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a boulder approach

a few months ago I learned that several frederick county commissioners were planning a trip to boulder, colorado, on a fact-finding mission to learn more about that city and county’s “zero-waste” approach to trash management.

cool, I thought. boulder would be a neat place to visit. so I asked my boss what he thought. sure, he said, write up a proposal. I don’t think there’s any way the “powers that be” will fund it, but it’s worth a shot. I shot for the moon — a reporter and I would travel together. she would do the writing, I would do the editing and photography. I could even write a blog!

a few days later, “the powers that be” responded — great idea, molly. but we have only enough money for you to go alone, and do everything. oh, and why don’t you do videotaping, too, for the web?

my first thought: fabulous! my second thought: crap, what did I just get myself into?

it turns out, what I got myself into was an inspiring, lovely, tiring, and exhilarating four-day trip to Colorado. leaving jackson and dave behind was the difficult part. the rest turned out to be easier than I expected.

I flew out of dulles on sunday morning, june 8, and flew back on wednesday, june 11. in between I stayed at the boulder outlook hotel, a “zero-waste hotel” complete with several recycling boxes and a compost bag in each room. it took a short while to get used to sorting what I threw out — did it belong in compost? recycling? did I have to send it to the landfill?

on sunday night, I met with the bock family, who live on 19th street in boulder. the father, Jim, helped start up ecocycle in the 1970s. now it’s a nonprofit company that runs recycling operations in the city. then, it was a group of concerned residents who drove around the city in old buses to collect recyclables. the mother, regina, was generous with her time, talking about why she and her family are so vigilant about recycling and how living in boulder helps their efforts. son logan, 12, spent much of the interview monitoring ebay for a baseball glove he was trying to win!

I was totally nerve-wracked before I went into their house — what if I didn’t remember how to be a reporter? what if the video camera didn’t record? but once I left the bock house, I was energized. I knew exactly what I needed to do with my writing and reporting, and the videotaping and photo-taking didn’t turn out half bad!

monday was busy — tours of the recycling centers, and lots of meetings with city and county officials. interesting stuff, for the most part. but the highlight of the day was my rachael ray-esque find at dinnertime. move over, rach, I can be the new host of “$40 a Day.” my find was called tahona tequila bistro, located at the top of pearl street. I scored an outdoor bistro table at dusk, overlooking the flatiron mountains of boulder. on mondays, happy hour prices are good all day on drinks and a huge variety of food. I started with a delicious lemonade, infused with fruit and tequila, then munched on an interesting quesadilla, filled with zucchini, cheese, tomatoes, and chicken. I added the daily tamale, but didn’t need it — the quesadilla was huge!

I spent the rest of that night, and tuesday night, exploring the pearl street mall — a pedestrian mall filled with interesting shops and restaurants, and lots of people, too. the only disappointing part was most places closed around 8 p.m. — boulder is a college town, and the majority of students were gone for the summer. even the coffeeshops closed promptly at 9!

tuesday morning I woke up bright and early and took myself out for breakfast at the boulder dushanbe teahouse. again I was seated outdoors, with a pretty view and lovely food. I enjoyed a pot of their house specialty tea and an order of french toast. the presentation was impressive! and tasty too.

a quick tour of the university of colorado campus was followed by a drive out of town to the celestial seasonings factory for a free tour. (luckily, it was on my way to niwot elementary school, in the small town of Niwot, where I met up with the frederick county group I was covering.) no photos allowed on the tour, but it was the smells that I really wished I could capture! let’s just say the “mint room” brought many in the group literally to tears, myself included.

niwot elementary is a “green-star” school, meaning its students and staff participate in intense recycling as well as composting daily. driving down the hill on which the school was situated, I had to pull over several times — the views were just too amazing! sadly, the position of the sun, and my camera’s limitations meant I couldn’t do the scenery justice in pictures.

all too soon, it was time to pack up and leave this great city. but I did manage one, last great culinary experience before I departed! I had spotted crepes a la carte, just off pearl street mall, several times in my shopping. I was tempted, but never stopped. finally, on wednesday morning, I decided to grab breakfast there. and what a great decision that was! I ordered the bacon, egg, and cheese crepe from the laid-back staff, who was busy checking out the ladies entering a yoga studio across the street. despite the distraction, the crepe was more than delicious. a great way to end my boulder experience!

though I loved the trip, I was glad to get home to maryland, and my boys. (my luggage apparently became enamored with dallas — my stopover city — and didn’t come back home for another 24 hours.)

check out my stories, photos and videos online at www.gazette.net/zerowaste — and by clicking on the box at the top of this entry!

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