This year, Boulder Weekly, in cooperation with Eco-Cycle, launches
its Boulderganic Awards to recognize the groups, individuals and
businesses that have helped make Boulder County a vibrant, innovative
and greener place to live. The five categories — innovation in business,
sustainability, activism, public service and nurturing community —
reflect the many ways Boulder County residents are working to make our
community stronger and more sustainable.
The award for business goes to Namaste Solar, for fostering sustainable, conscientious business practices.
Founded in 2004 and officially incorporated in 2005, Namaste Solar
has grown from its three initial founders to an iconic company of more
than 60. That rapid growth is due in part to their product — solar
energy systems are a hot commodity around Boulder County — but it also
reflects innovative, successful business practices.
At Namaste, employees own 100 percent of the company, and they
recently adopted a “co-op” model where each employee shares in the
profits and the decision-making process.
And while a democratic process takes longer than the traditional
command-and-control system at most businesses, the results are tangible:
lower employee turnover and greater innovation.
“To us, part of our vision is to create a way to pioneer
conscientious business practices,” says Heather Leanne Nangle, co-owner
and marketing and communications director at Namaste.
For Namaste, conscientious business includes taking care of the
community as well as the employees. The company is zero-waste,
encourages carpooling and biking among employees and conducts regular
educational outreach on renewable energy. One percent of annual revenue
goes to its Solar Grant program, which donates solar energy systems to
local nonprofit organizations. So far, Namaste has donated more than 100
kW of these systems to local groups, the first in 2005 to the Boulder
And for employees like Nangle, how they do business is just as important as the product they sell.
“Even if we stopped selling solar and opened up a pizza shop, we’d still be doing it in this unique way,” Nangle says.
Citizens for Boulder’s Clean Energy Future receives the Boulderganic
Award for activism. The group has its roots in the Boulder Renewable
Energy and Energy Efficieny working group, which was founded in 2002 and
in 2010 took the lead in efforts to pass City Ballot Issue 2B. The
ballot issue, which approved a tax to replace the money Xcel formerly
paid the city under its franchise agreement, passed with an overwhelming
majority and brought Boulder one step further down the road to a future
of renewable energy and green jobs.
Currently the group is focusing on education rather than direct
advocacy. In addition to holding community education events, CBCEF also
has three academic and expert advisory task forces to research Boulder’s
energy load and generation options, investigate the financial elements
of switching to renewable energy, and address citizen concerns and
CBCEF is a grassroots group of citizens that supports reliable,
reasonably priced renewable energy that is locally governed and
generated, and helps our local economy and jobs.
For public service, the award goes to Boulder County Commissioner
Will Toor. Toor was first elected to the Board of County
Commissioners in 2004 and was re-elected to his second four-year term in
2008. His roots in the Boulder community go back much further, though.
Toor moved to Boulder in 1980 and worked as a truck driver, mechanic
and yard foreman for Eco-Cycle from 1981 to 1984 and 1986 to 1987.
Toor was also an instructor in the University of Colorado’s
Environmental Studies Program and served as director of the CU
Environmental Center from 1992 to 2005. Toor was elected to the Boulder
City Council in 1997, and was appointed mayor in 1998.
Eric Lombardi, director of Eco-Cycle, says Toor deserves to be
recognized not only for what he’s achieved in the past, but for his
vision for the future.
“Will is always about five years ahead of everyone else,” Lombardi
says. “[He] is the most influential green politician in Boulder.”
As a proponent of alternative transportation, Toor has played a
strong role in developing the EcoPass program and in supporting the
impressive network of bike paths criss-crossing Boulder.
“Anyone with a bicycle in Boulder should [say] ‘Thank you, Will.’ He’s a local gem. We’re lucky to have him,” Lombardi says.
For sustainability, the award goes to the four original “Green Star”
schools — Douglass Elementary, High Peaks, Horizons K-8 and Boulder
Community School of Integrated Studies.
The Green Star program, created and run by Eco-Cycle, is the only
school-wide composting program in the nation, and involves participation
from the principal, teachers, staff and, most importantly, students.
Ghita Carroll, sustainability coordinator for the Boulder Valley School
District, says one of the main benefits of the program is that it
actively engages students.
“Recycling and composting offer a unique ‘hands-on’ opportunity to
make communities and schools more sustainable on a daily basis,” she
says. “Unlike, for example, installing more efficient boilers or
windows, recycling and composting are activities students can be — and
are — actively involved in.
“Watching the students line up after lunch, patiently waiting with
their trays to properly dispose of their contents in one of four bins is
a reality which, for me, inspires great hope.”
The program was launched in 2005 and now has 26 participating
schools. In addition to school-wide composting and recycling efforts,
events at these schools are zero-waste, and each school has embraced
wider commitment to sustainability efforts. BCSIS and High Peaks
recently won the Renew Our Schools Grant, offered through the Center for
ReSource Conservation, to install a 10-kW solar array at their schools.
Students at Douglass Elementary help coordinate Earth Day activities
for the school, and Horizons K-8 did an energy audit of its school in
partnership with Xcel Energy.
The Green Star program has proved so popular that there is now a
waiting list of schools hoping to participate. Interested schools
contact Eco-Cycle, and extensive staff and student training is required.
The training and education is provided through Eco-Cycle and is
Boulder County Farmers’ Markets received the Boulderganic Award for
Nurturing Community. What started in 1986 as a small gathering of local
farmers has grown to include more than 150 participants — including
everyone from professional farmers to backyard gardeners — at two
Every year, from April through November, hundreds of visitors flock
to the markets at Boulder’s Central Park on 13th Street in Boulder and
at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont.
The farmers’ markets do more than bring fresh local produce to
Boulder County residents. Over the years, the markets have donated
profits to 4H; the County Fair; the Women, Infants and Children
nutrition program; and Cultiva!, a youth-operated organic garden.
When the market was first getting off the ground, the city of Boulder
agreed to provide staff support, secretarial services, meeting spaces,
appropriate permits and a site for the market. In the years since,
Boulder and Longmont have continued to provide support for both
locations, including grants for improvements and allowing a longer
season, which means residents will continue enjoying our local bounty
for many seasons to come.