How to Be an Eco-Traveler in Boulder
Are you a traveler who likes to minimize your impact when you visit a place? You’re not alone. Many Boulderites share your sentiments, making their way through the world with care: riding bikes as much as possible, recycling and composting like crazy, and being mindful of the environment. It's all part of an ethos that goes way back to the town's cutting-edge land preservation movement and beyond. Here are a few ideas for traveling greener while in Boulder.
1. Ditch the Car
Boulder is incredibly compact and walkable and has a great public transit system. Especially helpful to visitors is the Hop, a public bus running a looped route that goes to the city’s most popular spots, from downtown to Twenty Ninth Street to the University of Colorado and back.
Even getting here from the airport via bus is simple. From Denver International Airport, hop on RTD Bus Route AB and you’ll end up right in downtown Boulder.
2. Green Your Stay
Recycling and composting are common practices in Boulder, but there are several hotels taking sustainability to a new level. St Julien Hotel & Spa has reduced electricity and water usage by more than 20 percent per occupied room since enacting their “Go Green” initiative. Hampton Inn & Suites is Gold LEED Certified, meaning the building generates less waste and lowers the use of energy, water and other resources. Best Western Plus Boulder Inn is the most solar-powered hotel in Boulder County and has three EV charging stations free for guest use.
3. Shop with a Conscience
Most folks like to shop a little while on vacation, and lucky for eco-minded travelers, we’ve got lots of responsible ways to do so. For starters, Boulder’s thrift stores are legendary! See our thrift store recommendations here for upcycled style you won’t find anywhere else. You can also feel good about shopping in these unique stores:
- Momentum Gorgeous, fair-trade goods with stories from around the world.
- Nude Foods Market Organic foods, meals and household products in zero-waste, reusable containers.
- Ramble on Pearl Boutique clothing that benefits the shop's apprentice program for adults with developmental disabilities.
- Art Parts Creative Reuse Center Nonprofit creative reuse center that offers deeply-discounted art supplies and features a gallery with upcycled and found-object artwork.
4. Bike Share
BCycle is Boulder’s e-bike-sharing organization with 50 stations around town with 300 pedal-assist e-bikes. It’s easy to check out a bike, cruise around town, and return it to a station when you’re done. You can also share a fuel-efficient car through the Boulder nonprofit eGo CarShare.
5. Tread Lightly
Be aware of best practices before heading out into nature. Try finding less-visited areas to explore and check conditions before you go. While you’re out there, be sure to stick to designated trails. Shortcuts and walking alongside trails when they are muddy might be tempting, but doing so is extremely harmful to plants and critters and adds to erosion. Be sure to brush up on how to be a responsible visitor by reading Care for Colorado’s tips.
6. Shuttle It in Every Season
• Ride the Hiker Shuttle We all love to get up close to the iconic Flatirons via Chautauqua Trailhead, but that means the area can get a little crazy on summer weekends. You can help lessen the impact by taking the Park-to-Park free weekend shuttle. The shuttle runs Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Simply park for free at downtown parking garages, the CU Regent lot or New Vista High School, and then hop on the shuttle, which stops by every 15 minutes. Dogs are welcome and it’s just a short, 10-minute or so ride. Shuttle map and details here. Additionally, you can find a free weekend shuttle to Eldorado Canyon State Park, which runs approximately every 20 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as a shuttle to Hessie Trailhead, stopping every 15 minutes on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
• Take the Ski-n-Ride Bus Ride public transportation to Eldora (Boulder's closest ski resort) for just $10.50 round trip. Sit back, relax and you'll be there in about an hour. Regional Transportation District (RTD) buses depart from the 14th and Walnut RTD Station in Boulder, stop in downtown Nederland, then drop you off right in front of the Main Lodge at Eldora, where it also leaves to go back at the end of the day. Look for the Ski-n-Ride Route NB from the 14th and Walnut station in Boulder. You will want to purchase a regional/airport day pass for $10.50. More information and Route NB schedule here.
• Hire a ride from Drive Ahead If you're looking for a modern, luxury experience try scheduling a ride with Drive Ahead, a local service utilizing 100% electric vehicles. The service can be used whether you're looking to be picked up or dropped off at Denver International Airport or simply driven back and forth between meetings and dinner reservations. They also offer a simple hourly car service with a minimum of two hours. All rides include water, hot tea or hot chocolate, hand sanitizer, streamed music and charging ports, so you can travel while staying connected and comfortable.
7. Go on a Bike Tour of Boulder's Sustainable Success Stories
Beyond Boulder Bike Adventures offers a Cycle to Sustainability tour that will give you insight into what makes Boulder such a sustainably minded town. You'll get a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the most innovative and interesting green programs (and brewpubs) all while enjoying Boulders unparalleled scenic beauty on a zero-emission bike.
8. Take the Road Less Traveled
Yes, you’ll want to see Pearl Street and the Flatirons, of course, but if you’re up for a little off-the-beaten-path adventure, Boulder’s surrounding businesses and neighborhoods would love to have you.
Where to see Boulder, locals style:
- East Boulder Bike your way out using the beautiful Boulder Creek Path, then stop to eat at Blackbelly, Pica or Le Frigo. Taste beer at Upslope Brewing or one of the other breweries, distilleries and cideries that call this area home. Play a round of golf at Flatirons Golf Course, or see a dinner theater show at BDT Stage.
- North Boulder (NoBo) NoBo is a budding artists’ district, with a First Friday art walk to see it all. You can also park and sip on Lee Hill Dr., home to two wineries, a brewery and a cidery all right next door to one another. Dine at Proto’s Pizza or Little Tibet, and take a stroll around Wonderland Lake.
- The Hill This district is adjacent to the University of Colorado and is student central. Shop Albums on the Hill and then have a sumptuous dinner at Café Aion. Finally, catch a show at the Fox Theatre.
- South Boulder (SoBo) Visit one of the national science labs here, eat breakfast at South Side Walnut Café, have a beer on the patio of Under the Sun, take a yoga class at Yoga Loft, or grab a scoop (or three) of small-batch ice cream from Sweet Cow and stroll through Martin Park.
9. Study Up on Climate at NCAR
Behind the scenes at Boulder's National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), groundbreaking scientific findings are happening all the time. In NCAR's visitor center, you'll discover a collection of fascinating exhibits exploring weather, climate and the Sun-Earth connection, and you'll learn about human impact on the earth and climate change. You can touch a cloud, steer a hurricane, take a look at the Sun and browse art galleries, too. Visit Mon–Fri 8am–5pm or Sa–Su 9am–4pm. Tours are offered Mon, Wed and Fri at noon. Please note: The NCAR Mesa Lab is temporarily closed to the public.
10. Volunteer Your Time
If you want to give back during your stay, you may want to volunteer a bit of your time here. The City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) department makes it easy. Check here for one-day volunteer opportunities (seed collection, trail maintenance, etc.) and register online. Many Boulder County farms could use a hand, too. You will have fond memories of your time in Boulder, and probably meet some interesting people, as you give your time to a cause you believe in.
11. Honor Boulder's Indigenous Roots
Did you know the Boulder Valley was first home to Indigenous people, primarily the Southern Arapaho tribe? If you’re interested to learn more about the original caretakers of this beautiful land we all love, visit Museum of Boulder at The Tebo Center to see the ongoing “Boulder Experience” exhibition, which details some of Boulder’s Native history. The local nonprofit Native Women’s Wilderness often hosts hiking and educational events. Boulder also celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day to honor the existence, culture and contributions of the original inhabitants of Boulder, featuring dances, poetry, film screenings and more.
12. Leave a Legacy
There are more homegrown Boulder charities and responsibly minded companies than we can count. In fact, Boulder has more B Corps — those are organizations for which giving back is as important as making revenue — than anywhere in the country. You can leave behind a gift with an organization like Historic Boulder, which works to preserve Boulder’s historic resources, or Community Cycles, whose recycled bikes program helps get everyone on a bike, or one of dozens more listed here.