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:
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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, Nora Fierman, The Alliance Center Communications Intern
| Green Guilt | : (Noun) – Feeling like you should or could do more to help the environment.
Maybe you forgot to turn the lights off that one time you left the house all day. Maybe you drove to the store that’s just a few blocks down because you needed that one thing. Maybe you forgot your grocery bags or used plastic utensils and watched as the waste added up. Maybe you finally thought, I’m just one person, this is too much.
This is green guilt. The feeling of ‘I’m not doing enough’ or ‘I just did something wasteful for selfish reasons.’ As climate change takes position on the political stage, activism increases and we begin to see real affects, it’s easy to fall victim to this feeling. Green guilt is everywhere. I feel it when I buy something wrapped in plastic. When I have a to-go cup or containers, even if they are compostable. I feel it for other people – when I watch strangers waste food, fail to recycle or friends drive to work, though the distance is short.
The absolute worst of all, I feel it when I’m doing the things I love most – when I’m outside. As an avid backcountry skier and mountain biker, a climber and a backpacker, a self proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, I feel green guilt when I drive to trailheads. Maybe don’t drive as far to this new trail or this new objective, I tell myself. Maybe don’t go on that after work mountain bike ride. I know that these activities run in my blood and that I am the absolute happiest summiting a peak, skiing deep powder, beginning a descent on my bike and flowing through wildflowers. Warm coffee on a cold summer morning in the backcountry or hot dinner curled up in sleeping bags under the stars bring the biggest smiles to my face. How do I combat this green guilt? I know if I eliminate these activities, I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t have the friends I have and I wouldn’t be as happy as I am.
How do I deal with this? I have adopted the concept of the ‘backyard expedition.’ It’s not a solution, but it allows me to continue pursuing my passions. I’ve realized I don’t have to drive across state boundaries to find new objectives and reach new heights – we have all that right here, in just a two-hour drive. This past winter I have made it a goal of mine to explore closer mountain ranges more intimately, and I’ve been successful! We are lucky that in Colorado, we have vast ranges right in our backyard, just waiting to be explored. Every time I head into the backcountry, I see a new peak beckoning. In just a short drive, I’m back exploring the next.
My green guilt still lingers, knowing I’m still causing waste for personal satisfaction. But then I remember – these activities make me the happiest, so I will do them as responsibly as possible. Maybe this is the category in which I have the biggest footprint, despite searching for ways to reduce it. I make extra effort elsewhere. I bike to work. I have grown increasingly aware of plastic at the grocery store and consciously reduce purchasing it. I bring my own bags, always. I’m a vegetarian. I cook at home, making many staples rather than buying more plastic-contained products and I waste pretty close to no food weekly. But the green guilt whispers – ‘is that enough?’ For now, yes. And I promise to continue my commitment to reducing my impact. After all, it’s my job at The Alliance Center to spread the word about sustainability and help our community join this movement.
That’s why this summer, The Alliance Center is dedicated to exploring this idea of ‘green guilt:’ what it is, why we feel it, and how it affects our community. Most importantly, we want to offer tips and advice as to how to overcome these feelings. The Alliance is a resource to our community. We work at the intersection of the environment, the economy and our community. Our building is full of resources to help our neighbors reduce impact, because we know small change leads to big change! Follow along and join this journey as we post challenges, resources and tons of tips and tricks, as well as events at The Alliance and around Denver! As always, let us know what you are up to with the hashtag #MyGreenGuilt. We love to hear from our community!
Written by: Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Senior Attorney, Public Lands, Center for Biological Diversity
My family is a busy, bustling and active bunch made up of two working parents, two very energetic and fun-loving kids, ages 10 and seven, and a sweet three-year-old chocolate lab named Violet. Our lives are pretty typical of most Denver metro-area families, running the kids around to activities and sports after school while maintaining meaningful careers in the field of environmental and energy law. There is never a dull moment and usually not much time to devote to reducing waste in our own home. We already own a highly energy efficient home with solar panels for heating and cooling. We drive only one car for our family of four, with my husband and I utilizing RTD public transportation to get to work. So, we already prioritize eco-friendly personal choices in our home and family. Our kids understand and value the part we all play in bettering life on this planet. It is one of our central core values as a family.
Since starting as senior public lands attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2016, a tenant of The Alliance Center, I began to educate myself about my family’s personal waste stream and how we can begin to minimize trash beyond just recycling at home. The Alliance Center has a hard to recycle station in the building with information on what items can and cannot be recycled and what is actually landfilled. I learned a great deal from this station and the informational emails that would go out to tenants at The Alliance Center on how to use the station. The Alliance Center also composts food waste.
Back in 2016, our family would generate about two bags of trash for the landfill every week, even while doing our best to maximize our municipal recycling. We committed to cutting that landfill waste in half by utilizing The Alliance Center’s hard to recycle station for items that couldn’t be recycled by our municipal recycling program. Then, in 2017 we signed up for Denver’s municipal composting program. By 2018, our family reduced our landfill trash to one full trash bag a month, beating our goal by 175 percent. We realized that most of our municipal trash was comprised of food waste and non-recyclable plastic bags, bathroom and cleaner waste, and foil-lined bags/tubes, which The Alliance Center takes to recycle. I bring a small bag full of these items to the Alliance Center every week, and it has made a big difference in our total family’s waste stream. My kids and husband have learned which items go into which bin (or recycle bag for mom’s office). We introduced this commitment to reducing waste into the core of our daily family routine. It is not only good for the planet, but good for our own well-being. Self-care, care of others and planet-care go hand in hand. While our family might not be totally zero waste in the foreseeable future, we have made it a priority to be as low-waste as possible. The Alliance Center has given us the opportunity to do just that.
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.
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:
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.
Written by Melissa Baldridge, member of The Alliance Center Board of Directors
I recently joined The Alliance Center’s Board of Directors, and I’m excited to lend my expertise as a green building expert. This isn’t the first time I’ve been involved with The Alliance Center, though. And in fact, The Alliance Center is the reason I even got into green building in the first place.
In the early 2000s, I was a freelance writer specializing in architecture, design and art, and while I collected some nice bylines, I was bored senseless writing about bathroom re-dos in Mapleton and 12,000-square-foot baronial ski castles in Beaver Creek. I was pretty clear that few people bothered to read my carefully crafted articles beyond skimming the pretty pics, and my stories certainly weren’t making a difference.
In late 2004, Historic Denver, asked me to write an article about a renovation near the mostly boarded-up Union Station. The project? The Otero Building formerly owned by Tattered Cover founder and Denver legend, Joyce Meskis. The building was called The Alliance Center, and Historic Denver would be one of the first 20 tenants there.
There were a number of news hooks for the project, and I interviewed John Powers, Janna Six and Dennis Fleming, the project manager. A board member for the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Powers had spent time in the Tattered Cover next door to the Otero building, seeing all these well-meaning but impecunious nonprofit groups scattered throughout the building, competing for the same donors and clueless about how to pool effort and resources.
In early January 2004, Powers started looking for permanent digs to bring all these groups under one roof. Meskis would sell the building to the newly formed Alliance for Sustainable Colorado (now The Alliance Center) for $4.625 million, with Powers putting down $250,000 and collateralizing his home for the construction loan. Powers and Six also bought the lot next door with the intention to raise another tower with rentable space.
The kicker for me was that the building was pursuing LEED certification, a relatively new green building certification starting to be used with new construction. But the Otero Building was older, built in 1908 with renovations in 1951. So, the LEED Existing Building Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) certification was a big deal, with only a handful of other projects in the country housing nonprofits and retrofitting to the LEED, above-code standard.
The article itself was a deep dive into the world of high-performance building – bricks and mortar that rode easier on the planet – and I burned through a couple of pages trying to (1) help my readers get their heads around green build, and (2) getting my own head around it. Beyond pretty pics and wind turbines in the sky, green building was cool, I was hooked, and I decided wanting to be a LEED professional someday.
Fast forward to 2008, and my partner was in an MBA program at Drexel University. She was also heading sustainability (aka “resource management”) on the supply chain for a food manufacturer. We knew we wanted to work with bricks and sticks. We both knew that sustainability was the bomb, our raison d’être, and yet we also saw how those good sustainability folks got patted on the head and sidelined in grownup real estate conversations.
So, we created a hybrid company we called GreenSpot Global, with both deep in-house sustainability expertise and real estate transactional capability. I got my first of about a dozen certifications – my LEED AP EBOM.
Since our official organization in January 2010, GreenSpot has been responsible for deal and project sourcing, sales, sustainability and financial analysis on property worth over $340 million. I’ve modeled, certified and audited over one million square feet of property. The National Green Building Standard named me a “Partner in Excellence” for innovation and excellence in green build, and the U.S. Green Building Council, Colorado named GreenSpot a “Top Green Dealmaker.”
Perhaps most importantly, we recrafted our mission four years ago to create and renovate regenerative property, spinning energy, carbon, water and waste meters backwards. From the hybrid nature of our business, I identified the “Four Steps to Higher Value for Green Build,” bridging both the wonky world of sustainability and the high-stakes game of real estate deal making.
And it all started because of one little assignment on The Alliance Center, which Janna Six says was one of the first write-ups the Alliance got.
Would I have found my way into my career-as-calling without The Alliance Center? Probably, but the Alliance was like a compass needle for me, fixing on my true north.
So, it’s fitting for me to be back here 15 years later, bringing what I’ve learned and will continue to learn as a board member, all because the center was a polestar for me when I was ready for more.
Click here to read the story that started it all!
Created by the United Nations, these 17 interconnected global goals are designed to create a better and more sustainable future for all.
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.
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.
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.
Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 4. On this day of giving, thousands of Coloradans come together to support nonprofit organizations across the state. The Alliance Center has set a goal of raising $25,000. You can help us reach this goal! A gift of any amount helps us continue our work toward an inclusive, equitable and sustainable future for all. Visit our Colorado Gives Day page to learn more and schedule your gift. Make sure to check our list of Colorado companies who match their employees’ donations, and reach out to your HR department to double your impact!
You can also help spread the word! Click here to download our Colorado Gives Day social media toolkit, which includes ideas for social media posts and emails to your network. Right click on graphics below to download and share on social media.