As Josh and I have getting “the lay of the land” on transitioning to a Zero Waste lifestyle, it’s become clear that our position is relatively unique. Most well-known Zero Waste gurus are lucky to live in areas that support their goals and often fall into one of two camps:
- Affluent, urban individuals with multitudes of eco-friendly resources at their fingertips (farmer’s markets, bulk shopping, crunchy boutiques). Think San Francisco or New York City.
- Rural homesteaders who have found ways to become self-sufficient by living the prairie life (home gardens, livestock, homemade everything).
These are the people taking the lead on Zero Waste and I so, so admire them! But we’ve quickly learned that our approach to going Zero Waste in Cheyenne, Wyoming is going to look a bit different...We just don’t have the luxuries of either camp.
Cheyenne, Wyoming: “The Far and Mighty West”
The United States Air Force moved Josh and I to Cheyenne, Wyoming two years ago. Never would I have guessed this state would become my home, but here we are!
And I can genuinely tell you that it’s been lovely. Cheyenne is an interesting place. Nestled into the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, our rugged, remote region got its start as a hotbed for cattle ranching and as a “Wild West” outpost for the United States military.
Our nation’s first national park was established here in Yellowstone and cowboy traditions are still going strong!
Born and bred Wyomingites are often associated with one of three things: cattle ranching, railroad trade, or oil.
They also identify highly as outdoor enthusiasts thanks to our incredible access to mountaineering, rock-climbing, hiking, skiing and more. Some consider Wyoming to be the next outdoorsy frontier for people who have explored the limits of Colorado, just south of us (Is that even possible?). I’d say Wyoming is the heart of the cowboy mixed with a dash of adrenaline junky energy, all wrapped in the dressings of traditional, patriotic conservatism.
It’s a cool place! One not enough people really appreciate, in my opinion.
What does that mean for us?
The simple cowboy charm of Cheyenne, while delightful in its own right, makes some things more complicated. People here are very traditional; and while I’ve found urban pockets that make the metro-girl in me sing, for the most part Cheyenne is all prairie, horses and big box chains.
I may be a big Target fangirl, but it’s not exactly ideal for the Zero Waster.
On a similar note, change here is slowwwww. And I don’t make that statement lightly. There’s a strong core of older influencers who’d love to see Cheyenne stay quiet, stay hidden and stay the same. The problem is, “the same” means lots of ignorance, lots of pollution and lots of waste.
Our entire state only has 2 escalators for goodness sake. We live in a city that’s on the furthest outskirts of the Denver metro area, just across the Colorado-Wyoming border.
Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs… Each of these places has a reputation for being hyper-green, hyper-fit and hyper-nature-focused. Cheyenne isn’t. And so we try to find other alternatives.
Our Current Lifestyle
Josh and I are your average, middle class, sort of newlywed couple. We live in the upper flat of a lovely little Craftsman home in the coveted, historical Avenues Neighborhood of town. Our home is small but darling (2 bedroom, 1 bath) and built for the TV-dinner-making family of the 40’s.
Josh is an Emergency Management Specialist with the Air Force; I’m a freelance writer and blogger in the social good space. We spend most of our time working on our respective careers, playing music, biking, hiking and exploring our wilderness, checking out nearby towns, and enjoying each other!
We don’t have kids, though we want them in the somewhat near future, and have one cat: Andy (fondly named after Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation), one of our faves.
Most of the grocery shopping we do is conducted at the local weekly Farmer’s Market (produce and bread) or Albertson’s (non-perishables, boxed, canned, etc.). We clean with status quo chemicals, our kitty uses a litter box, we drive more than we need to and we take out a few large trash bags out to the back alley a couple of times a week. Normal, but not great.
Why Zero Waste?
We are doing Zero Waste because we want to live our values of clean living, caring for the earth and its bounty, respecting others (including future generations) and using our collective creativity to make the world a better place. We look forward to sharing what we learn with you as we try to navigate the hurdles of accomplishing this in a small, conservative, traditional town like Cheyenne.
Thanks for sticking with us. Cheers, Josh & Lauren