September 2  |  Our Communities

13 Practical Ways to Reduce Waste in Fort Collins

To say Fort Collins is an eco-friendly city is an understatement. In the last few years, Fort Collins has been named one of the greenest cities in the nation by Expedia, an Energy Star top city, and one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the United States by ValuePenguin.

The city has created several initiatives to make reducing waste, including food waste, plastic waste and other forms of waste, easier than ever before. From composting and recycling at home to shopping sustainably and supporting eco-friendly nonprofits in town, here are a few practical ways to reduce waste in Fort Collins. Over time, following these small steps can make your footprint on our planet a little smaller!


Shop at Eco-Thrift

Eco-Thrift Fort Collins, CO

Photo Courtesy of Eco-Thrift

This community-based thrift store is putting the “reuse” in the old eco-friendly saying into action. They take gently used items and return them to service, partnering with several local Fort Collins organizations to help reduce the carbon footprint and keep items out of the landfill. At their store, you can find everything from furniture to electronics — all in fantastic condition. And, if you find yourself in the middle of a DIY project that requires the one-time use of a unique tool, you don’t have to go out and buy it! Rent tools, garden supplies, kitchen gadgets, sports equipment and more from Eco-Thrift’s “Eco Tool Library.”

COVID NOTE: As of June 5, Eco-Thrift is back open for business! Please wear a mask and practice social distancing while inside the store.


Drink Beer at New Belgium Brewing

What does beer have to do with sustainability, you ask? Supporting New Belgium, which in this case requires nothing more than drinking their beer, you are supporting their sustainable business practices. As one of the most eco-friendly breweries in the nation, New Belgium works hard to promote sustainability in all they do. While they do still create some pollution (just like most businesses) they are very open about it, providing their customers with yearly sustainability reports and continually trying to reduce their carbon footprint. They also try to recycle and/or reuse everything they possibly can from pallet straps to bottles and cans. We could go on about all of their sustainable practices (like their greenhouse gas emissions tracking, environmentally friendly product sourcing, and their natural resource management team), but we don’t want to take up your whole week.

COVID NOTE: At this time, the patio is open daily from 12–8 p.m. by reservation on OpenTable. Click here for a full list of their COVID-19 policies, which includes cashless transactions, mask rules, temporary closures, and other requirements.


Support CSU

One of the most effective ways to increase eco-friendliness in the future is by educating the next generation about sustainability. CSU is going the extra mile to embed sustainability into the fabric of the university and its programs. In fact, their efforts were recognized in 2020 with a record third platinum rating and the highest overall sustainability score out of any university in the country. One example of their eco-friendly focus is the Student Sustainability Center, a “university-wide, student-run organization that empowers students to advance sustainability practices and principles on and beyond CSU’s campus.” The center hosts student projects and topical events, and promotes environmental initiatives on campus and throughout the city. Your support of CSU helps these programs and other sustainability initiatives receive the resources they need to thrive.


Eat at an Eco-Friendly Restaurant

Sustainable Restaurants in Fort Collins, CO

There are plenty of local businesses and restaurants using eco-friendly practices. Eating at these restaurants means you are supporting their efforts — and it’s a win-win, because you get a meal out of the deal! Check out the many sustainable businesses in Fort Collins, most of which are restaurants, so you know where you can support local and support the planet at the same time.

COVID NOTE: Check the website for each restaurant before your visit or booking a reservation, and during your visit, be sure to abide by all CDC requirements.


Shop Local

Speaking of supporting local, shopping from local businesses is one of the most underrated yet relatively simple ways to reduce waste. Amazon may be convenient, but shopping online certainly can produce a lot of waste, from excessive packaging to the environmental impacts associated with delivery (by plane or truck). Avoid this by shopping for clothing, home decor and other items from local businesses — and you can even opt out of a bag at checkout! Shop local at these incredible boutiques and shops in Fort Collins.

COVID NOTE: Check the website for each shop before your visit to ensure they are open and to be informed about any policies in place, including curbside pickup, sanitation, etc.


Donate to the Sustainable Living Association

The Sustainable Living Association is an educational non-profit designed for those interested in, curious about or deeply involved in sustainable living options. They are committed to applying vision and expertise toward a sustainable future for all, through community programs, events, and other initiatives. Donate to the association to support their efforts in creating a healthier, greener planet. And be sure to attend Earth Day Fort Collins at Civic Center Park each April!



Composting in Fort Collins, CO

Composting is a major player in reducing food waste at home. If you are up for the challenge (and you have the space!), create your very own composting system in your yard using these resources from the City of Fort Collins. If you want someone else to handle the hassle, leave it up to Compost Queen! This composting service offers no-mess, no-fuss composting for Fort Collins and Wellington residents. When you sign up, you will receive a countertop composter, compostable bags, and a 4-gallon bucket with a lid. The food waste you collect will be picked up weekly from the curb, at which point your contents are measured and hauled away. And twice per year, you will receive a delivery of finished compost to add to your garden! During the process, track your progress with regular reports showing your carbon footprint reduction, including greenhouse gasses.


Get Coffee From Wander Coffee

As avid nature lovers and coffee lovers, the small team at this family-operated micro-roastery makes coffee driven by four core values: quality, sustainability, integrity and community. They promote sustainability through their equipment, packaging, and other products. So when you sip a cup of Wander, you know you’re sipping coffee that has traveled the world in the best ways and shows off that global character through careful roasting. Learn more about their impressive sustainability efforts here.

COVID NOTE: While their roastery is not open to the public yet, you can pick up Wander Coffee at their partners‘ locations, many of which have reopened for business. And of course, you can shop Wander Coffee online (free shipping and delivery on all orders over $30)!


Buy in Bulk at the Fort Collins Food Co-Op

Fort Collins Food Co-Op

Photo Courtesy of Fort Collins Food Co-Op

The Fort Collins Food Co-Op is your one-stop-shop for all bulk and local, organic and natural products. In addition to their selection of meats and cheeses, produce, pantry items, herbs and spices, and body care, the Food Co-Op has more than 200 items in their bulk department, including hard-to-find bulk goods and liquid bulk products, like olive oil, vanilla extract, and even shampoo. Reduce plastic waste and unnecessary packaging by filling your own glass containers (or reusing old ones) with everything you need.

COVID NOTE: The Food Co-Op is taking several precautions to ensure a safe experience for both their customers and staff. Customers must wear a mask to enter the store and are asked to use hand sanitizer provided upon entering. They are offering a senior/immunocompromised hour every day from 10–11 a.m. in addition to curbside pickup. You are no longer allowed to use personal containers for bulk refilling. Click here for more details about the Food Co-Op’s COVID-19 policies.




One of the most obvious ways to reduce waste is recycling. And thankfully, the City of Fort Collins makes recycling quite simple for residents. In addition to curbside recycling, they operate the Timberline Recycling Center, where you can bring cardboard, paper, glass and mixed bottles/cans, plus any “hard to recycle” items (such as antifreeze, batteries, motor oil, and paint) during limited hours. Print these recycling guidelines and hang it on your fridge or near your recycling bin to remember what can and cannot be recycled.


Shop at Vintage + Antique Shops

Shopping second-hand is one of the best ways to reduce textile waste, as it keeps clothing out of landfills — not to mention that it helps the community! Go on a shopping adventure at these vintage and antique shops in Fort Collins, many of which are situated along College Avenue just steps from each other.

COVID NOTE: As usual, visit each website before your trip to a vintage or antique shop for updates related to COVID-19. And wear a mask and practice social distancing during your visit.


Buy Produce at the Farmers’ Market

Farmers' Markets in Fort Collins, CO

Go straight to the source by shopping directly from the farmers who grow your produce. There are several farmers’ markets in Northern Colorado popping up during the spring, summer and fall ensuring your fridge and pantry remain stocked with fresh goodness all week long. Tip: Cut out plastic bags by bringing your own canvas bag or tote to fill with your farmers’ market finds!

COVID NOTE: We created a 2020 guide for Northern Colorado farmers’ markets, which includes information about COVID-related protocols and updates.


For Holiday or Birthday Gifts, Give Experiences

When the holidays hit, it’s easy to forget about sustainability. Instead of guessing what your loved one or friend wants, opt for an experiential gift this year! Give them a Larimer County Parks Annual Entrance Permit, an annual membership to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, a gift card to Social, a cooking class at Ginger & Baker, or tickets to a show at The Armory. For more hyper-local gift ideas, check out 19 Totally Fort Collins Gift Ideas for the Holidays.


What tips do you have?

Share your eco-friendly tips and resources in the comments below!

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