Interview with Curt Baker, Communications Manager for Denver Streets Partnership.

What does your organization do and how long have you been around?

We’re a coalition of community organizations advocating for people-friendly streets in Denver. Been at it since 2016.

What specific programs, practices, or priorities is your organization most focused on right now on? How have these evolved over time? 

Since our inception, we’ve been focused on affecting the policies that inform our transportation system: advocating for the dollars to build out complete citywide bike, pedestrian and bus networks; actively participating in advisory groups for citywide plans and major projects to ensure people are prioritized and the community is meaningfully engaged; and working to elevate and empower the voices of those that know their neighborhoods best: residents.

Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve focused on a few specific campaigns to support residents during the pandemic. We advocated for shared and open streets to provide Denverites outdoor space to recreate and exercise safely, successfully reclaiming nearly 15 miles of street space for people walking, biking, and rolling. We’ve also supported dozens of businesses with outdoor seating expansion permits and furniture, focusing on minority-owned businesses that often do not have access to resources, allowing many of them to continue supporting families and the local community.

In what ways does being part of The Alliance Center community help you achieve your mission? 

We welcome organizations that support our mission and vision to consider joining our coalition.

Our mission is: To reclaim Denver’s streets for people walking, rolling, biking, and using transit, and to build safe, healthy and equitable communities.

Our vision is that: On people-friendly streets, walking, rolling, biking, and transit are the first choices of transportation for all people. Streets for people are living, public spaces that connect us to jobs, schools, services and each other and are designed to foster health, happiness, and opportunity for all.

What is something you bring to The Alliance Center that no one else does?

Our work is intimately tied to the Alliance Center’s vision of the world, one where organizations oriented around community, sustainability and collaboration work together towards common goals. Our organization brings together voices that transcend industries and standard transportation issues, bringing together a coalition of partners that represents Denverites with a uniquely-comprehensive voice. Our coalition provides unparalleled, comprehensive expertise and perspective to inform the conversations to reduce our city’s dependence on cars and design communities that prioritize people. We can all agree: safer and better transportation options benefit everyone. Organizations interested in joining our coalition can visit our website.

 

I don’t vote. After living in, working in and contributing to this country, including paying taxes, for 15 years, I still do not have the right to vote. Voting, as it turns out, is not just the responsibility of American citizens, it is also their privilege. Together with other millions of immigrants, most of whom just like me have contributed to this country for many years, I do not have that privilege to choose the people who represent me.

That is not to say I don’t have a voice. I do not have the power of my vote; yet I have power in other ways. I have the power to educate myself about politics, speak up at town hall meetings, help educate others, donate my money to the candidates who I feel deserve it and call and send letters to my city’s representatives. I can also volunteer with political campaigns by calling voters or canvassing. Additionally, I can ensure other people who are eligible register to vote. Yes, there are so many ways to contribute, and yet, the most consequential of all is the actual act of voting.

One day I will have the honor to once and for all become an American citizen. Until that day comes, I will continue to make my voice heard in any way I can.

If you are lucky enough to be able to vote, do so. Vote for yourself and do it for those who can’t because of immigration status, age or any other personal situation outside their control. Do it because it is the right thing to do and because you have the power to do so. Do it because it is a privilege. Do it because it is such a simple and beautiful thing to do for this state and nation we call home.

Written by Isabel Mendoza, Alliance Center Programs Manager

We have been through a lot this year. Spring saw an unprecedented spike in unemployment due to the coronavirus, summer witnessed the largest racial awakening in a generation and this fall will host a presidential election. 

With so much happening, our attention has been divided, and many of us have been focusing on what the future will look like. This November, Coloradans will be asked to vote for the president, a senator, congressional representatives, state senators and state representatives, all of whom will be instrumental in shaping the policy of the future. 

But Coloradans also get to vote on 11 state ballot measures that will shape ecosystem health, paid medical and family leave, how their communities are funded, who gets to vote, abortion, the future of the electoral college and how the state combats the vaping epidemic.

Below are descriptions of some of those ballot measures and The Alliance Center’s stances on them to serve as a tool to help you navigate this year’s election.

The last day to register to vote and still receive a ballot in the mail in Colorado is October 26, and election day is November 3. Register to vote and manage your registration here. 

 

The Alliance Center Stances on 2020 Ballot Initiatives

Denver Residents:

Denver Climate Action Sales Tax Increase – the Alliance recommends a YES vote.

The Denver Climate Action Sales Tax increases sales tax in Denver by 0.25 percent to fund the city’s Climate Action Task Force. 

By voting yes, you would be supporting the funding of projects that make Denver’s homes, buildings and streets more energy efficient. One of these proposals would retrofit buildings to emit fewer greenhouse gases and incentivize clean energy sources like solar panels. This would also fund the transition of car-first roads to multimodal streets that prioritize a carbon-free fleet of buses, bikes, electric cars, and electric bikes. The sales tax would not be imposed on essential products that are already subject to a lower tax rate. 

We think that Denver residents should support this sales tax because it prioritizes and funds projects that will be dedicated to the community with “a strong lens toward equity, race, and social justice,” which is directly in line with The Alliance Center’s vision. With its job creation clause, the measure will also build local workforces by training and creating new careers for under-resourced individuals in renewable and clean energy technology and natural resources management, which aligns directly with the objectives of our Sustainability Skills Initiative. Similar ideas were discussed at the Alliance Center’s Emergence Series this summer and would position Denver favorably to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and fight global warming equitably. 

Read the full bill here

 

All Colorado Residents:

Colorado Proposition 114, Reintroduction and Management of Gray Wolves – the Alliance recommends a YES vote.

Proposition 114 creates a commission tasked with planning and implementing the reintroduction of gray wolves to Colorado. 

Gray wolves have been absent from Colorado since the 1940s and were classified as a federally endangered species in 1978. In 1996, gray wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park with great success. This measure would ensure that the reintroduction does not negatively impact the ecosystem by requiring the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to plan the reintroduction with public input, transparency, and compensation methods for lost livestock. 

We recommend you vote yes since apex predators are essential to the health of ecosystems. Gray wolves’ reintroduction would be a win for conservation and ecosystem health in Colorado.  

Read more

Colorado Amendment B, Repeal Gallagher Amendment – the Alliance recommends a YES vote.

Amendment B will repeal the Gallagher Amendment that requires a residential to non-residential property tax ratio through altering property tax assessment rates. 

Voting yes to repeal the Gallagher Amendment would freeze residential tax assessment rates at 7.15 percent, and any future change to this would require voter approval. Since its passage in 1982, the Gallagher Amendment has lowered the residential assessment rates from 21 percent, which has left rural communities with a shrinking tax base and unfunded essential services. Amendment B has bipartisan approval in the state legislature. 

We think you should vote for the Gallagher Amendment’s repeal because it would empower rural Coloradan communities by making it easier for them to fund their essential services. When essential services are cut, our least fortunate neighbors are always impacted first. Ensuring equity in our communities is critical to Colorado’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and future growth. 

Read more

Colorado Proposition 118, Paid Medical and Family Leave Insurance Program – the Alliance recommends a YES vote.

Proposition 118 establishes a paid medical and family leave program to provide 12-16 weeks of paid leave.

By voting yes, you support creating the paid medical and family leave program for employees who are pregnant, facing a serious health condition, or need leave related to a family member’s military deployment. You are also supporting a job protection clause that prohibits retaliation against an employee who takes paid family or medical leave. The funding for this program comes from a premium split by employers and employees, and there are provisions for employers with fewer than ten employees and local governments to opt-out of the program. 

We think you should support this measure because it will reduce barriers for employees and increase retention of minority employees, who are disproportionately dealt  the burden of choosing between paying bills and taking care of their health. 

Read more

Colorado Amendment 76 – Citizenship Qualification of Voters – the Alliance recommends a NO vote.

Amendment 76 changes the wording of Colorado’s constitution to read “only a citizen” of the United States can vote. 

By voting no, you oppose the change in language, which is currently “every citizen” of the United States can vote. Federal and state law already requires citizenship to register to vote but allow local municipalities to enfranchise non-citizens to vote on local measures. There are currently no municipalities in Colorado that grant such privileges. 

We think you should vote against this amendment because it serves as a disenfranchisement tool and aims to solve a problem that does not exist. It would discourage voting from anyone who is an immigrant or has an undocumented family member. In doing so, it disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities as an intimidation tactic. At The Alliance Center, we believe citizens that are fully engaged with democracy are necessary for a sustainable and equitable future.

Read more

Colorado Proposition 117, Require Voter Approval of Certain New Enterprises – the Alliance recommends a NO vote.

Proposition 117 adds a voter approval requirement for new enterprises that will make more than $100 million in five years. 

By voting no, you are supporting the state legislature’s ability to create and secure new enterprises. Enterprises are government-owned businesses that provide a service for a fee or surcharge paid by the service recipient, in contrast to an agency that receives funding from tax revenue. Recent enterprises include the Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise that expanded financial support to individuals and hospitals facing uncompensated care. You can find a list of current state enterprises here

We think you should vote against this new regulation because it is an expansion of TABOR and ultimately hurts our state’s economy. Enterprises are a sound method of revenue generation for the state, and funding from sources like these will likely be essential to realizing the Regenerative Recovery Coalition’s goals. Opposing this measure would reduce the friction the coalition faces in leading Colorado’s equitable recovery.  

Read more

Colorado Proposition 115, Prohibit Abortions After 22 Weeks – the Alliance recommends a NO vote.

Proposition 115 establishes an abortion ban at 22 weeks of pregnancy. Currently, Colorado has no limit on abortion based on the duration of the pregnancy. 

By voting against proposition 115, you do not support a change in Colorado’s abortion laws that would ban abortion after 22 weeks. The proposal does provide for physicians to perform an abortion after 22 weeks if it is immediately necessary to save the mother’s life. The measure imposes a fine for performing an abortion on physicians and suspends their license for three years.

The Alliance Center aligns our work with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We take this position against proposition 115 since abortion rights are a fundamental part of gender equity, women’s’ rights and reducing inequalities. This proposition would disproportionately affect low-income communities, who are additionally the most adversely affected by the effects of climate change. At The Alliance Center, we seek to honor women and their right to make decisions related to their own bodies and families.

Read more

Colorado Proposition 116, State Income Rate Reduction – the Alliance recommends a NO vote.

Proposition 116 decreases state income tax from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent. 

By voting no, you will be maintaining the current income tax rate of 4.63 percent. The coronavirus pandemic has already created a multi-billion dollar deficit for the state, and losing revenue from income tax would hurt the state’s ability to fund essential services like K-12 education.  

We think you should vote no because this would further increase the state’s deficit and make it more challenging for Colorado to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The Alliance Center is leading Colorado’s recovery through the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. To realize the full potential of Colorado’s equitable recovery, the state cannot afford to lose any more funding. 

Read more

Click here for more information about all ballot measures this November. 

These stances were voted on by the Board of Directors of The Alliance Center, and this article was written by Kavitya Sarma, Programs Intern.

Interview with Kat Riley, AmeriCorps program coordinator for the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.

What does your organization do and how long have you been around? 

The Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) was established in 1989. We support the many types of educators who teach concepts we all need to understand: how natural systems work, what we must do to interact responsibly with the environment, and how we can protect natural resources for future generations. We are the largest network of environmental educators in Colorado, serving over 800,000 learners. Collectively, we inspire educators, schools, and communities to impact conservation, education, social justice, health and wellness, and positive youth development.

What specific programs, practices, or priorities is your organization most focused on right now?

We’re most focused on how to best support and uplift the field of environmental education through times of COVID-19 transmission. More than ever, environmental education (EE) is so important as it helps to lower disease transmission by offering open, outdoor learning spaces for school-aged children. EE is also changing the way we learn by not only teaching individuals about their natural environment, but by developing lifelong skills in critical thinking, sense of belonging, ownership, and justice which leads to responsible action, and creating long-term behavioral change through increased awareness. 

To help guide the future of environmental education in Colorado, CAEE partnered with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) to convene over 65 community feedback calls with hundreds of environmental and outdoors learning providers from across the country. This resulted in the formation of the eeGuidance for Reopening Schools, which outlines several specific areas where environmental and outdoor education programs can help schools, students, teachers, and families.

We’re also currently working on other projects, such as the Careers in Natural Resources Initiative and the Environmental Education Corps (eeCorps) AmeriCorps Program. The Careers in Natural Resources Initiative provides young adults with stepping stones towards pursuing a career in natural resources, and the AmeriCorps Program places AmeriCorps members with EE host sites across the state to meet the goals of the Colorado Environmental Education Plan. 

In what ways could The Alliance Center community help you achieve your mission? 

We will be offering professional development and learning opportunities to our AmeriCorps members, so it would be great to have them learn about the work that The Alliance Center tenants are doing. If there’s ways for them to get involved, especially as part of their mandatory Days of Service, let us know! If any organizations have existing committees that our AmeriCorps members can participate in, this would work towards their training hours commitment and provide them with professional development surrounding leadership and advising. 

We also want to extend a hand in case we can assist any of you with your education efforts. We can offer technical assistance and training in education best practices. We currently have 850 members across Colorado; if you’re looking for a particular partner to help with educational development, we can make those connections for you. We chose The Alliance Center over other working spaces because it’s a major part of our mission to connect with others and create partnerships.

What is your proudest achievement as an organization?

The formation of the Colorado Environmental Education Plan (CEEP), which was adopted in December 2012 by the State Board of Education in partnership between CAEE, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and the Colorado Department of Education. It was designed to promote, coordinate, and sustain standards-based environmental education across the state. The CEEP is also the basis for our AmeriCorps Program.

 

Are you a tenant of the Alliance Center and would  like to be featured in an upcoming Tenant Spotlight? Fill out this form! 

This is an exciting time for Healthier Colorado as we announce that we have officially broken ground on the Colorado Health Capitol. This new space will serve as a collaborative environment for non-profit organizations invested in improving the mental, physical, social, economic, and environmental health of all Coloradans. Among these organizations includes The Bell Policy Center, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI), and One Colorado, with whom we are thrilled to embark on this journey.

The Alliance Center has been an incredible home for Healthier Colorado over these last six years. Together, we’ve transformed into one of Colorado’s leading health policy organizations and have founded Healthy Air and Water Colorado to help bring health professionals into the climate conversation. We are now taking the next step to formalize a home for other organizations championing health policy through the state. The Colorado Health Capitol will be a space that meets the challenge of our current and likely future reality, shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, in which non-profits need high quality, flexible space, and the ability to collaborate and operate efficiently to meet their goals.

Located in the heart of Uptown at the intersection of 17th and Grant, the Health Capitol will occupy 26,000 square feet and provide state-of-the-art amenities including a conference and event center, full-time community manager, a large shared kitchen, on-site cafe, fitness center, parking garage access, five private conference rooms, three phone booths, a media production room, as well as a maternity and meditation space.

While the physical element of this project is certainly exciting, what it represents for Colorado’s growing health movement is far more significant. To drive a cohesive health movement, advocates of mental, physical, social, economic, and environmental health must first recognize our shared purpose in the same way a person passionate about conservation efforts recognize each other as “environmentalists.” This is the vision we cultivate at Healthier Colorado, and the establishment of the Colorado Health Capitol is a physical manifestation of that vision. Our hope is that as these organizations come together under one roof, each respective element of health we fight for will coalesce for the benefit of all Coloradans.

The new space is designed to accommodate Coloradans who share our vision. Our Community Access Program will allow mission-aligned organizations and individuals to use Health Capitol amenities at no cost. The same access will be provided to individuals and under-resourced organizations within Denver who have temporary needs. Together, we will use the public policy process to engage with the full range of health issues and continue raising the voices and serving the interest of regular people.

As the new home to great non-profit organizations working together to uplift the well-being of Coloradans, The Colorado Health Capitol will elevate each organization’s mission as well, bringing attention, collaboration, and shared resources to the great work we all do. As Mayor Hancock said, working together under one roof will bring these organizations closer, forging a connection and promoting the growth of a cohesive health movement in Colorado. Colorado’s Health Capitol exists to address health issues that affect us all regardless of age, ethnicity, political affiliation or economic opportunity. The perspectives within will reflect the diversity of our state and represent the interests and needs of every Coloradan.

 

Written by Kyle Piccola, Healthier Colorado’s Senior Director of Communications.

What does your organization do? 

Recycle Colorado is an action-oriented and member-driven organization that works on state and local policy, projects that are related to state infrastructure and business end markets for material recovery, reuse and manufacturing, and advancing all that is recycling.

What is your organization most focused on right now on? 

We are most focused on building circular economies in the Rocky Mountain region through end market research and development, promoting recycling through education, awareness and engagement campaigns, and policy, and being Colorado’s central spot for everyone – individuals to businesses to government entities – to collaborate and thrive. Our organization is an action-oriented and member-driven staple in Colorado that’s progressive and supports the ever changing landscape of the recycling industry.

In what ways could this community help you achieve your mission?

We are thrilled with The Alliance Center community and value everyone’s support. Partnership and tangible initiatives are what inspires us and recycling and business is something that unites us – we welcome collaboration at all levels. Please reach out at kristin@recyclecolorado.org!

What is unique about your organization that you could offer to the community? 

We are THE recycling organization in Colorado. Our Executive Director focuses on inclusivity, so she has a wealth of resources, strategic partnership opportunities, and expert guidance and education. There isn’t another nonprofit like Recycle Colorado here, that can seamlessly move within the unique realm of recycling.

What is your proudest achievement as an organization?

Most recently, supporting the passage of SB20-055 (Incentivize Development Recycling End Markets) – complete with a live stream of the Governor signing it! This was one of the few bills passed in 2020 and was concerning the expansion of market mechanisms for the further development of recycling. Gov. Polis and the First Gentleman will be making a cameo at our annual conference, too: Summit for Recycling – Building a Circular Economy in the Rockies.

 

Written by Kristin Kim Haynes, Executive Director of Recycle Colorado

 

Are you a tenant of the Alliance Center and would  like to be featured in an upcoming Tenant Spotlight? Fill out this form! 

This blog post was written by JennaLee and Devani, who interned with The Alliance Center this summer through the Girls Inc. Eureka! program. The Alliance Center recently hosted the Colorado Emergence Series to develop solutions to some of the biggest issues in Colorado, and the interns conducted interviews with Fatuma Emmad, a series participant, and Hunter Lovins, who helped lead the series. To implement the series’ proposed solutions, The Alliance Center is leading the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. Learn more and find out how you can be part of the solution here

On the farm with Fatuma Emmad

With many world issues such as human rights violations, racism and sexism, local leader Fatuma Ammad, co-founder of Front Line Farming, takes on farming as a path to building a better Colorado. 

Front Line Farming is a community that runs a multi-plot farm and is committed to growing and providing healthy food and food education to all people no matter their income level. Fatuma is always pushing for change and bringing attention to farmers and food security. Front Line Farming is currently based in the Denver metro area, but they’re always looking for opportunities to expand throughout Colorado. 

During our time with Fatuma, we asked her about being the co-founder of Front Line Farming and the many other organizations she leads. We asked, “as a leader of so many organizations, does it ever become really stressful, if so how do you manage?” Fatuma said that it all comes down to how she and her team work together and love each other. She pointed something out that really stood out to us, “there’s a lot of different types of racism you have to deal with, even when you get to the top… I knew this before I started my organization…so I’ve really built my team and our organization with resiliency.” We weren’t aware that racism can still take place at high levels of leadership, like the position she’s in. She also explained that her team doesn’t operate with white supremacy either. Fatuma’s really broad and outside of the box perspectives on these topics were amazing! 

Fatuma also talked about the working environment for farmers. To continue to make change and make sure her workers are in the best care, she brings safety supplies, money, and policy work to communities. She describes, “the environment for farmers is crucial, farming labour is done by immigrant and undocumented people in conditions that are completely unacceptable, and it’s not about justice issues but human rights issues.” These hard workers are called illegal and aren’t welcomed, yet they are still essential workers during this time, risking their own safety. She wants people to recognize all the hard labor that people of color are doing for this country.

With the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, one of Fatuma’s strongest opinions that stood out to us was when she talked about the Black community in farming. She says, “Black people owned more land in the United States in the 20th century than they do now.” This issue has been going on for so long that people choose to ignore the issue because it serves them. The government wants to act like they’re not in the wrong, that we have solved the problem and it’s gone. That is why Fatuma chooses to use her voice in policy and legislation spaces. She wants to represent young people, people of color and women.

Another major topic that Fatuma talked about was women in the field and women empowerment, one of the main focuses of Girls Inc. and Eureka. She started the conversation by saying, “you know I’m a woman and I farm, I’m not like some big strong guy.” Many believe that women aren’t strong enough for farm work and hard labor. Over the years, female operated farm percentages haven’t really gone up, although in many countries women are the ones in the field doing all the hard labor. This is a problem that stands out to us because women need to work twice as hard to get recognized in a leadership role. That is what Fatuma tries to advocate for change and why she is such a great role model. 

Having Fatuma as our second interview was a great experience! This opportunity was definitely a success for developing our skills, and it was so great to hear the amazing thoughts and opinions that take place in Fatuma Emmad’s mind. 

Economic Sustainability Mission with Hunter Lovins

Hunter Lovins is a major influence in the field of sustainability in Colorado. She is the founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS). NCS has only the best in class sustainability professionals who work together to help develop pragmatic ways to bring efficiency and sustainability to government and corporate clients. Ms. Lovins has over forty years of experience with change management and sustainability. 

We asked Ms. Lovins where sustainability is needed most, and she answered, “everywhere.” She explains that in the U.S, the measure of success is dependent on wealth and that this is the reason why the world is crashing. Hunter sees our current world as having the greatest amount of inequality due to the false narrative that was made to believe true. She states, “…economists like Thomas Piketty, who wrote the book Capital In the Twenty-First Century, show that high levels of inequality is causative of collapse.” Ms. Lovins has a very passionate and broad perspective on changing that narrative in order to create sustainability. 

Ms. Lovins goes more into depth about inequality in the world, when she speaks about people who have always been discriminated against. She recognizes that being white, having plenty to eat, living on a beautiful ranch, doing well for herself, are all a great privilege. She even went into depth about police brutality, saying it’s just not right, “If I were black and stopped by a policeman, my life would be at risk. I’m white, I’m elderly, if I get stopped by a policeman, I’ll hear “Ma’am how can I be of service to you?” She has committed her life to ensuring that everyone on the planet has the same privilege. She wants to have conversations about institutionalized racism, empowerment and giving voice to people who have not had one. 

Hunter’s perfect vision of a sustainable world was so wide, with so many ideas. In her book, A Finer Future, the narrative was that it’s 2050 and we made it, we have solved the problems facing humanity. Ideas such as a sustainable palm oil that stops the loss of rainforest or a cohousing community in Indonesia that has cleaned the air, and even that the main street of Broadway, New York, is now a massive urban garden, all things that would make the world a better place. Hunter said, “We have the technologies that we need to solve the problems, and the question now…is will we do it, will we do it on time?” 

There is no doubt that Ms. Lovins has great expectations for change and sustainability in the world. Since she was a child her whole life has similarly evolved around the field she is in now. From our interview or from getting the amazing opportunity to talk with Hunter, you will see how knowledgeable, inspirational and passionate she is about her life’s work. 

Written by: Devani Dominguez and Jennalee Casias

If climate change wasn’t enough for us to stop and evaluate our societal level of resilience, maybe the coronavirus pandemic and upcoming national election will finally capture our much-needed attention. As a participant in a recent Colorado Emergence Series convening put it, “resilience was broken before the pandemic,” but maybe this crisis will finally give us enough impetus to build a more resilient future. Before I get ahead of myself, what exactly do I mean by resilience? 

There are countless interpretations and definitions of resilience depending on who you ask. One group of social-ecological researchers dedicated to studying resilience define it as “the capacity of a social-ecological system to absorb or withstand perturbations and other stressors…It describes the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization, learning and adaptation.” In other words, resilience means a community’s ability to prepare for, adapt to and create advantageous change. Defining a word is easy, but how do we actually build resilience?

When coronavirus reached Denver, The Alliance Center began to grapple with this difficult question. We quickly pivoted our programming in response, creating the Colorado Emergence Series and the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. The Regenerative Recovery Coalition is our latest adaptation strategy, which will implement the strategic ideas of the Colorado Emergence Series to create a more sustainable and equitable future for Colorado beyond COVID-19. Alongside this effort, the Best for Colorado  program has continued to leverage Colorado-based, value-driven companies that are adapting and demonstrating a commitment to serving their communities. I believe The Alliance Center’s strategic changes within these areas reflect how we can create resilient sustainable development. The Regenerative Recovery Coalition and Best for Colorado tackle two of the greatest vulnerabilities COVID-19 has exposed: our democracy and our economy. Without strengthening both, we’re left susceptible to shocks like the one we’re currently experiencing.

The Regenerative Recovery Coalition and Best for Colorado are in the process of both modeling and building resilience. First, they model resilience through their focus on Colorado. There will not be a “one size fits all” approach to building a more resilient, post-pandemic future. What works in California or New York won’t necessarily work in Colorado. This localized attention is valuable and often forgotten in the highly globalized world we live in.  Secondly, both of these efforts are extremely multi-faceted. They refuse to be pigeonholed, which is what makes them good models of resilience. For example, the Regenerative Recovery Coalition will work on a wide array of issues: climate change, economy, workforce development, food systems, agriculture, infrastructure, natural resource management, transportation and democracy. Likewise, the Best for Colorado program not only seeks to increase the number and impact of environmentally responsible businesses but also the number of businesses that are working on issues related to community, equity, democracy and other benchmarks. By focusing on addressing local vulnerabilities through a holistic lens, the Regenerative Recovery Coalition and Best for Colorado are leaders in imagining a more resilient future here in Colorado.

So, you’re interested in helping build a more resilient future? One way you can get involved is by joining the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. So far more than 80 individuals and organizations have joined the coalition and committed to implementing solutions in the state. Another way to get involved is to check out the upcoming Best for Colorado Virtual Awards Celebration on August 5 and 12. You’ll have a chance to hear from incredible business leaders and learn about their first-hand experience with resilience, economic revitalization and more. Reaching a resilient future will certainly be a challenge, but it’s not beyond reach. If we’re willing to learn, adapt and change, we can create the sustainable and equitable future we all know is possible.

Plastic Free July is upon us, yet it seems to be shoved to a backburner this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and social unrest occurring across the nation, my time and mental energy have been spent for 2020. I feel like a rag being rung out without a single drop to spare for other causes, including being plastic free.

The last two Julys, I have challenged myself, along with millions around the world, to avoid any and all single-use plastic for the good of our planet. Our society does not make going plastic free easy, so this effort requires time, determination and dedication to make it a reality. COVID-19 has also made this nearly impossible with limitations on reusables at restaurants and grocery stores for public health purposes. This July I had to give myself permission to not take on this challenge with the vigor I usually do, and I’m confident many of my fellow environmentalists had to do the same. 

Instead of laying on the green guilt upon ourselves, we must adapt with the curveballs 2020 has given us and find other ways to have a positive impact on our environment in regards to waste. I have continued to maintain as many of my plastic free habits as possible including wearing reusable masks, bringing my grocery bags to the store when allowed, taking a water bottle anywhere and everywhere, using bamboo toothbrushes and more. Whatever habits you’re able to maintain are important contributions to the Plastic Free July effort.

If you have time, energy and available resources, you can take it one step further and support local businesses while starting a new plastic-free habit this month. The Alliance Center’s Best for Colorado program has several incredible companies that make waste reduction simpler while also valuing people over profit. Some of our mission-driven businesses you can support while expanding your plastic-free efforts include:

EarthHero

As an eco-friendly online marketplace, EarthHero has done the in-depth research on products so you don’t have to. In their online store you pick from products that are sourced, manufactured and shipped in a way that protects our planet’s future. Each brand they’ve partnered with has been chosen because they’re taking the right steps and helping to create a more sustainable future.

Infinity Goods

Ditching plastic is difficult and daunting, but Infinity Goods does the hard work for you with their zero-waste grocery service. They deliver a wide selection of food and household goods in reusable containers. Then, like the milkman, they retrieve, clean and reuse the containers for future deliveries, taking plastic packaging waste out of the grocery experience.

JOY FILL

JOY FILL is a store full of refillable, natural and sustainable household cleaners, soaps, personal care and beauty products in Northwest Denver. Their mission is to enhance your eco-friendly lifestyle and fill you with joy in the process! 

Simple Switch

Every item sold at Simple Switch has a quantifiable positive impact on our world and the people in it.  Their store is filled with products you actually need or want. Every purchase from Simple Switch reduces the likelihood of a child dying from preventable disease, provides employment for a woman recently freed from sexual slavery or helps a company use innovative techniques to reduce waste and pollution.

I know many of us feel stretched thin this July, but I just want to say thank you for every waste reduction effort you take this month. You are remaining resilient in the face of hard times, and our world needs every ounce of good you have to offer. Remember, together we are greater.

A firestorm of protests has swept the United States. In their wake, government leaders have implemented curfews and law enforcement has carried out riot control efforts. The widespread use of tear gas as a crowd-control tactic has raised significant health and safety concerns–not only for those protesting but for the environment as well.

Effects on Individuals

Tear gas quells riots by temporarily making people unable to function by irritating their eyes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that those exposed to tear gas may experience excessive tearing, burning sensations, blurred vision, a runny nose, difficulty swallowing, coughing, rashes, vomiting and redness in the eyes. These symptoms will usually disappear within a short time if the exposure to tear gas ceases. Long-lasting exposure or exposure to a large dose, especially in a closed setting, may result in more severe health effects, such as blindness, glaucoma, chemical burns to the throat and lungs or respiratory failure.

Using tear gas during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially worrisome because it increases a person’s susceptibility to the virus. A study conducted in 2014 found that US military recruits who were exposed to tear gas as part of a training exercise were more likely to develop respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and the flu. One of the immediate health effects of exposure to tear gas is coughing, which facilitates the spread of COVID by increasing the number of infectious droplets in the air. Moreover, tear gas can compromise the body’s ability to fight off the infection by causing injury and inflammation to the lining of the airways.

Effects on the Environment

Tear gas is actually not a gas. It is a chemical powder that is mixed with liquid in order to be dispersed as a spray. Because of its powdered nature, chemical residue is left behind after every spray. In addition tear gas may contain silicon, which allows it to last longer in the environment and not disintegrate as quickly.

Studies about tear gas tend to focus on its health effects on humans, so the environmental impact on wildlife, plants and water, is not well known. However, because its residue settles on surfaces and stays there for days before breaking down, tear gas can contaminate agriculture, local wildlife and groundwater. This puts Black and Latinx communities who live in urban or poor areas especially at risk since they face disproportionately high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses because of their proximity to factories and industrial sites. The air quality in these communities is often low; therefore, there is a legitimate concern about the potential of tear gas as a harmful contaminant. 

The question, then, is how do we ensure a more discriminate use of tear gas and other chemical weapons, especially during a respiratory illness pandemic? Other cities such as Seattle have temporarily halted its use, but many have yet to reconsider. 
To accelerate reform, individual actions can be taken, such as calling local police departments and demanding a review of their rules and norms regarding tear gas usage or attending city council meetings and raising community awareness of the issue. House Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Takano and Chuy Garcia have announced that they will be introducing a bill that forces local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to dispose of all chemical weapons. We must call our local elected officials to amass support for bans on tear gas at the city level. Banning chemical weapons is one of the many steps we must take in this moment to prevent a new wave of COVID-19 and any unforeseen environmental impacts that may disproportionately affect communities of color.

Written by Maria Reyes, Programs Intern