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Ecosystems: How You Can Help Our Climate & Landscapes

Boulder's summer 2020 ecosystems actions photo of a garden

Here in Boulder, we often think of landscapes for their beauty and the opportunities they provide to play, hike or climb. The natural resources in these ecosystems both support and sustain life, including abundant and diverse native wildlife and plants. But did you know our land and ecosystems are important tools in our fight against climate change?

Scientists, policy makers and community members are learning more about the important role ecosystems play in supporting a stable climate. In fact, recent scientific studies have demonstrated that landscapes — from public lands to your back yard — could provide up to a third of the climate action needed over the next 10 years. Healthy urban and wild ecosystems can remove carbon from our atmosphere — where it contributes to the earth-warming greenhouse effect — and store it in living soils, where it feeds living things. This natural process is also referred to as “carbon sequestration.”


New local actions to support our ecosystems

In recognition of all the benefits ecosystems provide, the city is launching a new set of opportunities for public participation as a part of CMAP (Climate Mobilization Action Plan). As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that these opportunities also help make our community more equitable and resilient. The city is identifying actions that support our land, have a positive impact on our climate and address the vulnerabilities of those for whom climate change poses the highest risk.

The city cannot tackle these challenges alone. Collaborating locally and internationally, the city has helped develop a number of initiatives that are pioneering new approaches to ecosystem-based carbon management, many of which create new opportunities for community action.


Grow and Give in Boulder/Boulder County

grow and give boulder logo

In response to the increasing food insecurity in our own community, the city’s Climate Initiatives Department connecting home gardeners and farmers to a network of organizations that provide nutritious food to those in need.

Participants sign up their gardens and are connected to a network of both growing support resources and food distribution sites. This program aims to recruit 500 local gardens and produce over 2,500 pounds of nutritious food for the Boulder County community over the next six months. Through this program, local gardeners also receive information on increasing the carbon capture capability of gardens, water conservation, and opportunities to participate in other local landscape stewardship activities.

  1. Visit the city’s Grow and Give webpage.
  2. Sign up to grow and give.
  3. Grow your garden!  Get tips on how to grow food .
  4. When you’re ready to donate a portion of your garden’s harvest,  weigh it and report how much you’re donating.
  5. Drop off your donation at the nearest hunger relief organization (or the organization of your choice) this list  .
  6. Spread the word on social! Take a photo of your growing garden or harvest donation, share it on social media, and use the hashtag #GrowandGiveBoulder to say why you’re growing to give. Tag the organization you’re supporting to make it even more impactful.


Community Carbon Farming 

be an observational carbon farmer picture with people gardening

The city partnered with Eco-Cycle last year to launch the Community Carbon Farming program and is now opening up new opportunities to participate. This initiative enables anyone with a small yard to join in an internationally coordinated research initiative to increase soil carbon sequestration.

Five different soil treatments were applied in yards across Boulder County to explore how to most effectively draw carbon out of the atmosphere into living soil. This project also looks at how soil treatments can simultaneously improve the nutrient density of foods being grown on them. This three year study is ongoing, but there are already exciting trends coming out of the work

This work has impacts outside of our community. Boulder’s data is aggregated in an international open source database, enabling networks of scientists and coders to connect growing practices with carbon drawdown potential and nutrient density of crops. Other cities and partners are following Boulder’s lead, implementing similar programs and collecting data, which we hope will contribute to a greater understanding of how ecosystems play a role in climate resilience and mitigation.

The program will continue with the original participants, but we are also opening up the observational resident scientist opportunity to another 250 participants!

 Participants will be invited to attend an introductory webinar on soils and climate, receive a video series on soil health and sequestration, and be provided instruction on how to use the open science platform to collect data in their own yards. Eco-Cycle will also be making videos public for those who just want to learn more about carbon sequestration, soil health and their effect on ecosystems.

Visit Eco-Cycle’s Carbon Farmer webpage to sign up .


Small Gardens Big Change photo of a yellow butterfly and purple flowers

The Small Gardens Big Change Initiative is an effort to help pollinators while also addressing the isolation that many older community members are experiencing during COVID-19.

The health and resilience of local landscapes depends on the vital services provided by hundreds of native pollinator species. Boulder County has over 550 species of native bees alone. Many pollinators, as well as other beneficial insects, are in serious decline due to habitat loss, toxic herbicides and pesticides, and climate change. Establishing safe habitat is critical to recovering and sustaining these life supporting members of our community.

To protect and restore our pollinators, there needs to be hundreds of thousands of native plants in connected corridors running throughout Boulder. The scale and cost of this project is too big for the city to take on alone. In a unique and creative response, the Butterfly Pavilion, the City of Boulder, the Colorado State University Extension, and Boulder Housing Partners have joined to create pollinator plant grow kits that are being distributed to homebound older adults.

These older adults are given one-on-one and group digital support to turn their patios, backyards and even living rooms into nurseries that will grow out thousands of plant seedlings. These plants will be collected in the fall and planted in pollinator protection hubs. As this pilot is expanded, pollinator corridors will be created across the city. This project will help increase the resilience of the life-supporting landscapes we love and depend on, as well as support our community with increased social connectivity.

The city is recruiting individuals with gardening or horticultural experience to serve as partners/grow buddies for older adults participating in this project. You do not need to be a master gardener to help-- horticulturists from Colorado State University and the Butterfly Pavilion will provide guidance throughout the process. Partners will make weekly virtual contact with the older adult participants and assist them with ongoing communication and engagement.

The pilot phase of this program will run through Sept. 30 and funding is currently being raised to expand the program over the winter to install thousands more plants in the spring.  

Learn more about the program on the Small Gardens, Big Changes webpage