Building sustainability in my own backyard

By Sarah Martinez, Director, ESG Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement

I believe creating a more sustainable planet needs to start in our own backyards. I totally buy into the “think globally, act locally” mantra.

That’s what motivated me to serve as a volunteer on the sustainability committee in my city, Edgewater, Colorado. A neighbor of Denver, Edgewater is only 1 square mile in size, but it was still an honor to work with our mayor, city council, local business owners and other stakeholders to develop our first sustainability plan. I also got sworn in at city hall, which was also a pretty big thrill.  

My specific responsibility was waste and materials. In my previous work life, I focused on composting and recycling, so I’m a bit of a waste geek. By engaging stakeholders such as residents, city officials and neighboring municipal governments, I led the effort to set a goal to double our city’s residential waste diversion by 2025 and reach 60% waste diversion by 2030.

Then we had to take action. Our biggest opportunity to reduce waste as a community was to offer curbside composting —a service not very common in Colorado. We conducted a pilot with brave and willing households, focused on food scraps only. After a successful pilot, I coordinated efforts to launch a permanent curbside composting program that expanded beyond food to include yard debris as well. We opted to work with a local, woman-owned, mission-driven compost hauler. Two months later, the company began collecting kitchen scraps and yard materials from our residents.

I’m proud that I was able to play a role in helping my small city put a big dent in the amount of materials we send to the landfill. As a volunteer, it was a way for me to share my knowledge and advance a cause that’s important to me both professionally and personally, not to mention help my own community. If everyone takes the “think globally, act locally” approach to heart — on any cause that’s important to us as individuals — it will add up to a big impact on our planet.