Steve Sorensen can't help but think about the number of plastic straws available at a restaurant or the fact that everyone goes home with their own Styrofoam box. The amount of plastic waste he …
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Steve Sorensen can't help but think about the number of plastic straws available at a restaurant or the fact that everyone goes home with their own Styrofoam box. The amount of plastic waste he encountered on a day-to-day basis began eating at him.
“The more you notice, the more you notice,” Sorensen said.
Steve and Carol Sorensen, 22-year Lone Tree residents, are two nature-loving Colorado natives driven to leave the world a better place than they found it. The two collect trash found along their street or in a public park. They travel to other countries and take note of the sustainable practices — or lack thereof.
Now they want to make Lone Tree a sustainable city.
On Feb. 6, the Sorensens were joined by 11 Douglas County residents eager to promote sustainability in Lone Tree.
The Lone Tree Sustainability Team met for the first time at the Lone Tree Douglas County Library and will hold at least its first six meetings at the library's Kids Corner on the first Thursday of every month.
“The view I take in the world is to leave the world a better place,” Carol Sorensen said. “I'm always looking for opportunities not only to erase my footprint, but also how to make it better for the next person.”
The initial turnout pleasantly surprised the Sorensens, as did the wealth and breadth of knowledge sitting around the circle. Local business leaders, city officials, parks leaders, teachers, conservationists and motivated citizens instantly began brainstorming issues to face and actions to take.
“We've already got a great base around the knowledge and the issues,” Steve Sorensen said. The group is still in its infancy but is seeking eager hands to lay the groundwork for its first initiatives.
The objective of the committee is to influence city policy and work with staff to establish policies to mitigate waste. The Sorensens have travelled throughout the world to see how cities are implementing sustainable practices. Business backgrounds to boot, the two figured it was finally time to take action in the city.
The three pillars of the committee's mission are education, action and influence. The group will do anything from teaching the public about recycling to encouraging businesses to consider alternatives for single-use plastics. The initial meeting begat brainstorming from residents concerned about air quality, water conservation, business practices, waste management and working toward being a leader in the area for sustainable practices.
Lone Tree City Councilmember Jay Carpenter attended the meeting as a council liaison. Carpenter announced the city's plans to host an annual city-wide day of volunteering, igniting a partnership with the newly formed committee to identify community service projects.
"The growth, not only here but aross the country and the world, is not sustainable, and the growth we (Lone Tree) have is not sustainable," Carpenter said. "For me, it’s a selfish thing. Having four kids, it's important for me to make sure the world is around for a while for my kids and my grandkids…It all starts with just doing the little things to make the big impact."
The committee has already partnered with local businesses such as Charles Schwab and Xcel Energy to be guest speakers.
Shannon Weston, co-owner of Vibe Foods in Lone Tree and 25-year resident, said it can be challenging for business owners to consider sustainable practices due to cost and variety of vendors.
“Opening a business, it's so horrifying when you see how much crap flows through the store,” Weston said. Weston said Vibe Foods does its best to reduce the amount of waste sent to a landfill, but it's not easy. “The infrastructure is not in place for businesses to be more sustainable.”
There is no commitment required to be on the Lone Tree Sustainability Team. The group is not even limited to strictly Lone Tree residents. Kate Hogan of Parker said she joined because she felt she was the only person in Douglas County who cared about these kinds of issues.
The Sorensens believe getting the business community involved is crucial. The city's population of 15,000 almost doubles during the daytime, mostly due to the number of people who work in Lone Tree. Steve Sorensen said one project to tackle down the road would be to help businesses develop a profit model where sustainable practices could help save money.
But for now, baby steps. The committee will begin to flesh out its project goals in the coming months.
“We want people to get engaged,” Steve Sorensen said. “We want to, in collaborative fashion, break the code on this thing and actually do something.”
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