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  • Ecosystems
  • Energy
  • Resources
  • Climate Commitment
  • Climate + Sustainability


The resources we use and waste we generate has a big impact on our natural ecosystems and the climate.

It takes significant energy to extract or harvest materials such as food, to transform raw materials into useful products, to transport goods and provide services, and to reuse and dispose of materials. Consider that most of the goods and services you consume are made outside of Boulder and are not currently included in the way our community’s carbon footprint is calculated. To reach our climate goals, we need to adopt and develop new ways of sourcing and using resources that make us more productive, less wasteful, and less dependent on outside resources that are often creating impacts   elsewhere.

Our climate goal:  Reduce the emissions impacts from goods and services by using purchasing decisions to support responsible resource use and by effectively reusing and recycling what we throw away. 


Resource action areas and goals




Goal: By 2025, Boulder will be a zero waste community where residents, business owners, employees and visitors reduce the waste they generate and then reuse, recycle and compost at least 85 percent of what they throw away.

Boulder sends about 4 pounds of waste per person per day to the landfill, and more than one third of our community’s total carbon emissions come from resource production and use. That’s a huge impact. As a community, we currently recycle and compost 34 percent of our waste, compared to San Francisco, at 80 percent, and Portland at 70 percent. Making Boulder a zero waste community means minimizing hazardous and solid waste through conscious consumption choices and reuse, recycle and compost opportunities. By supporting responsible resource use, we will significantly reduce community impacts on the emissions that drive climate change here and in the communities that produce the goods and services we use.

2015-2020 City Waste Action Priorities



• Deliver expanded multifamily housing assistance program to increase recycling and composting.
• Implement the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance, requiring all property owners to provide recycling and compost collection services and requiring businesses to use these services. • Expand business assistance and advising. • Negotiate with local partners to provide cost-effective and convenient composting operations for all area organics haulers. • Support state legislative efforts to encourage recycling and reuse.

Next one to three years

• Expand the reach of multifamily residential assistance program.
• Expand community-wide educational efforts on available services, incentives, and facilities as well as proper recycling/composting/source reduction methods.
• Support improvements to the Boulder County Recycling Center to facilitate processing of additional materials.



• Expand community-wide educational efforts on reuse and source reduction opportunities.

Next two to three years

• Strengthen the Disposable Bag Fee ordinance to further reduce bag use.
•Explore consumption-based accounting method to track and measure GHG emissions from products and packaging produced outside of Boulder but consumed locally.
•Include GHG emission reductions from recycling and composting in climate accounting (using WARM model), based on avoided manufacturing emissions; track by total and per person.
•Reduce food waste and improve opportunities to re-purpose leftover food to people, animals or energy.



• Support product stewardship and other legislative efforts at a state and federal levels to reduce the creation of waste.

Next one-three years

• Support shifts in business practices that result in more sustainable purchasing, separating recyclable and compostable materials, and avoiding waste.
•Perform a programming exercise to further investigate/analyze future uses of 6400 Arapahoe site to support zero waste goal, including the expansion of CHaRM and ReSource.
•Collaborate with Boulder County and other partners on developing a regional construction/ demolition recycling facility.





Goal: By 2050, we will manage water as a key resource in stabilizing the climate, producing and storing renewable energy, maintaining natural ecosystems.

It takes energy to heat, treat and pump water and it takes water to produce energy, such as extracting and processing raw materials from the earth and cooling power plants. Reducing our water usage has a ripple effect that can lead to both reduced energy needs and reduced water usage elsewhere.  Similarly, increasing renewable energy sources not only reduce climate impacts but also use significantly less water to generate energy. Each year, the city’s collective hydropower facilities produce enough electricity to power approximately 5,000 homes and offset 26,000 metric tons of carbon. By using water wisely and producing more electricity using hydropower, we will reduce community emissions.

2015-2020 City Water Action Priorities


• Expand water conservation programs that focus on outdoor irrigation which may also support better identification of water-related carbon sequestering opportunities such as using soil amendments, native grasses and proper tree watering.

• Promote measures that reduce the energy needed to heat, treat and transport water including continued evaluation of new hydroelectric opportunities.
• Evaluate opportunities for real-time water and energy metering that may help customers better understand and reduce their water and energy consumption.


Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) has worked with the city to promote wise water use in schools- both indoors and outdoors. For example, the city works with BVSD to install refillable water bottle stations in schools to better promote drinking tap water, reducing waste from plastic water bottles and recognizing that bottled water consumes 2000 times more energy than tap water.
Boulder Housing Partners has worked with the city to install new low-flow toilets, water efficiency sprinkler heads and other water-saving features. The city and BHP are also working on a submetering pilot to help find system leaks. At one property BHP was able to identify a leak that wasted 8,640 gallons per day; that’s 6 gallons per minute!
EPA WaterSense initiatives, like Fix-a-Leak-Week are supported by the city and helped win the city a 2013 WaterSense Excellence Award.
Center for ReSource Conservation (CRC) offers multiple city supported programs from low-cost xeriscape gardens to low-flow toilet installs. The CRC also promotes energy efficiency in BVSD schools through the “Renew Our Schools” challenge.
Boulder County’s EnergySmart Program helps support wise water and energy use by coordinating low-flow shower head retrofits. Partners for A Clean Environment provides free water conservation and energy assessments to businesses.





Goal: By 2050, the community’s food system will reduce climate impacts by supporting the production and use of food we grow, raise and eat in Boulder.

Producing and disposing of food has a significant impact on our climate—about nine percent of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. From seed to farmers’ market and feed to butchers’ counters, significant amounts of water, nutrients, energy and human labor are needed to produce the final grains, produce and meat that end up on our dinner plates. By supporting the expansion of local, sustainable, climate-friendly energy production and distribution in and around Boulder, we will reduce our climate impact and community emissions.  

2015-2020 City Food Action Priorities

Climate-Friendly Foods 

• Encouraging sales of residentially-produced vegetables, fruits and cottage foods (when people become producers they develop a greater understanding of the impacts of what they consume).
• Continued leadership and investment in regional efforts, such as the Making Local Foods group, a collaborative effort among Boulder County governments, non-profits and businesses to promote and support local food production and consumption.