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Meet Brianna Hallinan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brianna Hallinan.

Hi Brianna, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
In the spring of 2019, a few Eco-Cycle Eco-Leaders from Broomfield met up to see why our city did not have curbside composting. After doing some research and reaching out to city organizations, we learned that there were plans to develop a city-wide curbside composting program in the future. After voicing our support for this initiative, we decided in the meantime to teach residents how to compost in their own backyards. We developed and displayed a composting booth at two events around Earth Day and followed that with composting classes at a local nursery and booth displays at our local farmers market over the summer.

By this time, we had been meeting on a monthly basis and decided to call our group Sustainable Broomfield. We invited others to come to join our meetings and sought out guest speakers to make presentations on other sustainability topics. During the summer, we started a Facebook page and eventually launched our own website. September brought the community festival of Broomfield Days, where we had a booth selling reusable bags, surveying residents on the eco-friendly actions they regularly practiced and teaching people how to backyard compost. Later that fall, we continued meeting monthly and invited City Council candidates to our meetings to discuss their views on sustainability in Broomfield.

By the end of the year, we had developed some solid partnerships with a few organizations in Broomfield, like the Broomfield Crescent Grange and the city’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability. We had also found a proper meeting location at the Brunner Farmhouse and Gardens and had an average of 10 people at most meetings. Sustainable Broomfield was designated as a citizen group so as to be accessible to anyone who was interested in participating. Many of the original members had taken a backseat and new people started to step up to help out in the leadership and planning positions.

At the beginning of 2020, we decided to put on a giant community Earth Day Festival at the Broomfield Crescent Grange with lots of booths and displays from a variety of community organizations. We had everything lined up and ready to go when COVID shut everything down in March and we had to cancel our event. Our regular monthly meetings continued online in the spring, but we were able to hold outdoor meetings all summer at the Brunner Farmhouse and Gardens. In exchange for meeting at this location, we volunteered to maintain one of the garden plots. That summer, we completely redeveloped the large perimeter garden plot, which had very few flowering plants and was overrun with weeds. It is now a beautiful area with multiple pathways and lots of perennial, pollinator-friendly flowers.

Sustainable Broomfield made another big impact at the Broomfield Crescent Grange’s community garden during the summer of 2020. I joined this garden as an individual member and noticed they had three large compost bins that were being underutilized by the gardeners. After some discussion, we agreed that I could recruit Sustainable Broomfield members to start dumping buckets of compostable scraps into the Grange’s compost bins and the community garden could utilize the finished compost. We found a few sources for free five-gallon buckets and launched a pilot program with ten members for a month to see how much compost was created. After gathering more buckets and tweaking our registration program a bit, we opened up the membership to anyone who was interested in joining our new Compost Club. By the fall, we had 60 people participating and had to close our new member registration since our compost bins has reached capacity.

Then, in November of 2020, we were contacted by a local scout, Spencer, who was interested in building some compost bins for an Eagle Scout Project! His timing could not have been better and by February, we had three new compost bins and were able to reopen registration into our compost club! Right now we have 80 people signed up for our club, we have diverted around 1700 gallons of compostable scraps from the landfill and created around 192 gallons of usable compost. This has probably been one of Sustainable Broomfield’s biggest success stories.

Another recent success was the Community Earth Day Scavenger Hunt we helped put on for a week in April this year. Since we couldn’t hold an Earth Day Festival in person with the COVID restrictions, we decided to host a weeklong virtual Earth Day event. To participate, community members simply registered for the event and downloaded the free GooseChase app on their smartphones. Then, through the app, numerous challenges would pop up throughout each day, asking the participant to search online to answer a question, take a photo of themselves completing an activity, or visit a different area of Broomfield. People earned points for properly completing the challenges and at the end of the week, our top point earners walked away with some awesome prizes!

Our community game was perfect for people of all ages and ability levels and was a great way to get outside and celebrate Earth Day, as well as explore, support, and learn more about Broomfield. This year’s event was our first Scavenger Hunt and we had 121 participants, 38 community partners/sponsors, and gave away over $2,000 in prizes! We also had a lot of great feedback from many of the participants, sponsors, and community partners, as well as excitement about participating in future events like this.

Well, that is essentially the history of Sustainable Broomfield up to this point. We are still meeting monthly, virtually so far this year, but our June meeting will be outside at the Broomfield Crescent Grange. I also started composing monthly newsletters last fall, we have expanded our social media presence, we redid our website this winter, and currently, we have 356 people on our mailing list. Our leadership team has changed members a bit, but we have five committed people helping to run our organization right now. I did forget to mention, this leadership team is actually the board for Sustainable Broomfield and we filed to become a nonprofit in December of 2020 and got our final paperwork approved in April!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
There have definitely been some ups and downs to get our organization where we are today. Currently, we only have two of the six founding members still participating in Sustainable Broomfield. A few different people have taken on leadership roles, which only ended up lasting for a few months. However, most of the people on our nonprofit board have been members for at least 18 months and will reliably step up and volunteer!

Not all of our past initiatives have been successful either. We were all set to hold an Earth Day festival in April of 2020, only to have to cancel our plans due to COVID. But, our second attempt with our Earth Day Scavenger Hunt this year was a big success! In the fall of 2020, we attempted to start a sustainable business recognition program in Broomfield, but without being a nonprofit, we found it difficult to find willing partners to help us launch a ready-made program. Now that we have our nonprofit status, we may visit this initiative again in the future.

Overall, our compost club has been successful, but it requires a lot of individual work on my part to keep everything organized and to make sure the compost gets turned and is not contaminated. Many of our meetings have gone really well, with engaging guest speakers and lots of people attending. But, there have been a few where we had very few attendees and recently some technical glitches.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
When we applied to be a nonprofit, we had to form a governing board and designate board members with titles, which is why I am now the President of Sustainable Broomfield. In this position, I am kept busy answering SB emails, creating monthly newsletters with engaging and informative information, managing the compost club, finding and booking speakers for meetings, creating content for our website and social media pages, building and maintaining connections with other community partners, and planning out future events.

My specialty and the aspect I am most proud of is probably the success of the Compost Club, which runs like this. People fill out an interest form from our website and I email them a list of tasks to complete in order to register. They must read a list of rules, watch a video, take a test until they pass, fill out a waiver, and then they are allowed to go pick up a bucket to fill with scraps. When their bucket is full, they take it to our compost site and dump it into the compost bins. To dump the scraps, they must dig a hole with a pitchfork, dump their scraps in, add an equal volume of leaves, rinse out their bucket, add the water to the bin, and then cover up the new addition with the old compost materials. The finished compost gets used on-site in the Crescent Grange Community Garden.

The compost club was my brainchild and I am really excited about how successful it has been. Last spring I came up with the concept, gained permission from the Grange, created the registration system with all the forms and videos; gathered, cleaned out, and labeled old paint buckets, launched a pilot program, and a month later opened registration to anyone who was interested. The detailed registration system was important to ensure that people took the program seriously and weren’t contaminating our compost. At this time, I manage the emails and paperwork for everyone who is interested in joining and those who eventually become members, as well as check and turn the compost once a week to make sure they are decomposing properly and that we are making great compost for the community garden.

I may have done a lot of the legwork to set things up, but I couldn’t have created such a system without a number of helpful volunteers. People have taken the time to find and collect free 5 gallon buckets, dump buckets of scraps, water and turn the compost, spread the word about our program, and we even have some volunteers who go to others houses to transport and dump buckets of scraps for those who can’t do so on their own.

Because of the way our compost club has been successfully run, we have received a number of donations from members to thank us for allowing them to participate in such a beneficial program. I only wish we could give compost back to our members for their participation, but unfortunately, we still don’t produce enough for that to happen.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
Well, I wouldn’t be where I am today without Rosie Briggs, the Community Engagement and Eco-Leaders Manager for Eco-Cycle. She is the one who introduced me to the other Eco-Leaders in Broomfield and helped us put together the initial Sustainable Broomfield citizen group. She has also been a constant support to me by helping us provide Eco-Cycle resources to Broomfield citizens, being a speaker at numerous meetings, and has been an encouraging friend to me every step of the way.

The second person who made a big difference was Elizabeth Moura, who was my leadership partner during the summer and fall of 2019. She helped teach me more about backyard composting, launched and ran our initial website, and volunteered to help plan out successful meetings and events. I really learned a lot from Elizabeth and our organization made some big strides with her help!

Another person who made a big splash was Jessica Slattery, who showed up in 2020 right when I needed her help! She was a member of the Compost Club and offered to help me improve the website and our online presence. By February of 2021, she had built us a whole new website which was much improved to our old one. In addition, Jessica had volunteered with a bunch of our programs, like a clean-up event and our sustainable business recognition initiative. She became part of the leadership team that summer and was a board member when we applied to be a nonprofit. Due to family and work circumstances, Jessica had to step away from Sustainable Broomfield, but we hope she will be back in the future!

I would also like to mention all the members of the current Sustainable Broomfield leadership team who have been instrumental for the past year. First is Craig Hebrink, a Climate Reality Leader, SB board member, and the one who really helps keep us grounded with the issues around climate change. Craig has been a member since the fall of 2019, attends all our meetings, contributes great ideas for our group to pursue, and volunteers whenever we need someone to help out!

Next is Elyse Thomson, who I met and partnered with to plan our 2020 Earth Day Festival before it was canceled. I met Elyse at a time when I was essentially running Sustainable Broomfield all by myself and even though she doesn’t actually live in Broomfield, she stepped up with anything I needed her for. Being fresh out of college, her youthful point of view, business training, and technical computer skills have helped us make some great steps forward. She is also a member of our board and will be taking care of our financial books as our treasurer.

Julie Decrescenzo is a new member of our board but a long-time Sustainable Broomfield member and willing volunteer. I met Julie when she brought her young son to one of our meetings and she became a staple in all future events. She helped out tremendously when we started our garden at the Brunner Farmhouse and is willing to volunteer for any event we put on. When I found out she had IT experience, I asked her if she would be willing to help us with our website. She agreed and I wish I had asked sooner. Because Julie gets things done! She has revamped and built up the website and even taken an online class to help her become more proficient at it! Her charisma and spirit are always welcome at our meetings as well.

Our last board member is Lauren Farnsworth, who has provided a lot of great insight into how a nonprofit should run from her experience starting up other sustainability groups at two different companies. She has great suggestions that I would never have thought of and is very passionate about sustainability. Lauren has taken on the role of Communications Director for our organization and she helps us get our message out much more effectively.

The last groups I would like to recognize are the City of Broomfield staff, the members of the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability for Broomfield, and the members of the Crescent Grange. All of these groups have helped to support our organization and partner with us on numerous projects. We look forward to their continued partnerships in the future.

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Image Credits
The first two photos were taken by Jedidiah Woods. He is on Instagram @jedidiahwoods

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