OSCAR Newsletter | June 2021

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June 2021

Welcome to Boulder County's Office of Sustainability, Climate Action, and Resilience (OSCAR) newsletter. This newsletter contains stories and information about our work and ways the public can get involved in sustainability and climate action initiatives.

Summer Air Quality and Your Health

Collin Tomb


Climate & Health Strategist, Boulder County

I'm Collin, OSCAR's new Climate and Health Strategist. I work with community leaders, health experts, and scientists to inform policy and programs that protect our health and our future. I get to think about how we use energy and how that affects air quality, health, and daily life here in Boulder County (and on Earth!).

It’s not your imagination, climate change is happening now — and that’s very apparent in summer. We’re experiencing higher temperatures, more wildfires, and worse air quality. 

Air quality is impacted not only by visible wildfire smoke but by invisible ozone that can burn our lungs on hot, sunny afternoons. Like many Boulder County residents, I love my outdoor exercise — but I’ve learned to check the air quality before heading out for a hike or a bike ride. I check AirNow, a site that shows data from regulatory monitors across Colorado and provides air quality forecasts that help me plan my time outside. When wildfires are active, AirNow's Fire and Smoke Map displays where smoke pollution is showing up on sensors near me. 

Air quality experts continue to improve these tools so we’ll keep you up to date with recommendations that will help you protect yourself and your family from climate-influenced air pollution. Summer in Colorado is spectacular and taking care of yourself and staying informed can help you make the most of it as we work together to act on climate change.

— Collin

Ever wonder why your neighbor’s car looks like it might be plugged in? Because it is!

Charging an electric car at home is the newest way to fuel up a car. Driving electric allows you to ditch antiquated and inconvenient gas stations. Instead, when you get home simply use the cable that came with your car to plug it into a regular three-prong outlet and you’ll be ready to roll the next morning. Or you can upgrade to a faster electric car charger for your home, like the one Boulder County is giving away to support clean transportation in our community! Enter the giveaway and learn more about charging at home—the leading-edge way to fuel up your car.

While you wait for the giveaway results, visit your local dealership and test-drive an electric car and see for yourself how advanced this technology truly is.

Enter the giveaway now!

Charge at Home and Chill

Keep Cool, Save Money, and Take Action Against Climate Change

Climate change is happening now. It’s in our backyards and Boulder County residents are feeling the effects: wildfires, high heat days, poor air quality, and more.

EnergySmart, Boulder County's one-stop-shop for home energy advising, is committed to mitigating climate change by increasing residents’ access to low carbon energy solutions. Bonus rebates for cooling upgrades — up to $450— are available through June 30, 2021. City of Boulder residents, and Xcel Energy customers may be eligible for additional rebates— up to $2000 total. A heat pump system powered by grid electricity can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by 20-60%.

Other benefits of heat pumps:

  • Highly efficient
  • Enhances comfort in your home
  • Improves indoor air quality by eliminating toxic byproducts from furnaces or gas water heaters
  • The same system that keeps you cool this summer can also keep you warm in the winter
  • Customized and flexible usage (i.e. helps if one room is hotter than others)

Contact energysmartyes@clearesult.com or visit EnergySmartYES.com to learn about bonus rebates on cooling upgrades. Spanish-speaking advisors available. Offer ends June 30, 2021.


Celebrate the Launch of Restore Colorado with a Compost Giveaway

Restore Colorado is a public-private collaboration between Boulder County, Zero Foodprint, Mad Agriculture, and other local governments that mobilizes Coloradans around agricultural climate solutions. Participating restaurants collect a few cents per meal to fund regenerative farming projects in our community that improve soil quality and sequester carbon.

Visit a participating restaurant and mention Restore Colorado when ordering or checking out to receive a coupon for a FREE bag of compost redeemable at ACE Hardware stores by June 30, 2021.

Participating Boulder County restaurants include: CB Culinary, Dry Storage, Fresh Thymes, Nude Foods, Organic Sandwich Company, River and Woods, Subway (all 5 Boulder locations), Whistling Boar, and Wonder Press.

For a full list of participating restaurants visit Zero Foodprint.


Boulder Forum on Economy, Climate and Community Explores the Connection Between Financial Systems and Climate Change

This monthly webinar series explores how we can create an economy in service of an equitable, livable, and sustainable world. The Boulder Forum on Economy, Climate and Community features international leaders in the fields of energy systems, circular economy, ecosystems, and biodiversity. The forum is designed to be relevant to community members, businesses and local leaders, as well as regional and national policy makers and change makers.

The next session is on June 18 at 12 p.m. MDT and will feature New York City Climate Strategist Lolita Jackson. Register here.

Lolita Jackson

From Your Home to the Creek...

Fertilizers on lawns. Pet waste in yards. Trash on the streets. Stormwater runoff from rain carries litter, pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants from our homes and businesses to local waterways without receiving treatment.

Learn what you can do at home to protect Boulder County's watershed by visiting the Keep It Clean Partnership.

Stormwater Infographic

Recent News


Northern Weld County to be placed under tighter ozone restrictions in EPA reversal

The EPA’s decision “will improve air quality and climate impacts for millions of Coloradans,” said Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones. “This action will increase pollution controls at thousands of additional oil and gas sources.” Read more in the Colorado Sun and Colorado Public Radio.


Restaurants join Restore Colorado to fund regenerative farming projects

Restore Colorado, a restaurant-led agriculture effort helping farmers and ranchers fight climate change, has launched in Boulder County.

“We have such a tendency to be so disconnected from where our food is produced,” said Cindy Lair, who manages the Colorado State Conservation Board program. She sees Restore Colorado as a way to help people make that connection. Listen to the feature at Colorado Public Radio. 

Read more in Westword, BizWest, the Longmont Leader, and U.S. News & World Report.


Boulder County begins certification program for carbon-conscious cannabis companies

"The Boulder County Carbon Conscious Certification lets the consumer know they’re supporting a cultivator working towards carbon neutral cannabis production,” said Jacob Policzer, Co-founder and Director of Science and Strategy at The Cannabis Conservancy. “We want to celebrate and support the leadership that these producers are exhibiting to tackle the climate emergency."

Read more in the Longmont Leader and Daily Camera.

Air Quality and Public Health

8 Ways To Protect Yourself From Summer Air Pollution

“We often think of the Rocky Mountains as a crisp, clean environment, but the truth is that those same mountains can trap air pollutants, including air pollutants from outside the county, up against the foothills," says Bill Hayes, Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) Air Quality Coordinator. "Knowing when air quality is bad — and what to do when it is — can help you protect your health.”

Public health officials recommend checking visibility as a first step to determine air quality conditions. If visibility is over 10 miles, the air quality is good for particulates. If visibility is 5 - 10 miles, the air quality is acceptable. Visibility below 5 miles is concerning and outdoor activity should be limited.

However, ozone levels can be in the unhealthy range even on clear days. Ozone on its own is invisible and is produced when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) mix with combustion emissions in the presence of sunlight. Breathing high levels of ozone can harm the respiratory system. Boulder County's VOCs predominantly come from oil and gas operations to the northeast and combustion byproducts from vehicles. These pollutants often get trapped against the mountains where they receive sunlight that spurs the chemical reaction that produces ozone. Ozone used to be thought of as a summer problem, but ozone season is starting earlier and ending later due to climate change.

BCPH officials recommend the following resources to monitor air quality:

  • Sign-up for daily Air Quality Alerts from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. These emails provide current health advisories and air quality forecasts. Subscribe here.
  • Visit airnow.gov. Enter a zip code to see the Air Quality Index (AQI) in that area. The AQI provides a simple snapshot of air quality by combining data from both ozone and particulate monitors.
  • Visit PurpleAir, which displays data from low cost sensors that individuals can purchase. These monitors are not 100% accurate and there is no assurance that they are appropriately located or maintained. Look at the averages of a number of monitors in your area rather than a single monitor reading.
  • Visit BouldAir.com. BCPH operates a monitoring station at the Boulder Reservoir that measures methane and ozone precursors. This website displays near real-time data from the Boulder Reservoir monitoring station along with data from monitoring stations in Longmont and Broomfield.

BCPH officials recommend taking the following precautions on days with poor air quality:

  • Stay indoors and limit strenuous activity on high ozone days. Ozone levels typically increase as the day goes on. Exercise early in the day when high ozone is forecast and avoid strenuous outdoor activity in the late afternoon and evening. Exercising when ozone levels are high will do your body more harm than skipping a workout.
  • Avoid outdoor physical activities on days with wildfire smoke. If you can see it, smell it, or taste it – you shouldn’t breathe it. Face coverings worn to reduce the spread of COVID-19 do little to prevent breathing in the fine particles and harmful chemicals transported by wildfire smoke.
  • In homes with central air systems, install the highest rated manufacturer-recommended air filters and replace filters regularly.
  • In homes without central air systems, consider installing a portable filtration unit. BCPH recommends HEPA filter models.

Meet the Team

Cristina Ramirez BentleyOutreach Specialist, Keep it Clean Partnership


What do you do at OSCAR?  I coordinate stormwater and water quality education and outreach. This includes developing resources for residents and businesses, creating content for our partners to share, planning trainings, and working with our school program partners.

What do you like most about your job? Helping people better understand our watershed and the impact they have on it, and then showing them how they can make a difference in protecting it.

Hometown? San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Hobbies? Reading, baking, gardening, propagating my indoor plants and succulents.

Favorite musicians? AJR, George Ezra, The Lumineers.

Favorite book? I’ve always loved reading, so this is a hard one. There are a lot of books I’ve really enjoyed and recommended to friends, but for a book to be a favorite it has to be one I have (or will want to) reread. Reaching back to when I was growing up, The Giver, The Tale of Despereaux, Holes, and La Sombra del VientoThe History of LoveThe Inheritance Cycle series, and The Alchemist. Most recently, anything by Fredrik Backman (A Man Called Ove is probably my favorite of his).

Favorite movie? Like books, a favorite movie needs to be one I would watch again, which doesn’t happen often. A new one I loved this last Christmas was Klaus, which I’ll put into my holiday movie rotation. Saying this reminded me of the movie Last Holiday – I saw this in the theatre with a friend when it came out and we developed so many inside jokes that I actually love rewatching it for the memories it brings up.

What are you watching right now? I’m constantly re-watching the same familiar, lighthearted tv shows instead of choosing new ones, right now it’s Modern Family.

What are you reading right now? I’ve slowly been making my way through Fantasy Island: Colonialism, Exploitation and the Betrayal of Puerto Rico, which is a heavy read so I’m currently switching it off with Expedition Deep Ocean: The First Descent to the Bottom of All Five Oceans.

Events Calendar

Boulder County Public Health Climate Action Team Lead: Application Deadline

June 13, 2021

Boulder County Public Health is hiring a Climate Action Team Lead. This role will work in close collaboration with Boulder County's Office of Sustainability, Climate action & Resilience.

Apply here.

Restore Colorado Informational Webinar

June 14, 2021

11 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Restaurant owner? Join the growing list of Boulder County restaurants participating in Restore Colorado. Attend this informational webinar hosted by Zero Foodprint to learn more.

Register here.

Boulder Forum on Economy, Climate and Community — Fossil fuel finance: The economic drivers perpetuating carbon-based energy systems.

June 18, 2021

12 - 1:30 p.m.

This session features New York City Climate Strategist Lolita Jackson.

Register here.