.

How does it work?

After collection, our staff gets to work sorting items. Once the items are sorted and boxed, they are shipped via UPS to Terracycle. BlueStar Recyclers picks up the e-waste. We are constantly tracking our progress.

Who can use the Hard to Recycle station? 

The Hard to Recycle station is a community resource! Tenant, staff, neighbors and local community members bring in collectables. Our goal is to divert waste from the landfill, so the more involved the better! We welcome your trash and are proud to offer this resource.

How can I get involved?

Contribute and educate! Spread the word! Tell others about the Hard to Recycle station and stay up-to-date on items we do and do not accept. Visit thealliancecenter.org/impactdashboard/living-laboratory/hardtorecycle/ to learn more. Reach out to hardtorecycle@thealliancecenter.org.A special thanks to your sponsors, BlueStar Recycles and Recycle Across America.

Lauren, Program Intern at The Alliance Center, enjoying a plastic free lunch.

Written by Matthew Katz, The Alliance Center Programs Intern

The Alliance Center is pleased to partner with Girls Inc., an organization that explores and promotes the vitality of young women across the United States and Canada. Girls Inc. offers research-based programming, mentoring relationships and a pro-girl environment that allows participants to navigate gender, economic and social barriers.

The Alliance Center is lucky to welcome two dedicated high school students, Moudji and Shannon, to our team! Moudji, a sophomore from Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy, is an active member in performing arts and has a passion for creative dance. Moudji hopes to enhance her skills and knowledge in crime scene investigation sciences. Shannon, a sophomore from Lakewood High School, is a passionate piano player and singer. She hopes to turn this hobby into a full career in the music industry.

Both girls are conducting research for The Alliance Center’s exciting new project – our Climate+ Equity Toolkit. This toolkit is a top-down overview of the effects of climate change throughout Colorado at the county level. Moudji and Shannon are offering incredible assistance as they sort through data to evaluate how climate change will affect Colorado’s food and agricultural industries. Their goal is to map relationships between the effects of climate change against societal indicators and opportunities. The Alliance Center is extremely grateful to Moudji and Shannon and we can’t wait to share the final product with our community!

Whose voice do YOU want to hear on the train at DIA?

In many ways, Denver is a thriving city. US News and World Report lists Denver as the #3 Best Place to Live in the US. Our unemployment rate sits at 2.6 percent, which is 1.8 percent lower than the national average. We were recently announced as one of the winners of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge for our work to fight climate change at the local level.

However, Denver is dealing with some pretty significant challenges. For one thing, our air quality is terrible. The harsh reality for many Front Range residents is that Colorado not only flunked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard set in 2015, but the state never met the older, less-strict standard from 2008. Our growing population, and the cars that come with it, are making it harder and harder to meet the EPA standards. Poor air quality affects not only people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, but also children, whose lungs are still developing. Our poor air quality is just one of a variety of challenges that the next mayor will face in their position.

Local elections often get a lot less attention than those at the national level, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less important. Denver’s upcoming mayoral election will determine much more than whose voice plays on the airport train; it will determine how our city tackles issues such as climate change, air pollution and affordable housing.

How This Vote Works

Ok, now that we have laid out why to vote, we can discuss how to vote in the upcoming mayoral election. Denver is holding its general election for mayor on May 7, 2019. In Denver, all candidates are listed on the same ballot. In the event that a candidate does not receive over 50 percent of the votes, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election scheduled for June 4.

Voting in the general election is relatively simple. There are two ways to vote: 1) vote by mail – ballots will be mailed on April 15, or 2) vote in person at a voting center starting April 29.

Here are a list of important dates to keep in mind:

  • April 15: Ballots begin mailing to active voters
  • April 15: 22-day residency deadline
  • April 15: Drop-boxes open across the City
  • April 29: Vote Centers open
  • May 7: Election Day
    • Voting centers open 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
    • Ballots must be received by 7pm
  • June 4: Run-Off Election (if necessary)
    • Voting centers open 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
    • Ballots must be received by 7 p.m.

Here at The Alliance Center, we are deeply invested in the future of Denver. We believe that local government can be a powerful force in the fight against climate change and in creating an equitable and responsible economy. As a lead-up to the 2019 mayoral election, we are hosting a Mayoral Candidate Forum at The Alliance Center on March 21. Confirmed candidates include Michael Hancock, Lisa Calderón, Marcus Giavanni, Jamie Giellis, Ken Simpson and Penfield Tate. Our forum will focus specifically on sustainability-related issues, such as transportation, climate change, pollution and affordable housing. The event is already sold-out, but there are a limited number of scholarship tickets available, and we will be livestreaming the event. Click here to learn more.

Please get out and vote in the election on May 7. Our future is in our hands, and voting is one of the best ways to make your voice heard.