The City of Grand Junction’s commitment to sustainable practices is evident in a variety of programs, including new community initiatives and an internal task force that gives employees the chance to get involved. Sustainability is more than a catchphrase for the City of Grand Junction, and it is evident through the City’s commitment to recycling, composting, and electric vehicle preparedness.
Jenny Nitzky is the City’s sustainability coordinator, a new city position created in 2022. When Nitzky joined the team in August of 2022, one of her priorities was to create a Sustainability Action Team, with members from every department. The group works together on sustainability-focused goals, within city operations, and launched its first project in March 2023 - alternative transportation. “The team acquired a bike fleet purchased from a local bike shop, Brown Cycles. The purpose of the bikes is to be used by City staff to help reduce vehicle trips when traveling to different sites for meetings,” Nitzky said. The group also conducted a recycling and composting survey to identify the needs of staff across city departments.
Nitzky moved to Grand Junction, Colorado from Gunnison, Colorado, where she earned her master’s degree in environmental management at Western Colorado University. During the program, she interned at the City of Gunnison and helped to write Gunni CARES 2030, a climate action resiliency and environmental sustainability plan.
Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Nitzky calls Grand Junction the perfect middle ground between Phoenix and Gunnison, from a size, climate and geography perspective. “I’m really loving it here,” she said. “It’s been fun to help develop this program, which is a mix of current needs and long-range planning, from the ground up.”
Nitzky’s “coordinator” title fits perfectly with what she’s doing, which oftentimes involves bringing the right people to the table to talk about ways to incorporate sustainability into the City and the community. “My favorite part about my job is the collaborative partnerships that I get to help foster from interdepartmental programming to working collaboratively with businesses and nonprofits,” she said. “The only way we are going to move the needle is by working together.”
One of the internal partnerships that Nitzky has been involved in is the City's Recycling Division, which the City acquired in February 2022. The employees at the recycling division have been hard at work, with seven local restaurants, on a pilot food compost program. Nitzky is helping as support staff for the project. “Between early November and March 1, the compost program diverted 20,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill,” Nitzky said. “It’s just incredible.”
The compost is held at the Mesa County Landfill for a short time before it is transported to Thunder Mountain Organics, a class-three composting facility in Delta that can accept meat, bones and dairy along with certain compostable plates, cups and utensils. Thanks to a recent grant the City received, the plan is to expand the program to include other institutions and additional restaurants.
Currently, Nitzky is working to establish baselines for greenhouse gas emissions, diversion rates from the landfill (recycling and compost), and how much renewable energy the City is generating and using. Establishing metrics will help the City continue to progress in going green.
Nitzky is also excited about two other projects that are on the horizon. First, is the Electric Vehicle Action Plan, which will leverage Grand Junction's location for a network of electric vehicle charging stations. The second, is the Resiliency and Sustainability Plan which will begin in the spring of 2023.
Consultants will help the City with community outreach and implementation as the plan is developed. “It will be a community-driven plan with lots of public engagement and a guiding committee,” Nitzky said. “Community buy-in for sustainability plan is critical for its success.” She is excited to help create and execute the plan. “I’m looking forward to both the community engagement components of planning and the actual implementation of strategies that will help improve the overall quality of life in the community,” she said.
She’s also looking forward to the upcoming Southwest Arbor Fest, set for April 22, 2023, at Lincoln Park. Attendees can take home a free tree seedling from the event and will also be able to recycle old electronic waste, like televisions, computers, gaming systems and more at the event. “The first 8,000 pounds of waste will be free to recycle (up to 40 pounds per car) and after that, it will cost just 0.65 cents per pound,” she said. “We are hoping for a great turnout!”