Sustainable Boise

May 1, 2015

Local Initiatives to Create a Healthier Environment

Story by Chelsea Chambers, Photography by Pete Grady

Leading a sustainable life is becoming more and more important as our resources become scarcer. As individuals, we all need to do our part in decreasing our carbon footprint. There is much that can be done very simply to take steps toward preservation. Thankfully, Boise is the proud home of many incredible sustainability initiatives that are collectively making strides and leading others to be more ecologically friendly. From local businesses to education systems, Boiseans are doing their part in ensuring a stable and resilient environment.

The Urban Worms facility, located underneath sister restaurants Bittercreek and Red Feather Lounge on 8th street downtown, is one of the mostBittercreek-Worms-1 self-regulating conservation efforts in Idaho. Dave Krick, owner and proprietor, started the program over eight years ago in order to create a more sustainable restaurant and to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfills. The project is simple: 60,000 red wiggler worms inhabiting a large bin, of which their entire nutrition source stems from the food waste and old menus from the restaurant. The worms digest the scraps and shredded paper and in roughly a week, excrete it into castings which are an excellent fertilizer for gardens, crops, and soils. These castings are then packaged and sold back to the public at the Saturday Market. Resident worm farmer Thomas Richards says, “It’s nice to be able to have a sustainable way to reduce waste.” There are aspirations to expand the project and Urban Worms hopes to have another bin up and running within the next few months. What the facility is accomplishing has no doubt increased awareness throughout the city, and hopefully many more businesses will follow suit. John Stinson-Wilge, a local Boisean, is a full advocate for the sustainability efforts in place by Urban Worms and believes “having a project like that, in conjunction with reuse and recycling, brings Boise up to speed with larger cities. It cuts down landfill impact within a local environment and is a great use of old technology in a modern application.”

Bigelow Tea is a company that hails from Connecticut, but sustainability has always been at the forefront of their business model. Late last year, the Boise facility located on Benjamin Street won the City of Boise Enviroguard Sustainability Award due to their support and participation in environmental conservation. The facility is dedicated to reducing their impact in all areas including energy, waste, land, and supply usage. In fact, the company as a whole has saved over six million kilowatt hours of electricity since 2007. The Boise Plant diverts over ½ million pounds of material from the landfill every year by recycling, reusing, and composting.”

Many academic establishments have also begun to invest in resource conservation by implementing various recycling and composting bins across their campuses. Boise State University and College of Western Idaho have each committed to being more sustainable by reBigelow-Tea-1ducing, even limiting, the amount of paper printed and increased the amount of recycling receptacles campus-wide. College of Western Idaho has recently introduced composting bins inside the buildings near many of the trashcans with signs depicting what should be composted. Boise State boasts an impressive roof-top garden, in which a large portion of their soil comes from composting initiatives set in place.

Boise’s CurbIt Program has been a catalyst in many local sustainability endeavors. Their website—curbit.cityofboise.org—contains a substantial amount of information on recycling, clean-up agendas, and their mobile collection unit. There are so many materials that are thrown into the traditional trash receptacles that are hazardous to the environment, and doing so can cause significantly more damage than you would think. As a result of the wide variety of hazards found around the home, their mobile collection unit is operable at many different locations for ease of access and a collection calendar is also found on their website. Be sure to do your part and avoid throwing away cleaning products, batteries, paint cans, and pesticides. These products contain a plethora of dangerous chemical agents and pollutants that often find their way into our environment.

While sustainability is still a long way from where it needs to be, it is comforting to know that there are so many efforts in place locally that are doing their part to decrease our environmental impact. It is surprisingly easy to start your own home-based composting projects, and recycling should become second nature. Follow the lead of true Boise innovators and do your part to help preserve our environment for many generations to come.