1. Vessel Works

Boulder alone sends an average of 44 million plastic-lined to-go coffee cups to landfills every year. (Stacked end to end, that’s enough Starbucks Ventis to stretch across the country and then some.) Now, that city has a more sustainable option, courtesy of Vessel Works, which debuted there five months ago. At seven coffeeshops, including Trident Booksellers & Café, customers can check out stainless-steel cups for free using the company’s app; users must return them to participating cafes or streetside kiosks within five days (otherwise, they’re out $15). Vessel Works picks up, sanitizes, and redistributes the cups to its partners, who pay a per-use fee similar to the price of each paper version—minus the cost to Mother Earth.

2. Scraps

Christi Turner only realized there was a gap in Denver’s compost collection program because she, and her food waste, were falling through it: Buildings with more than seven units, like the one she lived in, are considered businesses and thus not eligible for residential service. So, in 2017, she created Scraps. The startup provides three-gallon bins and weekly pickups—via bike and electric-assisted trike, naturally—to apartment and condo dwellers for $15 per month per customer (it handles commercial waste, too). However, while about 70 percent of her roughly 500 clients are residential, eco-minded restaurants and offices contributed the bulk of the nearly 230,000 pounds Scraps had saved from the garbage heap as of mid-February.

3. The Simple Jar

Bagged salads may be a handy lunch choice for you, but they’re also like Russian dolls of plastic packaging, which isn’t so good for the planet’s well-being. The Simple Jar, which serves Denver and Boulder, aims to keep food prep waste out of your trash by delivering an ever-expanding menu of fresh, flavorful salads, soups, and noodle bowls—strategically layered in 32-ounce glass mason jars with wetter ingredients on the bottom—to your home or office every Monday. Your choice of three ($35) or five ($50) meals, all gluten-free and vegan, shows up in a cooler with ice packs. They’ll take your previous week’s materials to reuse, though you’re welcome to keep the perfect-for-bulk-food-storage jars.

Photo courtesy of Claire Oswald Photography.

Fill-Up Stations

To lessen your packaging waste, BYO containers to one of these five shops to procure everyday necessities.

Where: Lone Tree and Sunnyside
Don’t Miss: The mix-your-own cleaning product station with recipes for all-purpose spray, dish soap, and more

Where: RiNo and Speer
Don’t Miss: Fort Collins–made Cotney Peak’s almond cocoa butter lotion and Boulder Clean laundry detergent

Joy Fill
Where: Berkeley
Don’t Miss: Juniperseed Mercantile’s cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen balm, crafted in Littleton with ingredients like organic avocado oil

Refill Revolution
Where: Boulder
Don’t Miss: Aspire Colorado’s peppermint or wintergreen tooth powder, made in Golden

Zero Market
Where: Aurora and a spot inside the forthcoming Edgewater Public Market
Don’t Miss: Centennial-based Mountain Crow’s loose-leaf tea blends


Pieces of trash picked up in Colorado and tagged using the Litterati smartphone app between Earth Day 2016 and mid-February