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Green Lifestyle in Boulder

Boulder is a community with high ethical standards focused on preserving natural open space, a clean and beautiful environment, and a reduction in pollution. In fact, in 2016, the White House designated Boulder a Climate Action Champion for "outstanding leadership in climate resilience actions and greenhouse gas emissions reductions." Here are a few examples of green efforts in Boulder:

No Smoking in Boulder Restaurants and Taverns

A no-smoking policy has been in effect in the workplace of Boulder's employees for quite some time. However, in September of 1995, Boulder took another step forward and included restaurants into the equation to protect employees and staff of Boulder's local restaurants. This has been a great success for Boulder and a great contribution to a cleaner environment!

For more information, please contact GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution) at 303-444-9799 or call the City of Boulder's Environmental Enforcement Office at 303-441-3239.

The "Blue Line"

In 1910, it was the threat of an amusement park on the summit of Flagstaff Mountain, accessed by an inclined railway, that got people talking. Concerned citizens spoke out, creating long-range plans to protect Boulder's mountain backdrop from development. Among them was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who wrote a self-titled report stating: "The scenery of Flagstaff Mountain is too noble, too magnificent, too precious, to be wasted (on)... roller coasters..." Once again in 1959, Boulder's mountain backdrop was threatened by subdivision and hotel plans. City Council was presented with a water bond issue that would have extended water distribution lines into the Flatirons. Again, Boulder citizens spoke out and created a charter amendment to prohibit water service above a stated contour of elevation, known as a "Blue Line." The definition of the "Blue Line" is the line above which the City of Boulder shall not supply water for domestic, commercial, or industrial uses. A few notable exceptions have been made, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Flagstaff House.

Boulder's Open Space Program

Realizing that the "Blue Line" was an important success, Boulder citizens decided to prevent further development by acquiring land before it was developed. In 1967, Boulder became the first city in the United States to tax itself for funds to be used specifically for the acquisition, management and maintenance of Open Space. An additional sales tax of one cent on the dollar was authorized, 40 percent of which went to open space lands. In 1989, voters expanded the revenue stream by the addition of another .33 cent sales tax! The Boulder Open Space Program, together with the City's Parks Program, has succeeded in protecting the essential scenic beauty and ecological integrity of the Boulder Valley. City Open Space now protects almost two-thirds of the Boulder Valley, commonly referred to as the "greenbelt." To this point, the City has acquired approximately 6,100 acres of Mountain Parks lands, approximately 2,700 acres of other park lands, approximately 29,000 acres of Open Space, approximately 480 acres of utility lands, for a total of 38,500 acres. The County Open Space Program now owns over 54,000 acres.

Boulder's Growth Management System

In 1976, Boulder instituted its first growth ordinance, called the Danish Plan, limiting population growth to two percent. Since then, four different versions of the plan were created and utilized until 1995, when the plan was fundamentally changed. The changes were in response to concerns that affordable housing was not available. Two major changes were made in 1995. The population growth limit decreased from two percent to less than one percent, and annual building permits were allocated equally between various affordability ranges. Because so much natural habitat has been preserved by this system, more than 1,200 deer share the environment with residents. In fact, deer grazing in neighborhood yards is a common and welcomed sight!

The Green Points Building Program

Green Points was designed to help homeowners find products and designs for building "green," while encouraging Boulder homeowners to include cost-effective and sustainable remodeling and building methods that conserve fossil fuels, water and other natural resources. Green Points promotes the recycling of construction materials, which reduces solid waste and promotes better indoor air quality. This program offers remodelers, do-it-yourselfers, and homebuyers great ideas, while allowing them flexibility to tailor their selections to specific designs or preferences. In fact, remodeling and small addition projects are encouraged to voluntarily use green building, while new home construction and additions over 500 square feet are required by city ordinances to participate in the Green Points program! For more information, please call 303-441-1964.

Reduced Pollution through Public Transportation: The HOP & SKIP

Boulder's convenient HOP and SKIP shuttles allow residents and visitors an alternative way to shop, see the sights, go to school, or commute to work! The HOP is a circulator shuttle that makes 40 stops along a loop through central Boulder, including Crossroads Mall, Pearl Street and the University Hill area. The SKIP runs north and south along Broadway seven days a week. You can catch the brightly colored buses Monday-Saturday, every 6 to 30 minutes. Both the HOP and SKIP are easy on your budget, too. A ride costs just 75¢, 25¢ for seniors, or free with your ECO, Neighborhood, CU or RTD pass. For HOP maps and information, call 447-8282. For SKIP schedules and information, call 299-6000 then speed dial 1-1-8-2. The HOP and SKIP combined are now servicing 10,000 trips per day during the week! Because of the HOP & SKIP's success, RTD and the Denver Regional Council of Governments recently approved funding for the JUMP, LEAP and BOUND, which are scheduled to start service in 2000. The addition of these services will form the foundation of a network transit system that will offer people the opportunity to use transit and make connections easily and without a schedule.

Eco Pass Program

The Eco Pass program is an annual RTD transit pass valid on all RTD local, regional and express buses, the HOP, SKIP, and upcoming JUMP, LEAP and BOUND, serving Boulder and surrounding areas. The program was designed to cut down on the number of cars driven in Boulder on a day-to-day basis. Currently, the city of Boulder is exploring options for a Community Transit Pass program. This program would provide Eco Passes to every resident, student and employee in the city. Many businesses in the Boulder area are already on board: the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the City of Boulder and RTD, offers member businesses the opportunity to purchase Eco Passes for their employees at a substantial discount. The University of Colorado also provides Eco Passes to staff members at a significantly lower rate. The goal of the eco pass program is simple: to reduce congestion and pollution, making Boulder a cleaner and more desirable place to live.

Annual Walk and Bike Week & Walk and Bike to Work Day

Boulder Walk and Bike Week is a major undertaking designed both as an incentive to exercise and to showcase the benefits of the bicycle as transportation. In years past, several restaurants and bakeries offered bicycle commuters free continental breakfasts, while volunteer mechanics offered discounted tune-ups and bike safety checks. In June 2000, there were 5,563 participants who traveled over 20,000 miles on Walk and Bike to Work Day! And during the Second Annual Walk Our Children to School Day program, 3,400 students walked to school throughout the Boulder Valley School District with their parents, teachers, council members, mayors and police officers. This great contribution to an overall reduction in pollution is another example of Boulder's commitment to an improved quality of life.

A Sign Code Restricting the Use of Billboards

To preserve the natural beauty in and around Boulder, a sign code was created, restricting the size, location and height of billboards. Simply put, the Boulder code does not allow any signs or billboards located off the premises of the property they belong to. The law also does not allow signs that involve the use of a live animal, signs with lights or illuminations that flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink or flicker, signs twenty-five feet or more above the ground level, signs with an optical illusion of movement, roof signs or signs emitting sound, just to name a few. For more information, please call the City of Boulder's Environmental Enforcement Office at 303-441-3239.

Building Heights

In 1971, yet another effort was made to protect the view of Boulder's precious foothill mountains. A charter amendment was created that limited the height of new buildings to 55 feet. Since then, the amendment has been modified to a new height of 35 feet. By exception, builders may extend to 55 feet, if approved by the planning board, for commercial, industrial and multifamily residential zones only.

Boulder County Recycling Center and Eco-Cycle

Boulder County Recycling Center and Eco-Cycle operate a 24-hour, 7 day a week Recycling Drop-Off Center. Recyclable material drop-off is open to residents. For more information, visit the Recycling Center's website.

PACE: An Example of Boulder's Commitment to Recycling

Partners for a Clean Environment, or PACE, is a voluntary, non-regulatory program that provides public recognition and technical assistance to all Boulder County businesses by helping them save money and resources, increase energy and water efficiency, reduce waste and prevent pollution. To get your business plugged in to savings and recognition, or for a list of certified businesses, call the PACE help-line at 303-786-PACE.

Compost Bins on the Pearl Street Mall 

Many cities offer recycle bins in popular public spots, but in 2012, the City of Boulder's Local Environmental Action Division (LEAD), in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department, took it a step further, installing compost bins at three sites on the Pearl Street Mall. The bins are part of a pilot project to decrease waste and raise awareness about Boulder's goal to become a zero-waste community. Learn more about the City's zero-waste ordinance here.

Information obtained from the City of Boulder's website, at, "The Insider's Guide to Boulder & Rocky Mountain National Park" by The Daily Camera, the Boulder League of Women Voters, and the City of Boulder's Environmental Enforcement Office at 303-441-3239.