Meet this month’s “Sustainability Snapshot,” Julie Smith, and learn more about their efforts to live sustainably:
Julie is a partner in Aspire Colorado, LLC, – an environmentally conscious company that provides natural personal care products and household products with the goal of cleaning up our environment, one product at a time.
What inspired you to adopt more sustainable practices in your life?
I realized we had a serious imbalance with respect to natural resource depletion and population growth in the mid-1980’s, soon after I moved out of the home I was raised in, and got out on my own. I worked in the oil industry at the time, and I remember a turning point, where the garbage barge from New York was floating around in the ocean with nowhere to dump the trash. That struck me as absurd, and I started getting into recycling because of that, and then began quickly to notice other environmental issues, that I would immediately strive to mitigate on a personal level at home.
Can you give some examples of how you practice a sustainable lifestyle (either related to zero waste, renewable energy, conservation, involvement with the Evergreen Sustainability Alliance, etc.)?
I have been on a journey to increase my sustainability for about 30 years now. My first volunteer efforts began when I worked at the Coors Brewery in Golden, where I joined the first sustainability green team as a charter member. I was an engineering project manager at the time, and I was the right person to initiate single-stream recycling at the brewery in about 2006. The brewery later became the largest zero waste to landfill brewery in the world. We also did educational luncheons on sustainability, and restoration projects and trash clean-up of the Clear Creek watershed, the source of water for Coors beer. The annual trash clean-up event continues today, with the City of Golden, even though I’m retired, as part of MillerCoors Great Water month, in September.
At home, we are a zero waste household. We do this by only purchasing things in recyclable and re-useable containers. At the grocery store, we buy our veggies without putting them in the produce bags provided, just throw them all in the same reuseable shopping bag, and sort them into permanent containers when we get home. We buy meat over the counter, wrapped in paper. We have a few basic ingredients at home that we make sauces and dressing from, that avoids a lot of extra packaging. We get vegetable oils and vinegars and all herbs and spices from Simply Bulk in Longmont, about the only store left that actually allows BYOC (bring your own container), I just take my jugs up there every month or two and top them from their dispensers. I combine the errand with deliveries of Aspire products, our company products that they sell in bulk.
My failure point is that I love potato chips, and they all come in plastic bags, so I have a Terracycle box (www.terracycle.com) to recycle those, and other plastics that are hard to avoid, like cheese wrappers.
I make all my own personal care products and liquid all-purpose soap, and distribute them through my company website, Aspire Colorado, in containers that can be refilled indefinitely, eliminating the need for a bunch of single-use toothpaste tubes, plastic deodorant push-ups and generally plastic jugs. We normally are in the “most efficient” category on our Xcel Energy reports. We do not use a clothes dryer, we have a high-efficiency refrigerator and washing machine, we do our dishes by hand, and we don’t have an A/C. Never will. This is Colorado. We have power strips for our entertainment center, and keep it and everything else in our home unplugged unless we’re actually using it. In the U.S., we waste about 8% of electricity simply by leaving things plugged in when we don’t use them, this is called phantom energy. We have a programmable thermostat, and high level of insulation in our home. We have solar panels. We walk to do our errands, if we’re within a mile or so.
What words of wisdom do you have for someone just getting started on their journey to ‘go green’?
Don’t try to do everything at once. Pick something that is simple to do, and make a habit of that, taking pride in your savings. The rest will follow, if you pay attention. Look at your own personal habits and how you can change them to be more sustainable.
You could start with avoiding single use plastic, and look at ways to purchase without that. Get a Terracycle box for things you can’t avoid, to keep them in the circular economy and out of the landfill. Simply unplugging everything in the home that is not currently in use. Hang laundry instead of using the clothes dryer. Buy local and organic, non-organic “conventional” agriculture is one of the biggest culprits that is driving fish and wildlife to extinction, and synthetic herbicides and pesticides are close to half our food carbon footprint (a huge portion of our impact), because they are made from petroleum. Purge your home of poisons, take them to a responsible collection facility (in Golden, it’s Rooney Road Recycling), and resolve never to buy it again.
If we refuse to buy irresponsible products, it will drive big corp to either change for the better, to meet the needs of the planet and the people who care, or it will drive them out of business. Either way works for me.