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 because 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!

 

This blog post was written by our Communications Intern, Esperanza Chairez Uriarte.

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 can continue to act in the face of climate change. Greta Thunberg once said, “No one is too small to make a difference,” yet, it can be difficult to know how to make an impact amongst such a daunting issue. Thankfully, The Alliance Center has many resources and a supportive mission-driven community that empower individuals, including myself, to take climate action. 

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 the Alliance’s amazing tenants.

Resolution #2: Ongoing Battle with Plastic

China stopped recycling the majority of the world’s plastics in 2018, which has resulted in much of it going to landfills, storage and incinerators. Even though plastic is deeply engrained into our daily lives, it’s more important than ever to reduce our reliance on this material. 

With the new year I’m continuing my plastic reduction efforts by taking it one item at a time. My plan is to replace a single plastic item in my life each month with a more sustainable option such as bamboo floss, biodegradable hairbands and shampoo bars. The Alliance Center has several amazing Best for Colorado businesses including EarthHero, Simple Switch and JOYFILL who make finding and purchasing sustainable alternatives simple and easy!

Resolution #3: Explore More Sustainable Food Options

My goal is not to commit to one particular diet. Instead I’ll incorporate various sustainable eating habits that fit within my lifestyle. I signed up for GroundworkDenver’s CSA because, conveniently, The Alliance Center serves as a drop-off location for tenants. Additionally, I’ll supplement this with regular trips to farmers markets this summer and fall so I can support local growers and food systems while reducing my food’s environmental impact. 

Additionally, since meat and dairy production accounts for 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, I’ll spend 2020 working on reducing this in my diet. There are many vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians and eco-vores at The Alliance Center. Being surrounded by such a community makes it significantly easier to reduce the amount of meat in my diet since cooking suggestions, ideas and encouragement are constantly circulating throughout the building.

In Closing

While New Year’s resolutions tend to be short lived, sustainability is an ongoing journey we all can take part in throughout 2020 and beyond. According to the UN International Panel on Climate Change, we have 10 years to cut global emissions in half to prevent 2° Celsius temperature increase. While no one person can accomplish this, collectively we can. Thankfully, The Alliance Center is here to support you on your endeavors. Whether it’s through their sustainability network, tenants, nonprofit or events, this organization has a variety of resources available to ensure you have all of the tools and support you need to take climate action. I’m maximizing my environmental impact in 2020 by taking advantage of what The Alliance Center offers. How can you the Alliance mobilize you in your sustainability resolutions this year?

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.

The Alliance Center is thrilled to announce that we are now officially a JUST labeled organization! Sounds cool, right? Want to know what that means? Let us explain!

JUST is a tool that measures how organizations are performing in terms of their social justice and equity work.  It is not a certification, but it does provide a detailed framework for organizations to evaluate themselves. By using JUST, organizations can share how they are operating with the public, such as how they treat their employees or where they source their materials from.

According to Francis Janes, associate director at the International Living Future Institute, organizations are already focused on two of the three important Ps: Profit and Planet. JUST includes the third P: People. JUST is attractive to employers because new employees are looking to work for places that are transparent and honest about their operations and that care for their people.

The goals of the JUST label are:

  • to elevate the discussion around social justice in all organizations
  • to create a common language for social justice issues
  • to elevate the causes of those individuals who lead on these issues
  • to change the policies and practices of thousands of organizations worldwide
  • to make life better for people from all walks of life

We worked to achieve the JUST label because it demonstrates our commitment to social justice and equity issues. 

Our JUST label can be found below. Click to view a detailed breakdown of our organizational scores.

We recognize that we do not have three stars in all the categories but it’s good to know we have a roadmap and direction on what to work toward. We hope to be leaders in social justice and equity work and as such, our work does not end by obtaining the JUST. This is just the beginning. Obtaining the JUST label was the first step and our next steps are engaging our full team on our new commitments, as well as working with a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant.


“The sustainability movement at large has long been a movement of privilege, the privilege to worry about the future and not the immediate struggles or survival of today. To truly transcend theses human constructed barriers, we must all embark on a journey of equity, fully embracing and addressing the social impacts as well as the environmental and economic. It is not a matter of either/or, it has to be all three!  JUST is a great starting point on this journey. – Brenna Simmons-St. Onge, Executive Director

Written by, Ana Portillo, The Alliance Center Office Coordinator

Have you heard of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Created by the United Nations, these 17 interconnected global goals are designed to create a better and more sustainable future for all.

Why are the SDGs useful?

As you may know, sustainability is incredibly complex and sometimes quite messy – it can mean many different things to  different people. The SDGs layout 17 social, economic, and environmental components of sustainability, with goals associated with each of them (see the image above). The creators of these goals set an aggressive timeline to meet these goals – 2030 – which basically means that we have 10 years to tackle issues such as poverty, gender equity, climate change and more if we want to create a better future for our kids and our grandkids.

We realize these goals are broad and can be vague at times. Rest assured these are just the titles, the UN has created 169 sub indicators that identify key areas under each of these broad and ambitious goals to use as a tool to track and measure progress.

This is a big challenge. One that will take all of us. Don’t let this aggressive timeline overwhelm or discourage you, the SDGs lay out the road map to achieve this future, we just have to roll up our sleeves and dive in.

Why is The Alliance Center working toward these goals?

We recognize that there are many organizations, governments and businesses working toward these goals, and we aim to collaborate with these leaders to make the global goals more tangible, actionable, and local to Colorado. Here at The Alliance Center, we have begun to map our work and impact to these 17 goals. We are currently undergoing an in-depth process of determining which goals we are working on and how we can legitimately track our progress toward meeting them. So far, we have determined that our work aligns with seven of the 17 goals. These seven include:

7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10 – Reduced Inequalities
11 – Sustainable Cities
12 – Responsible Consumption and Production
13 – Climate Action
17 – Partnerships for the Goals

We recognize that even 7 of the 17 goals is A LOT for any one organization to work toward. Our mission and our vision are based on strategic collaboration – which means we understand that we can never achieve these goals alone. At our heart, The Alliance Center is a collaborative working space, home to many of the leading NGOs in Colorado. We have also begun to map our tenants’ (NGOs housed in the Alliance) work to the SDGs. We aren’t sure, yet, but we expect that with the 50 or so organizations working in our building, all 17 of these ambitious goals are being meaningfully addressed. We will share much more about this process as it unfolds in 2019, so stay tuned!

As an organization, we have a lot of resources, passion, and partners to work with to achieve these goals. As an individual, you may be asking, what can I do to make a difference in the face of these ambitious targets? Don’t fret – there are tons of ways you can make a difference – right now, right here.

How can you get involved?

The SDGs are big. Really big. It can be daunting to think about how you as an individual, community member or employee can help push progress on any of these goals. Don’t fret – there is a lot you can do. The Good Life Goals are individual actions that everyone around the world can take to help meet the SDGs. The Good Life Goals are based on the idea that the power of the people matters as much as powerful people.

At The Alliance Center, we have aligned the Good Life Goals with our Act Now Initiative – creating a resource of (relatively) easy, personal actions that you can take right here, right now to contribute to a more sustainable future. This is a work in progress. If you have ideas for more actions or if you are working toward the SDGs yourself – please contact us! We look forward to building a better tomorrow with you.