Colorado is an ideal escape for celebrating the splendor of Mother Nature. If the idea of eco-friendly vacations floats your solar-powered boat, then take your pick from this sampling of the low-impact experiences throughout the state — and support local businesses that give back to their communities while you’re at it!
A pioneer in sustainability, Aspen powers its city using 100 percent renewable energy: wind, solar and geothermal heat. Start your day in this eco-friendly mountain town with hearty breakfast bowls and freshly pressed juice at Spring Cafe Organic Food & Juice Bar, and then experience culture and nature simultaneously as you explore Anderson Ranch Arts Center, where the outdoor sculpture exhibit Sculpturally Distanced features 17 pieces installed throughout the 5-acre campus. Stroll into Kate Maller Sustainable Fine Jewelry for some feel-good, handcrafted bling made from high-quality recycled gold and silver. Just down the road in Carbondale, pop into the Marble Distilling Co., a model of sustainability that recaptures 100 percent of their process water and reuses energy harvested from the distillation process to heat their facility, saving more than 4 million gallons of water annually. Also make time to check out Osmia, which sells wellness products for your skin, and has partnered to with One Tree Planted for the last three years to plant a tree for every order they receive (resulting in more than 50,000 trees planted in Colorado so far!).
In the creative hub of RiNo, hop on an electric scooter — Lime, Lyft and Uber all offer scooter rentals via mobile apps — and zoom around the neighborhood to see colorful murals, graffiti and street art splashed on business walls and down alleyways. Make a stop into the taproom of Odell Brewery Co., a 100 percent employee-owned craft beer company that uses sustainable brewing methods and donates 1 percent to charitable partners. Continue your brewery-hopping journey over to the taproom of New Belgium Brewing, a B Corp-certified company that uses clean energy and sustainable packaging, plus donates to bicycle-advocacy nonprofits. (Bonus: their signature Fat Tire brew is the country’s first carbon-neutral beer.) Stay overnight in one of the industrial-style rooms at The Source Hotel + Market Hall, a design-forward boutique hotel that uses energy-saving efforts to minimize environmental impact. It’s also pretty handy that the food hall’s delights are just steps away. Another consideration are the menus of Edible Beats, six wind-powered restaurants with responsibly sourced, veggie-forward menus: Linger, Ophelia’s, Vital Root, El Five, Root Down and Root Down DIA. If you’ve got time for a little shopping, head over to nearby Aurora's Stanley Marketplace to find Zero Market, which strives to make a zero-waste lifestyle convenient with package-free body products, home cleaners, tea and herbs, and much more. Bonus: Bring your empty containers and they'll fill them with organic, sustainable local toiletries.
Learn about the science of the natural world while taking in the splendor of spring with a free guided nature walk at Walking Mountains Science Center, and explore the exhibits at Vail Nature Center. After hiking, unwind with a relaxing massage or facial at Spa Anjali, named a top green spa by Organic Spa Magazine, peruse the stacks at Actively Green-certified The Bookworm in Edwards, and then relax in plush accommodations at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, a LEED-certified hotel. If you notice an air of eco-consciousness while you’re here, there’s a reason: The Town of Vail is heralded internationally for its promotion of renewable energy, resource efficiency, ecosystem protection and community awareness of these topics; and Vail Resorts (including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte) are committed to zero net emissions and zero waste to landfill by 2030, among other initiatives.
Recognized as “Tree City USA” for its commitment to planting trees throughout town, Glenwood Springs also extends its environmental stewardship to its energy use, running off 100 percent renewable energy. Soak in the town’s many natural, chemical-free hot springs that harness geothermal power, including Iron Mountain Hot Springs and Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Enjoy the steam at Yampah Spa, where naturally occurring mineral water transforms underground caverns into geothermal steam baths. Get a thrill at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, one of the first amusement parks in the country to use 100 percent renewable electricity. And be sure to pop into Toad&Co for some local and sustainably produced clothing items that’ll have you exploring the area trails in eco-friendly style.
Aptly named due to its rolling, golden-hued hills, Golden is home to several large organizations that tap into sustainability efforts. Sign up for a guided tour of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which researches and develops sustainable energy systems, or go on the 30-minute tour of Coors Brewery, which is working toward being zero waste by 2025. Next, grab some small-batch face- and skin-care goods from Spinster Sisters Co., which boasts a wind-powered microsoapery and products that are Leaping Bunny cruelty-free certified as well as sulfate-, phthalate- and paraben-free. Then head to dinner at Abejas, which uses local produce, organic meats and sustainable fish to craft its seasonal dishes
Enjoy nature while minimizing your impact by visiting lesser-known areas around Estes. While Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country, neighboring Roosevelt National Forest offers an abundance of trails for all skill levels and a quieter, easier to manage hiking experience. On summer Thursdays, the Estes Park Farmers’ Market is the place to pick up Colorado-grown and -made products, from fresh fruits and veggies to coffee, baskets, soaps, spices, eggs and many other delights. At night, marvel at the heavens at Estes Park Memorial Observatory, whether you can attend a viewing session or volunteer your time to assist with showings.
Rent a bicycle and feel the sun on your shoulders as you pedal along the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, which features three routes meandering through vineyards, orchards, farmlands and lavender gardens. On the complete 25-mile East Orchard Mesa Loop, stop at Aloha Organic Fruit for organic peach jam, pull over at Anita’s Pantry & Produce for locally made salsas, and then take it easy with a glass of wine at the solar-powered Peachfork Orchards & Vineyard.
Stretch your legs and take in the scenery on the half-mile hike to Treasure Falls, a 105-foot plunging waterfall. Then let your stress melt away with a soak in the hot springs at The Springs Resort & Spa, where its Great Pagosa Spring holds the title of the world’s deepest measured geothermal hot spring. Spend a few hours in the 24 naturally heated soaking pools, and then spend the night in the luxurious lodge, Colorado’s first LEED-built hotel. Keep the theme going with an organic, made-in-Colorado souvenir from Earthsense Herbals & Gift Gallery for salves, soaps, lotions, teas and tinctures.
Other Notable Mentions
The new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center in Colorado Springs has achieved both LEED Silver and Living Building Challenge certifications, which only enhance the stunning views from atop America’s Mountain.
Awake in Denver is Colorado’s first alcohol-free bar, serving alcohol-free beer, wine and mocktails, as well as coffee drinks and snacks. They are LEED certified, solar powered and sustainably sourced, and 2 percent of sales and 20 percent of profits go to local charities.
Riff Raff Brewing Company in Pagosa Springs is the state’s first brewery to be powered by spring-fed geothermal heating.
- Indulge in a few self-care purchases from Fig+Yarrow in Silver Plume. Their nutrient-dense and sustainably sourced ingredients create milkbaths, facial cleansers and clay masks that will make you feel good inside and out.
Sustainable Colorado Products
The Sustainable Baby Co.
Give a new mom the gift of support with a handcrafted nursing pillow made in Pagosa Springs using 100 percent organic, sustainable materials and colored with botanical dyes. The Sustainable Baby Co. also donates 10 percent of their pillows to mothers in need.
Using sustainable bamboo fiber blended with naturally renewable merino wool, this company in Vail churns out environmentally conscious adventure wear, from base-layer leggings to cozy neck gaiters. Bambool also supports local outdoor nonprofits with every purchase. Shop other Colorado-made outdoor gear here >>
Knowing that apparel manufacturing is the second-leading polluter in the world behind oil and gas, this Denver company has a mission to educate consumers and change the way they buy fashion, starting with their upcycled, eco-friendly apparel, which you can buy at their boutique in RiNo, which also doubles as a hub for community development. One product purchased at False Ego means one tree planted via tree-nation.
Knotty Tie Co.
Pick up custom ties, pocket squares and face masks for the dapper folks in your life at this Denver-based company that uses sustainable fabrics for its creations. Knotty Tie Co. also employs refugees at living wages, reimburses its staff English classes, provides community resources and offers incentive bonuses for college education.
From the mountains to the cities, if you wander around Colorado long enough, you’re bound to see locals wearing their high-quality Osprey backpacks, made with sustainable materials and practices. This company in Cortez partners with various nonprofits involved in environmental stewardship, health campaigns and diversity initiatives, which adds to their overall awesomeness.
Look cool while supporting the planet when you don a pair of Zeal Optics’ eco-friendly sunglasses. The frames — and even the polarized lenses — are made from plant-based materials, and this Boulder brand contributes 1 percent of gross sales to environmental causes
Denver-based Kastlfel transforms plastic bottles, recycled polyester and organic cotton into T-shirts, hats and face masks that support a variety of fundraising programs for environmental and social issues.
Big B’s Fruit Company
Stop by the tasting room at Delicious Orchards — part of Big B’s Fruit Company — to sample and stock up on award-winning hard cider made in Hotchkiss using locally grown apples from nearby organic farmlands. This farm and cidery has a fund set up to support Children’s Hospital Colorado, as well as other local nonprofits.
Sword & Plough
From brass earrings to travel bags, this Commerce City-based company is known for its rugged, yet refined, accessories crafted from repurposed military surplus fabric and materials. Sword & Plough employs a workforce of veterans and donates 10 percent of profits to veteran nonprofit causes.
Women’s Bean Project
Stock your pantry with chili mixes, spice blends and baking mixes to support Denver-based Women’s Bean Project, which runs a transitional employment program for women in need, as well as provides life skills classes, job coaching and health-services support.
Using whole plant botanicals and superfood alpine ingredients, this vegan, organic skincare line is packed with nutrients for reviving parched skin — a must in Colorado’s dry, high-elevation climate. TellurideGlow also supports the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, which provides adaptive equipment to make the great outdoors more accessible. Read about other adaptive programs and experiences here >>