Posts in denver tips
make an easy switch to renewable energy (for xcel customers)

For way too long I’ve been meaning to look into ways to “green” our energy use. We’ve been limiting our air conditioning use as much as possible this summer, but that’s obviously not enough. 44% of Xcel’s energy comes from coal, so that’s something to consider. Just like where our waste “goes” it’s good to think about where our energy “comes from.”

Xcel let’s you enroll in programs through your account portal online. It’s really fast and easy!

one // sign up for “Saver Switch.”
We’ve been enrolled in this program for years. Xcel installs a small device on your air conditioning unit that can be used to limit your AC use on really hot days. It has your AC cycle on and off at 20 minute intervals and you supposedly don’t notice when it’s in effect. I never have.

two // get on the waiting list for “Renewable*Connect” solar.
This program is full, but if you’re not already on the waitlist, signing up shows Xcel how important solar energy is to its customers. Colorado has plentiful sunshine; let’s make use of it!

three // sign up for “Windsource.”
For just $1.50 extra a month, you can power all your lightbulbs with wind. If you’re able to pay $10-$15, you can get all your electricity from wind. I was originally just going to do a block or two of wind, but opted to get 100% of our energy from Windsource. Again, I think it’s important to tell Xcel what I want as a customer.

What do you think? Have you already made these changes? Will you? If you don’t have Xcel as your provider, does your energy provider have similar options? Ask them!

finding nature in (or near) the denver metro

As I mentioned recently on my Instagram, my goal for the summer is to try to get the kids outside for at least 3 hours a day. Some of this will be swim lessons and other planned activities, but I’ve recently been reminded of the importance of unstructured outdoor play. I grew up doing this, on a large lot of land in northern New York, as I’m sure many people my age did. I’d spend hours playing in mud and water and setting up forts amongst the trees. But in recent years, there’s been a shift towards spending more time indoors with increase supervision. I’ve been reading “There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather” by Linda Åkeson McGurk and she has me completely convinced of the benefits of freely playing outdoors.

We moved a couple years ago to a house with a larger backyard. We try to get the kids outside as much as possible. But lately I’ve been thinking about finding more “real” nature for them to explore. More trails and streams and mud. I reached out to some of my parent networks on Facebook, and received tons of great suggestions. I’m compiling them all here for my own purposes, and perhaps for your reference as well. I haven’t been to even half of these spots, so do let me know in the comments if you have any feedback on any of the suggestions.

Where to find nature experiences within the Denver metro area, divided by region.
Spots closest to Denver are listed first. —

NORTH

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge // 6550 Gateway Road, Commerce City, CO 80022
There’s a driving loop for viewing wildlife, but several short walking trails as well.

Broomfield Bike Park // Zuni Street, Broomfield, CO 80023
Bike park and supposedly fantastic nature playground nearby. Free.

Sunflower Farm // 11150 Prospect Road, Longmont, CO 80504
A single-day admission ticket gives you access to this quaint farm in Longmont. Feed animals, play on swings and the treehouse playground, ride the horses or tractors. They also offer a preschool and summer camp options. Reservations required to visit.

Eldorado Canyon State Park // 65 Baldwin Cir, Eldorado Springs, CO 80025
Four trails ranging from 0.5 miles to 3.5 miles. Tip: aim to go on a weekday; weekends get very crowded.

Dirty Bismark Trail // Superior, CO - various trailheads along loop
{from the website} Dirty Bismarck Loop Trail is a 13.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Louisville, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

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SOUTH

Washington Park // S. Downing St. & E. Louisiana Ave., Denver, CO 80210
Great walking paths, a new playground, and a creek to explore. Recent improvements have minimized car traffic inside the park.

South Platte Trail // various starting points along a ~20 mile route.
”Scenic bike ride but lots of places to stop! Get out down south by the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield.”

High Line Canal // various starting points
{from the website} At 71 miles long, the High Line Canal is one of the longest continuous urban trails in the country, twisting through the most populated area of Colorado while crossing a diverse mosaic of communities and nature. The Canal originates at Waterton Canyon in Douglas County and runs to Green Valley Ranch in Northeast Denver, falling within one mile of more than 350,000 residents.

Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms // 8500 W Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, CO 80128
{from a mom who works there}: “Amazing place to let your littles run around and explore. Farm animals, lots of birds, frogs, and beavers dams all along the creek. Most folks don't walk the full loop of the trail along the creek so miss a lot of the site.”

Chatfield State Park // 11500 North Roxborough Park Road, Littleton, CO 80125
{from their website} “Float your boat in the lake, bicycle or hike on a trail that provides scenic views of the neighboring foothills and Platte River valley, camp, ride a horse and even fly a model airplane - all at Chatfield State Park, nestled next to the foothills southwest of Denver.”

Castlewood Canyon State Park // 2989 South State Highway 83, Franktown, CO, 80116
Slightly hidden in the plains (not the mountains) which makes this park unique and sometimes less crowded than other state parks. Various hiking trails and much nature to explore.

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EAST

Bluff Lake Nature Center // 3400 Havana Way, Denver, CO 80238
No bikes or dogs allowed. Free entry. 1.2 mile loop and several other trails and areas to observe nature.

Star K Ranch // 16002 E Smith Road, Aurora, CO 80011
They do a great nature class for kids 5 and under on Thursday mornings. Check their Facebook for details.

The Urban Farm at Stapleton // 10200 Smith Road, Denver, Colorado 80239
$5 admission for ages 2+

Cherry Creek State Park // 4201 S. Parker Road Aurora, CO 80014
{from the website} A scenic oasis in the Denver area offering a wide variety of water and land activities for outdoor enthusiasts. The 4,000-acre park and modern campground are open year-round. View birds and wildlife, recreate or relax with the majestic Rocky Mountains as a backdrop.

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WEST

Crown Hill Park // 9357 West 26th Avenue, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Nice walking loop around a lake.

Anderson Park // West 44th Avenue and Field Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Access to Clear Creek. Possible water play and much to explore by the creek.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park // 5136 South Le Masters Road, Evergreen, CO 80439
There’s also an east trailhead.

Bear Creek Lake Park // 15600 W Morrison Road, Lakewood CO 80228
When I first moved to Denver after living in places with more water, I laughed when someone told me this was a good beach. Then, a few years later, I took my kids to swim and said to friends, “this is GREAT!” It’s not the Adirondacks or Minnesota, but it’s still fun!

Lions Park // 1470 10th Street, Golden, CO 80401
Walk by the creek and play at the playground before or after. Water level varies so be cautious if there’s a high/strong flow.

Bear Creek Greenbelt // 2800 S. Estes St., Lakewood, CO 80227
{from the website} “This lovely, natural stream corridor provides a continuous trail connection and wildlife corridor from Wadsworth Boulevard west to Bear Creek Lake Park. The 379-acre preserve parallels Bear Creek and contains wetlands, fishing ponds, riparian forests and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. Trail connections provide endless options for biking and walking along the scenic floodplain heading toward Denver or Bear Creek Lake Park and the foothills beyond.”

Lair o’ the Bear Park // 22550 State Highway 74, Idledale, CO 80453
Great walking path along a creek. Good for families and usually suitable for a stroller with large wheels.

Matthew Winters Park // 1103 County Highway 93, Golden, CO 80401
Various trails, but apparently the trailhead itself is a great place to play; a stream and some trials offer kids ample opportunity to explore nature.

North Table Mountain Trail // Access the trail via Highway 93 just north of Pine Ridge Road. (4758 Highway 93)
{from the website} North Table Mountain Trail is 1.5 miles and traverses the southwest side of North Table Mountain below the cliff band. There are excellent views of the Golden Valley. The trail is moderate to advanced in difficulty, with 300 feet elevation gain from the north and 400 feet elevation gain from the south. The trail branches left to the Golden Cliffs Trail shortly after the trailhead in the north. Stay right to keep on the North Table Mountain Trail. The trail terminates near Peary Parkway at its southern end.

Apex Park // 121 County Highway 93, Golden, CO 80401
Close to downtown Golden, this trail is nice on really hot days, it eventually follows a stream with good shade thanks to a dense forest. This trail is popular with mountain bikers, but there are “directional use” restrictions: “Bicyclists are required to ride in one direction only (uphill/west) on odd-numbered calendar days.”

10 easy steps to low-waste groceries

Yesterday, at Sprouts grocery store, I saw more people than ever shopping the bulk section with cloth bags! Fantastic! I was delighted, and give huge props to Sprouts: they’ve started selling their own cloth bags and are using marketing to encourage their use.

However, people seemed confused about how to mark the PLU number on their bulk items. A few were using twist ties (wasteful!) while others were writing the numbers on their grocery lists. I offered up my washable marker once or twice, and the recipients seemed slightly perplexed at why I cared about their grocery shopping experience, but also grateful.

My point here is, even whey you’re trying to reduce your waste, there can be a lot of logistical roadblocks. So to keep things as simple as possible, here’s my 10-step guide to buying low waste groceries:

  • one // Make a list. Divide it into sections:

    • bulk items

    • produce

    • deli

    • “middle of the store” items

  • two // At home, gather your materials:

    • cloth bags for produce and bulk

    • a washable marker

    • large reusable grocery bags

    • empty glass milk containers (if applicable)

    • a couple sturdy containers for the deli counter (if desired)

  • three // Go to the store. Walk or bike if you can!

  • four // Stop in the bulk section for any products that were on your list. You want to make sure you have enough bags for the things you really need. Use your washable marker to write the PLU code in large numbers on the outside of the bag, and then fill with the desired amount.

  • five // Shop produce. When you’re putting your produce in the cart, place it away from your bulk items so any moisture from the produce doesn’t touch the washable marker on your bulk bags. Put things in reusable produce bags if they fall into one of these four categories:

    • You’re buying several of one item (eg. apples or oranges); this will help the cashier weigh them.

    • You’re going to eat the outside of the item and don’t want to wash it (I put many items directly in my cart: cucumbers, cabbage, apples, peppers… but I wash them before eating).

    • You’re buying different types of a similar food. For example, I like to try many kinds of tangerines and oranges. It can get confusing for the cashier if they have to sort by type. (And sometimes you might be charged more if they lump them all together under the code for the most expensive type!)

    • The item is delicate. Such as lettuce and other greens, broccoli, stone fruits, pears, mushrooms, etc.

  • six // Shop the middle of the store for low-waste items such as:

    • Pasta in cardboard boxes.

    • Legumes and other items in aluminum cans.

    • Sauces, salsas, and juice in glass containers.

    • Beverages in cans.

  • seven // Return to the bulk section to use up your remaining bags (as desired). Look for items you commonly eat that are on sale or other new treats you might want to try. The beauty of bulk is you don’t have to buy very much. I often get just a handful of something new to see how we like it.

  • eight // Go to the deli counter and politely request they put your meat or cheese in your own container(s). I’ve never had anyone say “no” to me here in Denver, but I’ve heard it can be difficult in other cities depending on their health codes and ordinances. I do, however, stay close by and watch carefully to refuse any plastic they might slip in. Often the deli worker feels weird about putting the sticker directly on my container so they try to put it on a plastic bag and hand that to me. Obviously, this defeats the purpose, so just enthusiastically tell them they can stick it right to your container!

  • nine // Hit up the dairy section for milk, eggs, butter, etc. I buy local dairy milk in reusable glass bottles. I always check the back of the fridge for ones with later expiration dates. I also buy two cartons 18 eggs every time I go to the store. Eggs keep for a long time. Butter is unfortunately hard to buy without packaging. I buy the biggest package available; sometimes you can get a pound of butter in one wrapper instead of 4 individually-wrapped sticks.

  • ten // Check out. Watch carefully so the cashier doesn’t put a rubber band on your eggs or put something in a plastic bag. Sometimes they have questions or comments about my reusable bags, but usually they just figure it out. I assume they experience all kinds of quirky behavior with patrons!

where to zero-waste shop in denver

Changing your consumption habits is often massively complicated by the large corporations that dominate the retail landscape. Big “box stores” and major chains seems to sell everything in plastic or other non-recyclable packaging. To decrease your waste, seek out the smaller, local retailer. The one who cares about not only their bottom line, but also the earth. Although, they do, probably care about their bottom line, they just know there’s a great market out there for people who want high-quality produce that aren’t super bad for the environment!

Anyway! Here are some great spots to get zero-waste supplies in Denver:

Joyfill // 3842 Tennyson Street / Berkeley
Lots of beauty products. Soaps. Kitchen and bathroom supplies. Fantastic owner.

The Zero Market (inside Stanley Marketplace) // 2501 Dallas Street, Aurora, CO 80010
All the things, minus food. Essential oils. Soaps. Bath + beauty. Teas. Kombucha. Containers. They make many of their own products, too, like deodorant and toothpaste.

Homefill (inside Modern Nomad) // 2936 Larimer Street / River North
Beauty, cleaning, and household products. And pet treats! This RiNo spot is convenient for urbanites to fill-up, since many other stores are outside the city center.

Eco Mountain Modern Living // 4350 Alcott Street / Sunnyside
Not strictly refill; they stock a range of “eco-friendly, toxic-free and sustainable products.”

Capital Tea // 1450 S Broadway / Capital Hill
Tea! Get your own tea ball or pot and enjoy loose tea without plastic. Did you know almost all tea bags (even those that don’t look like it) contain plastic?

Sprouts Farmers Markets // various locations
My favorite bulk section for food. They’re increasing products all the time are are very receptive to customers bringing their own bags or jars. Some products are only available in organic or non-organic. Great spices too and some teas.

Lucky’s Market // 3545 Wadsworth Boulevard / Wheat Ridge
Ok, if this was closer to my house it would definitely beat out Sprouts. Fantastic bulk section! Most containers are pull down ones, which makes filling up cloth bags or jars very easy. They carry some foods you can’t find elsewhere like specialty flours, orzo, dates, soybeans, and candy.

Whole Foods // various locations
WF is ok for bulk. It varies a lot by location. Union Station is great for bread and meat, but their grains etc. is limited. Check your local store.

Mouthfuls Pet Store // 4224 Tennyson Street / Berkeley
Pet treats!