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On Monday, April 22, nations around the globe celebrated Earth Day, and by extension kicked off Earth Week. For many in Buena Vista, Salida and the greater Arkansas Valley, heeding Earth Day’s call to action is more than just an annual tradition.

Fishermen hike to Ptarmigan Lake in early July.

Chaffee Green, a local grassroots organization comprised completely of volunteers, is spearheading many local environmental efforts. Many businesses, residents and organizations are following suit.

Jacy Doumas, who facilitates many Chaffee Green projects and efforts, pointed out the many local businesses that have supported Chaffee Green’s reusable tote bag project.

“Their contributions allowed us to purchase 2,500 bags, the bulk of which we are giving away at their place of business,” Doumas said.

On Earth Day alone, Chaffee Green gave away 500 reusable bags at City Market.

Chaffee Green is also making a concerted effort to boost composting amongst local businesses.

In Buena Vista, the Surf Hotel is already composting food waste, while the Lariat and Biggies are looking into doing the same. In Salida, The Boathouse Cantina, Fifty Burger and Café Dawn are all composting waste. Each of these businesses uses Elements Mountain Composting service based in Salida.

All of the restaurants above, as well as House Rock and Simple Eatery in Buena Vista,  use compostable paper products.

Red Deer after an October snowfall.

The Lariat also decided to forego offering plastic straws, which are not biodegradable and can injure marine life when they enter waterways. Instead, the popular restaurant and music venue offers Hay Straws.

“In 2018, we switched to ‘Hay Straws’ saving over 60,000 plastic straws from single-use waste. We are proud to be supporting sustainable use products,” The Lariat posted on social media in honor of Earth Day. “We continue to look into any all changes we can make as a company, realizing what an impact the restaurant industry has on the environment.”

The Lariat’s Brand Manager, Zach Alexander, recognizes that those living in the Arkansas Valley have a special privilege. For Alexander and The Lariat, that privilege comes with responsibility. In addition to the straw replacement, The Lariat also recycles glass, cardboard, aluminum and paper.

“We are fortunate enough to live in an exceptionally beautiful part of the world and we take seriously our responsibility towards its stewardship and more broadly, the care for our planet,” said Alexander. “We work with groups like Chaffee Green and the Central Colorado Conservancy to make sure we are doing our part. We are continually looking for areas that we can improve in.”

Natural Grocers, which recently opened in Salida, is a store dedicated to healthy, organic products. Still, they go above and beyond to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their day-to-day operations.

“We’re celebrating [Natural Grocers] being bagless for 10 years,” said Assistant Store Manager, Tiffany Eden. “We offer recycled boxes, but we don’t offer bags.”

On Earth Day, Natural Grocers invited local businesses and organizations to set-up information tables within the store.

Mount Princeton illuminated by a ray of sunshine after a passing rain.

“We’re trying to partner with the local people in town and share what they have to offer as well. That’s what we are all about,” Eden said. “Since we’re new to the area, we’re trying to teach the community about being more conscientious about plastic [use].”

Andre Mackie, executive director of the Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC), was in-store nearly all day. He handed out garden seeds, information pamphlets on the CCC’s mission and projects and engaged customers in discussions about incorporating sustainable use practices into their everyday life.

“For us [the CCC], every day is Earth Day,” said Mackie.

The CCC focuses its efforts on protecting natural lands, water and general stewardship and restoration of natural landscapes.

Currently, the CCC is running a capital campaign to purchase 640 acres of the Centerville Ranch. The 650-acre portion is roughly 70 percent of the 940-acre ranch and would be protected in perpetuity as a Conservation Easement. Protecting this land with a Conservation Easement would preserve critical elk and mule deer winter ranges and migratory routes while tying the water-rights to the land forever and maintaining the Highway 285 Scenic Byway.

As part of the campaign, the CCC is hoping to raise $100,000 from private donations to show fund-granting entities that the public is behind the project.

“We know what these funding entities are looking for,” said Mackie in a town-hall meeting in mid-March. “To be quite clear and quite honest, [the grantors] want to see the community involved. They want to see the community funding these projects.”

Though Earth Day is designated a mere 24 hours of recognition, you can see that many in the Arkansas Valley are giving it the attention it warrants. Still, it’s not enough.

If you, your business or your organization want to get involved, please reach out to Chaffee Green at

As Alexander said so clearly, “We are blessed to live in an exceptionally beautiful part of the world.”

The obvious message: Let’s take care of it.