I came to Boulder in 2012, to work and help grow the City’s sustainable infrastructure. One big, little issue to me was cigarette butts. I noticed them on the sidewalks, in the storm drains, scattered around bus stops, thrown out of car windows, and along hiking trails. Immediately, I knew this would be a problem I wanted to work towards solving.
My work over that last two years as Waste Diversion Specialist has given me new challenges and ample opportunities. I am no stranger to waste. But I was a stranger to the community of Boulder. I knew I would have to set down roots to be able to become involved and become a part of this progressive community. Over the past two years, I have worked to build that repetition by building strong relationships.
The catalyst was the 1st Annual Flood Recovery Creek Clean-up, working with local business and the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. Later that day, I worked with their Volunteer Coordinator to discuss other plans for civic engagement and activating green space for the community.
The event I was asked to help coordinator was the “Daff Happy” event, planting over 5000 daffodils with a little less than 100 volunteers in under thirty minutes! It was a great success, and our hard work and passion for our community will brightly shine in spring when the daffodils rise from the Earth!
All of this show of good faith and leadership, gave me the opportunity to raise awareness about cigarette butts and continue the goal of activating green spaces around Boulder through civic engagement. I took the opportunity and prepared to organize a campaign called Butts-Up-Boulder. My goals were to partner with local groups like Rocky Mountain Anglers and St Julien Hotel and Spa, spread the word about the event through the various channels, and pick a day to pick up cigarette butts with other passionate volunteers.
I picked October 13th 2014, the day of our farmers market. Once the volunteers arrived, I listed out facts and issues around cigarette butts. A recent study by a professor in San Diego showed that one butt placed in 1 liter of water left nearly half of the fish population dead.
Next, I showed the volunteers the proposed addition to the smoking ban around the City of Boulder and conveyed messages of safety when engaging with the homeless population. After 2 hours and with three volunteers, we cleaned up over 1000 butts from green space paralleling the Boulder Creek! And the butts weighted close to 15lbs!
The Butts Up campaign allowed us to raise the issue with a mother and her children playing amidst cigarette butts, asked the homeless folk what they thought of the smoking ban, and discovered areas where smoking ban signage could be placed to prevent further carelessness.
Cigarette butts are not just a domestic issue here in Boulder, Colorado, they plague our global community too! I share this story with you all in hope that you will create your own project, event, or campaign around issues you face in your community.
With great admiration,
Henry K. Harding III
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