Adam Meltzer is a friend and neighbor who has mastered the art of living with intention in hopes of leaving behind a very small carbon footprint. As our stress about climate change grows, we look to him for insight.
You have an immense passion for positive environ-mental impact and this passion has inspired your impressive body of work. Can you tell us a bit about what you do and have done in the past under the umbrella of sustainability?
When I was in my 20’s, I worked in the motion picture industry in Los Angeles. I was simultaneously volunteering for organizations like Amazon Watch and Treepeople as well as protesting in support of environmental initiatives in the streets. Into my mid 30’s, I started to get disillusioned with the motion picture industry. The way workers were treated, the amount of waste, energy and resources that were being used that seemed to disregard environ-mental degradation and senseless destruction. As I was plotting my exit out of that industry, I decided that it would be good to create change from the inside. That is when I came across the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and LEED certifications and had the idea to become a sustainability consultant. Buildings generate approximately 40% of global CO2 emissions. In my new career, I envisioned helping architects, engineers and general contractors work through the LEED process to design and build high performance buildings. Buildings that use far less energy and water, create less waste, and incorporate other holistic, sustainable measures. This was a steep climb, but over the last 15 years I have transformed my life from the world of entertainment to helping protect our fragile environment. I have worked on over 150 projects and am very proud of the strides made to bring sustainability practices to the built environment.
You are also the chair for the sustainability committee for Washington Park East Neighborhood Association (WPENA). What does this role entail?
The committee is fairly new and we are looking to tap into the environmental concerns of the neighborhood. So far, we have been meeting monthly to gauge interest and, in June, we did a group cleanup on the Cherry Creek Bike Path with support from the City. We have also started a resources page on the WPENA website for all things sustainable. Our future efforts will include a continued push for composting, National Wildlife Federation Certified Backyard Habitats, bike commuting, pesticide free parks and more. The City of Denver is working on multiple levels to mitigate environmental degradation and we will be working with the city to help as much as possible. If anyone is interested in joining our effort visit washparkeast.org/contact.
We are inspired by your work and drive to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. You have said that in order to see real change regarding our impact on this earth, we need to “do more.” What immediate changes do you wish to see from your friends and neighbors?
Sometimes it is difficult for people to get out of their day-to-day grind to see what is going on outside of their neighborhood, outside of their city and even outside of their country. It is no longer a secret that we are in a climate crisis. There is no more time for debate or alternative facts. The science is clear, we need to act with urgency. That means not only changing the way we live, but influencing others. Yes, it’s true that governments and corporations have a massive impact and we should push them as hard as we can to change, but the things we can control are the things we can control. Meaning, you can make a lot of decisions in your life that will affect our environment in a positive way. Here are a few things you can do right now: Conscious spending, drive electric vehicles, zero emissions transportation – take mass transit, or ride a bike for short errands, install solar on rooftops, buy organic produce from your local farmer’s market, and plant more trees.
We wanted to talk to you this month as the holiday season is quickly approaching. It’s not shocking that we throw away 25% more waste from now through New Year’s Day. What are some simple things we can do to see this number go down?
Waste is a huge part of the holiday season! It is challenging to talk about waste reduction without taking a deep dive into the topic, but here are a few tips for those that are interested in lessening their impact:
1. Use all reusable plates, glasses, napkins and cutlery for all meals rather than single, use, throw away paper plates, plastic cups and cutlery.
2. When buying gifts, consider the material it is made out of. Plastic is destroying our land, air and water at a rate that is unimaginable. Look for products made from renewable sources such as bamboo or waste products (bagasse–sugar cane). Better yet, instead of buying a gift consider making a donation to an environmental nonprofit that is doing good in the world!
3. Think about single use plastic and how to avoid it in general (I know this is a tall order). If it’s going to be used once and thrown away, don’t buy it!
4. Support some of local retailers that are trying to eliminate waste:
a. Off the Bottle Refill Shop – Denver
b. Zero Market – Denver
c. Nude Foods Market – Boulder
5. Recycle as much as you can, but don’t “wishful recycle.” When you put non-recyclables in the purpleblue bin it pollutes the whole bin and it will more than likely be taken to the landfill.
6. Buy only what you need. Americans typically throw out 30% of their food. If you do wind up with large amounts of leftovers, you can donate them to homeless shelters. In Denver we have the opportunity to have a green bin from the City in order to compost. Composting food waste lessens the burden on landfills and closes the loop on waste by creating soil we can use again.
You’re originally from New York, how did you find yourself in Colorado?
Throughout my life, I have moved around quite a bit. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City in an area called Rockland County. When I turned 21, I got in the car with all of my belongings and headed west to San Diego to finish college. During that time, I fell in love with the California lifestyle and the weather! After San Diego, I moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry and ended up spending two decades there. Once I started to shift my career, a job opportunity opened up and my family and I left Los Angeles in 2015 to start a new life in Portland, OR. In 2018, we moved to Denver when I took a position with a local sustainability company called Ambient Energy. I recently started a new chapter with CannonDesign in RiNo. We are greatly enjoying the outdoor lifestyle and easy access to the mountains and nature. Exploring the beauty of Colorado has been an amazing gift!
When you’re not paving the way for future environmentalists, how do you spend your free time?
I have a very close-knit family and we love to spend time together discovering all that Colorado has to offer. My wife is a long-time environmental and social justice activist and she works as the Executive Director of an impactful community-based nonprofit called Horizons at Colorado Academy. Together, we are raising two incredible daughters ages 16 and 11. As a family, we spend time hiking, camping, occasionally skiing and going on road trips. I also love to ride my bike and commute to work all year (even when it is 20 degrees out) from Wash Park to RiNo. On the weekends, I enjoy riding long-distance (30 – 60 miles). Just recently, I did my first century ride and it was a wonderful personal achievement! I also meditate daily and do what I can to be of service to the community.
Resources for more information:
· 5 Gyers https://www.5gyres.org/
· CoPIRG https://copirg.org/
· Eco-Cycle http://www.ecocycle.org/take-action/denver
· USDA – Food Waste – https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs
Thank you for your kindness and wisdom, Adam! We will work to make these attainable, small changes that will have a big impact.