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Jumpstarting Pueblo’s recycling effort

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While recycling activism is on an upward trend nationwide, it is proving to be a difficult task to implement recycling services locally and gain community involvement even though the majority of Pueblo residents support the movement.

The 2010 Direction Finder Survey conducted by the City of Pueblo found that 40 percent of respondents were very supportive of a city funded and operated recycling center and 70 percent said they would support and participate in drop off centers for household recyclables.

However, 44 percent said they would not be willing to pay any type of fee to fund such a center and 53 percent said they do not currently use any recycling services located in Pueblo.

The 2014 survey increased 5 percent from the one four years prior. In 2014, 75 percent of residents responded that they would support and participate in drop off centers for household recyclables and the respondents listed a recycling drop off center as the third overall most important capital improvement that should be made right behind street and maintenance repair and police vehicle and equipment replacement.

In the midst of those surveys, however, locals were working to make recycling more accessible.

“Northern Colorado seems to do a much better job of recycling than Southern Colorado. There are more communities . . . the residents/political climate is such that is really supports diversion.” – Marjorie Griek, executive director, Colorado Association for Recycling

“People in Bessemer walked to the mill from home for work every day. We rinsed our glass bottles and put them back out for the milkman. We patched torn clothing and re-soled our shoes. We rode electric street trolleys. We shared tools with our neighbors and entertainment was mostly outdoors or over a card table. We were already environmentally friendly. We just need to turn around,” Justin Parker of We Recycle Cooperation LLC said.

In a metal warehouse located in Pueblo West, Parker and his team at We Recycle sort recyclables by hand and put them in the proper bales to be shipped and constructed into reusable products. Although their long hours are helping make southern Colorado greener, they are working to educate and improve the local environment and are struggling financially. “Every day is a challenge to get all of the recycling picked up, sorted, baled, and shipped. It is a challenge to make payroll and pay bills,” Parker said.

Recycling, Remanufacturing, and Reuse businesses account for the employment of about 2.7 percent of jobs in the state and generate a direct monetary impact of around $14.7 billion according to a 2014 Economic Study of Recycling in Colorado prepared for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

About 2,500 households in Pueblo use We Recycle services, according to Parker. Each week around 400 people drop off their recyclables at the We Recycle center and more recyclables are picked up from 1,400 to 1,500 homes with the We Recycle curbside recycling membership service totaling the center processing to about 3,000 bags of single-stream recycling every week.

Even with We Recycle’s flexible membership plans and various drop off locations at places like Solar Roast Coffee and Habitat for Humanity as well as in neighboring towns such as Westcliffe, Beulah, and Colorado City; resources such as The Pueblo Recycle Hotline that operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and the Pueblo Area Recycling Guide produced quarterly and distributed to local libraries, coffee shops, schools and businesses provided by the Pueblo City-County Health Department’s Environmental Coordinator, Southern Colorado is not on the same playing field as Northern when it comes to recycling.

“Northern Colorado seems to do a much better job of recycling than Southern Colorado. There are more communities . . . the residents/political climate is such that is really supports diversion,” said Marjorie Griek, the executive director of the Colorado Association for Recycling.

Multiple project and programs have been and are currently in the works to boost Pueblo and Southern Colorado’s recycling efforts overall.

“Data shows nationally recycling and green initiatives are trending upward and the public’s awareness of these issues is increasing. The trend is expected to continue in the coming years nationally as well as in Pueblo,” said Sarah Joseph, the public information officer for the Pueblo City-County Health Department.

But Parker has a much different outlook.

“I think the mindset will get worse. We’ll produce more trash, we’ll start double-bagging our Styrofoam take-out containers, we’ll dig another landfill . . . somebody will convince us to take Denver’s trash, then somebody will convince us to build a nuclear/hazardous waste dumpsite,” Parker said. “I hope I’m wrong.”

In 2013, We Recycle was awarded $293,086 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Fund to fund a project titled the Southern Colorado Hub and Spoke Cooperation.

Eric Heyboer, the Recycling Grant Program Administrator for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment explained that the grant is “the state’s method of investing in new recycling infrastructure to reduce the amount of materials that end up in our landfills.”

The department has additionally contributed a recycling drop off center rebate to another local Pueblo recycling company, C&C Disposal.

With the grant, We Recycle partnered with five separate organizations to increase recycling efforts and resources all across southern Colorado.

“We Recycle was the lead on the project, but received less than half of the total funding,” Parker said.

With the money, they did purchase a three-conveyor sort system, a trailer to pick up the bales of recyclables and were able to make improvements in their operation warehouse.

“Our goal for our piece was to prove we could sort recycling without building a multi-million dollar material recovery facility. We could do it with a simpler system that used manpower instead of horsepower,” he explained.

Lack of popularity of recycling is partially due to the fees associated with it as found by the data from the 2010 Direction Finder survey.

Justin Parker of the We Recycle Cooperation LLC stands among bales of recyclables that he and his team sorted at their metal warehouse location in Pueblo West. Photo by Kara Mason

“Recycling is cheaper than trash, but most people will continue paying for trash and recycling is an additional expense. Almost every business would save money by recycling, but oftentimes the trash cost is such an insignificant part of the budget that those savings are not a game changer,” Parker said.

We Recycle subcontracts with Waste Connections of Pueblo an every other week curbside service for its members that is closer to the same cost as “trash-only” but is still slightly more expensive.

“We offer discounted programs for local schools every year in hopes of building a culture of recycling and an eco-mindset in the next generation. Some schools take advantage, but most do not,” he said.

In addition to the We Recycle grant project, the Pueblo City-County Health Department’s environmental coordinator has implemented several programs and projects to help improve Pueblo’s recycling culture as well.

Ongoing services such as the Pueblo Recycle Hotline and the Pueblo Area Recycling Guide provide a consistent way for locals to obtain information and education on recycling.

The environmental coordinator receives about 25 calls a week with two or three requests for information about the next recycling drop off event on the hotline and the recycling guide produced every three to four months reaches roughly 8,000 people annually.

“Education presentations about recycling and litter prevention are made to classrooms, youth groups and at public fairs, reaching 2,500 people per year,” Joseph said.

This year the environmental coordinator will be holding six separate city and county neighborhood cleanups and recycling some materials gathered from the cleanups such as scrap metals, tires and yard waste.

Additionally, the Enactus club at Colorado State University-Pueblo is implementing campuswide recycling initiatives and held a recycling week before the student’s Thanksgiving break called “Pack for the Planet” which featured events such as meatless Monday, upcycling events, and trash sculptures to promote recycling on campus.

“We noticed that recycling on campus was not up to par. Students did not know we had a recycling program and we wanted to start making a positive environmental impact,” explained Antonio Huerta, who has been an Enactus club member for three years.

Huerta said the club hopes it is a project that will be continued on the campus through future students.

“There is not a one size fits all approach to recycling . . . it all depends on the needs and expectations of the residents of that particular town and finding a system that works best for them,” Heyboer said.

Griek explained that improving recycling culture in places where it is not prominent will take three things: “Leaders who are willing to lead and take some heat regarding changing the way things are; a strong, vibrant and persistent grassroots movement to light a fire under leadership; city personnel that develop diversion programs for all city buildings/employees as a way to lead and guide others in the community.”

Additionally, finding methods to decrease waste and create end-use applications are needed. Parker feels that there is a variety of superior ways to handle the trash rather than “putting it into a hole in the ground.”

 

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Middle schoolers have a plan to stop rock art tagging in Western Colorado

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Courtesy gjhikes.com

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Arron Buehler’s day in a western Colorado canyon might not have had the Hollywood panache of Ferris Bueller’s day off, but something about seeing Buehler’s name scrawled on the sandstone escarpment gave Chris Joyner pause.

Joyner, spokesman for the Grand Junction Office of the Bureau of Land Management, looked at Buehler’s name — and those of many others emblazoned on rock in a canyon south of Grand Junction — and said that, paradoxically, there might be a reason for hope.

It was just last year that Buehler posted his name, next to Elizabeth, who left her mark in 2017.

Few of the names appeared to be more than a year or two old, and, “That tells me there’s opportunity here,” Joyner said.

The more recent the markings, the more likely the vandals are to be found, and the more likely it is that other methods might discourage younger people from following Arron Buehler’s lead, Joyner said.

Joyner and BLM archaeologist Alissa Leavitt-Reynolds are working in Grand Junction to deal with vandalism on federal lands, whether it be by graffiti artists such as Charley Humpy (who helpfully added, “Remember me” next to his name and yes, the BLM is doing all it can to achieve total recall), drug users ditching evidence in the desert, mayhem by “marksmen” and plain old dumping.

As much as Arron Buehler and a multitude of companions — Brian, Charley, Dizz, Dominique, Kay, Megan, Elizabeth, Jon, Sam and Tosha all seem to be begging for court dates (and Tosha, did you know your name covered an ancient petroglyph?) — Joyner said prosecution ought not be the only response to a growing trend of vandalism and worse on western Colorado’s rocky outcrops and arid landscapes.

Citations for vandalism aren’t tracked by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes offenses on federal land, so no precise numbers are available.

An Army veteran, Joyner is using his post 9/11 GI Bill funds at Johns-Hopkins University to study ways to divert people from what he terms “dysfunctional visitor behavior.”

“Dysfunctional visitor behavior” has a more authoritative ring than “vandalism” and “littering” and Joyner said he hopes that a scholarly approach can help agencies fend off some of the destructive activity on federal lands before it takes place.

Some of his research suggests that “informed participation in nearby historic and cultural sites” can influence the way many residents perceive those sites, Joyner said.

The students in Ginger DeCavitch’s social studies classes at Mount Garfield Middle School experienced “informed participation” last summer.

DeCavitch took her students into Bangs Canyon to see the mica mine and found the defaced escarpment “as we were stepping over broken beer bottles and charcoal” from fires.

Vandals had used charcoal to scratch names and slogans on the rock, DeCavitch said.

“They call it tagging” and few participants see any issue with defacing the rock, taking selfies and posting them on social media, DeCavitch said.

She contacted the BLM soon afterward to see if her class could help clean up the mess they found.

“They all wanted to go back,” enough that some students hauled 40-pound containers of water down an occasionally difficult trail to help clean the site, DeCavitch said.

Her middle school students sat silent as members of the Southern Ute tribe described how they perceived the canyon and the ancient markings, many of which had been defaced, DeCavitch said.

Far from being discouraged, her students were enthused about tackling the enormity of the defacement, DeCavitch said.

“We have a plan that we’ll be back,” she said.

Introducing young people properly to wild lands is one way to discourage future vandals and dysfunctional visitors.

It’s one “foot-in-the-door” tactic that Joyner hopes land managers take up.

Visitors also can be endowed with a sense of ownership by agreeing with a simple proposition — the idea that one ought not litter on public lands, for instance — and then be brought along to agree with how to visit them appropriately, Joyner said.

It’s part of a human tendency to want to be consistent, he said. People who agree not to litter tend to want to build on that as opposed to act in contradictory fashion, he said.

Even providing a small gift or trinket can engender a sense of responsibility among potential vandals, Joyner said.

Other techniques include the “broken-window” approach — the idea that replacing broken glass as soon as it’s found and thus denying miscreants their moment of victory — isn’t as easy as it might be in other environments, Joyner said.

DeCavitch’s class, for instance, learned that while cleaning up a mess might eliminate an eyesore, it also could erase history.

Her eager middle-schoolers couldn’t go forward with the cleanup until members of the Southern Ute Tribe, headquartered in Duchesne, Utah, approved the plan, DeCavitch said.

While Joyner’s studies have suggested that males 16 to 25 who live within 60 miles of Grand Junction are the likely offenders, one look at the escarpment suggests that young women are more active participants than crime statistics might suggest, Joyner said.

One study suggests that younger people prefer non-coercive approaches, but Joyner said that doesn’t mean the BLM is losing interest in prosecuting vandals and others.

Far from it.

BLM officials routinely contact school officials and consult high school yearbooks to match the names they come across with people who could be prosecuted.

Some miscreants make it easier, posting selfies of themselves with their works. Some even lower the level of difficulty by including hashtags.

The criminal exposure can reach felony levels because of the difficulty and expense of dealing with cleaning up or restoring the markings that date back hundreds of years.

If the malefactors are found, Joyner said, “We don’t write warning tickets.”

___

Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com

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The #WhatNow of #MeToo for the #COLeg

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AP Photo/David Zalubowski

When several lawmakers, lobbyists and staff at the state Legislature came forward this fall to allege they were victims of sexual harassment by lawmakers, two big questions followed: how often does this happen? What can be done to prevent more cases?

Reporters have asked state officials the first question repeatedly, returning to readers with little response from the state. The latter prompted a conversation from leadership, but as for what’s next—how the allegations, formal complaints, and legislature’s response—will impact politics under the gold dome and whether women will feel any safer is to be determined.

So far, top state lawmakers have decided to hire a human resources officer—who would be independent from the legislature—to be a contact person when incidents involving sexual harassment are brought forward. Now, leadership is tasked with handling and investigating such claims.

The group also decided to hire an independent consultant to review the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, and lawmakers, staff, and aides will undergo another round of sexual harassment training this year. Typically, those working at the Legislature are only required to go through training every two years.

Those changes are a good start, said Erin Hottenstein, executive director of Colorado 50/50, an organization that aims to get more women in public office. But the legislature stopped short of changing any current policies. And Colorado 50/50 called for an entire overhaul.

“I’m very pleased that there was a recognition that the policy needs to be improved,” Hottenstein said.

But there weren’t any specific recommendations regarding transparency, which Hottenstein said is significant in looking at what happens next.

Lawmakers and staff said they couldn’t disclose how many sexual harassment claims that leadership in each chamber have received because they were personnel issues.

“I think there’s a way to be transparent and safe,” Hottenstein said. “There should be a high- level summary document that shows on a certain date a sexual harassment complaint was made and who it was against and a date of a deposition and what the result was.”

Hottenstein said transparency becomes crucial in these cases because it leads to accountability and the public’s right to know what actions the people elected to office are taking.

In October, Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar broke her silence posting on Facebook that she was no stranger to sexual harassment and experienced it just a week earlier with a colleague she works with regularly as a lawmaker. The post was part of the #MeToo movement after a New York Times expose highlighted the stories of several women who said they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Then, a flood of other allegations were brought to the surface in Colorado politics. Rep. Faith Winter said fellow House member Steve Lebsock had harassed her at a legislative party in 2016. Winter and a lobbyist say they filed formal complaints against Lebsock.

An intern said Sen. Randy Baumgardner harassed her with sexually suggestive comments. The same went for Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial, who was accused of telling an intern that if she wanted to get ahead in her career, he could help.

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who is openly gay, allegedly groped a man and used his seat to try and get a date with another.

But the case between Lebsock and Winter gained the most attention, even prompting Lebsock to take a polygraph test, which the administrator says he passed, to prove his innocence. Lebsock has hinted that the entire incident may be a case of dirty politics, alleging that Winter is the one lying.

When several lawmakers were asked if the case would mean a splintered Democratic party in the House, they were unsure, but optimistic about the session.

Still, there haven’t been any resignations over the allegations, though several, including leadership and editorial boards from across the state, said these legislators should step down from their seat. Some even called for House Speaker Crisanta Duran to step down from her position because she promoted Lebsock to a chairmanship despite knowing there was an incident between him and Winter.

The transparency piece has yet to be addressed by state lawmakers, and it’s unclear whether any policy or legislative changes will address that in the coming months. But for what it’s worth, the women who have broken their silence about sexual harassment in the Legislature are supportive of the changes leadership has discussed.

“I’m encouraged to see the direction leadership is taking when it comes to developing new and independent methods of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment at the Capitol,” said Esgar, who still hasn’t named the colleague she said grabbed her thigh at a legislative event earlier this year. “I’m hopeful that new ideas are still being formulated and considered, when it comes to ways to change the culture itself.”

The lawmaker added that a new session will certainly mean new ideas will come to light, “it’s our responsibility to lead the state in changing cultures to help make work environments safe and productive for all employees on every level.”

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20 cities primed on the Amazon wishlist to be its next HQ

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NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s second home could be in an already tech-heavy city, such as Boston, New York or Austin, Texas. Or it could be in the Midwest, say, Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Or the company could go outside the U.S. altogether and set up shop in Toronto.

Those six locations, as well as 14 others, made it onto Amazon’s not-so-short shortlist Thursday of places under consideration for the online retailing giant’s second headquarters.

The 20 picks, narrowed down from 238 proposals, are concentrated mostly in the East and the Midwest and include several of the biggest metro areas in the country, such as Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles, the only West Coast city on the list.

The Seattle-based company set off fierce competition last fall when it announced that it was looking for a second home, promising 50,000 jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Many cities drew up elaborate presentations that included rich financial incentives.

The list of finalists highlights a key challenge facing the U.S. economy: Jobs and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few large metro areas, mostly on the East and West Coasts and a few places in between, such as Texas.

Nearly all the cities on Amazon’s list already have growing economies, low unemployment and highly educated populations.

“Amazon has picked a bunch of winners,” said Richard Florida, an economic development expert and professor at the University of Toronto who helped develop that city’s bid. “It really reflects winner-take-all urbanism.”

Among those that didn’t make the cut were Detroit, a disappointment for those excited about progress since the city came out of bankruptcy, and Memphis, Tennessee, where the mayor said the city gave it its “best shot.” San Diego also failed to advance.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” said Holly Sullivan, who oversees Amazon’s public policy. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

Amazon said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

Besides Austin, another Texas city made the cut: Dallas. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered.

Officials in cities that made the shortlist took the opportunity to further tout their locations, with Philadelphia’s mayor noting “all that Philadelphia has to offer” and officials in and around Pittsburgh citing the region’s “world-class talent pool” and other advantages.

Other contenders among the 20 include Denver; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Northern Virginia; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

“It’s a long list for a shortlist,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed.

He said Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or other incentives. Two metro areas, New York and Washington, have more than one location on the list, increasing the competition there, he said.

“It’s hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition,” Kolko said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives, but said in a statement that it will “work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals.”

State and local governments played up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice. Some pulled off stunts to stand out, such as New York, which lit the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Some gimmicks didn’t work: Tucson, Arizona, which sent a 21-foot cactus to Seattle, did not make the list. Neither did Birmingham, Alabama, which installed giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash buttons.

The company had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, and nearly all of those on the shortlist have a metro population of at least double that.

Amazon also wanted to be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before leaving office Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure to allow New Jersey to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark is also proposing $2 billion in tax breaks.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the financial incentives they offered. Of the 20 finalists, 13, including New York, Chicago and Miami, declined requests from The Associated Press to release their applications. Toronto’s mayor said Thursday that the city offered no financial incentives to woo Amazon.

Several said they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, and the second home base will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said.

The extra space will give the rapidly growing company room to spread out. It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of the Whole Foods grocery chain and its 89,000 employees.

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Associated Press writers Josh Cornfield in Philadelphia, Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report. Rugaber contributed from Washington.

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