[ULTIMATE GUIDE] Sustainable Vacation Spot: Aspen Colorado

[ULTIMATE GUIDE] Sustainable Vacation Spot: Aspen Colorado

The Ultimate Guide to Aspen Colorado - Top U.S. Sustainable Vacation Spot

  • Aspen, Colorado - Known for its luxury ski resorts, Aspen is also a leader in sustainability. The city is powered by 100% renewable energy and offers numerous green initiatives, including extensive recycling programs and eco-friendly transportation options.

  • In this guide you will learn: 
    • What to do while visiting Aspen
    • Where to stay in Aspen, hotels & campsites
    • Where dine sustainably in Aspen
    • Where to shop sustainably in Aspen
    • How to get around sustainably while visiting Aspen

    What to Do in Aspen: 

    • Hiking with Care: Aspen's trails beckon to nature lovers. When planning a hike, consider using the local shuttle services available to access trailheads. This not only reduces the environmental impact but also alleviates parking congestion at popular sites. Always stick to marked trails to minimize your ecological footprint and preserve the habitat you've come to enjoy.


    • Biking the Green Way: Aspen offers a comprehensive network of bike rentals and bike-sharing facilities that make it easy to explore on two wheels without the need for a car. Opt for a day on the Rio Grande Trail or cruise through the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. Not only is biking a green mode of transport, but it also gives you a more intimate experience of Aspen's breathtaking landscapes.

    Celebrate Sustainability at Aspen's Cultural Events

    Aspen is renowned not only for its stunning landscapes but also for its vibrant cultural scene that champions sustainability. Events like the Aspen Ideas Festival and various eco-conscious music festivals reflect the community's commitment to combining cultural enrichment with environmental responsibility.


    • Aspen Ideas Festival: This iconic gathering is a hub for thought leaders, innovators, and artists to discuss global issues, including sustainability. The festival incorporates green practices such as using digital instead of printed materials, offering locally sourced foods at events, and encouraging digital attendance to reduce travel-related carbon footprints. It's an ideal venue for those passionate about both the arts and the planet to engage in meaningful dialogue about sustainable futures.
    • Green Music Festivals: Aspen's music festivals are not just about entertainment; they're also platforms for promoting environmental awareness. Many festivals here adopt zero-waste goals, utilizing compostable materials and ensuring all waste is properly sorted and recycled. Power for these events often comes from renewable sources, and water refill stations are available to reduce plastic usage. Festival organizers also encourage the use of public transport or biking to the venues, decreasing the overall carbon emissions associated with the events.
    • Participatory Art and Sustainability Workshops: Alongside these major events, Aspen also hosts workshops and smaller gatherings that focus on creating art from recycled materials, or teaching sustainable living practices through interactive experiences. These workshops not only foster a sense of community but also empower attendees with practical skills for eco-friendly living.

    Join Local Conservation Efforts in Aspen

    Aspen is not only a place to relax and enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty, but also a community deeply committed to preserving that beauty for future generations. Visitors have unique opportunities to contribute through local organizations and conservation tours that focus on maintaining and enhancing the area's natural environments.

    • Participate in River Clean-Ups: Organizations like the Roaring Fork Conservancy regularly host river clean-up events, inviting both locals and tourists to help maintain the health and beauty of Aspen’s waterways. These events are a hands-on way to contribute to environmental preservation and also offer a great way to learn more about the local ecosystem.
    • Wildlife Preservation Projects: Join local wildlife groups such as the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) in their efforts to conserve wildlife habitats. ACES offers guided tours that educate participants on local wildlife and habitats, along with opportunities to engage in preservation activities such as bird banding or native vegetation planting.
    • Sustainable Trail Use and Maintenance: Engage with organizations like the Aspen Trail Finder, which offers information on how to use trails responsibly, and participate in trail maintenance days. Maintaining trails not only helps reduce erosion and protect local flora, but it also ensures these paths remain safe and accessible for all to enjoy.
    • Educational Workshops and Eco-Tours: Take part in educational programs and eco-tours that focus on sustainable practices and environmental education. These programs often include guided hikes that teach about local geology, botany, and the impacts of climate change on the Rockies.
    • Support Local Conservation Efforts: Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with a scheduled event, you can support these initiatives by donating to local conservation organizations or simply by practicing leave-no-trace principles during your stay. Every action counts when it comes to preserving the natural beauty of Aspen.

    Farmers Markets in Aspen: 

    Aspen Saturday Market

    • Location & Details: Held every Saturday from June through October, the Aspen Saturday Market is more than just a place to buy fresh produce. Located in downtown Aspen, this market features local artisans, farmers, and food vendors, offering everything from organic fruits and vegetables to handmade crafts and prepared foods.
    • Sustainability Highlights: Many vendors at this market focus on organic and sustainable practices, providing a range of eco-friendly goods.

    Basalt Sunday Market

    • Location & Details: Just down the valley from Aspen, the Basalt Sunday Market runs from mid-June to September. It's a favorite for both locals and visitors looking for a less crowded environment compared to the Aspen market.
    • Sustainability Highlights: This market emphasizes community and sustainability, with vendors offering locally grown produce, artisan baked goods, and handcrafted items, all of which underscore the market’s commitment to reducing carbon footprints and supporting the local economy.

    Carbondale Farmers Market

    • Location & Details: A short drive from Aspen, this market is open on Wednesdays from June through September. It's known for a friendly atmosphere and provides a direct connection to the Roaring Fork Valley’s agricultural and artisan community.
    • Sustainability Highlights: Featuring organic produce, local meats, and sustainable products, this market is a hub for eco-conscious shopping and supports local sustainability initiatives.

    Snowmass Sunday Market

    • Location & Details: Located in Snowmass Village, this market operates every Sunday from June through August. It's smaller than Aspen's market but offers a unique mix of local produce, crafts, and delicious eats.
    • Sustainability Highlights: The focus here is on local produce and reducing the environmental impact of long-distance food transport, offering visitors and residents fresh options that support local farmers and artisans.

    Where to Stay in Aspen [HOTELS]

    For those planning a visit to Aspen and looking to stay in accommodations that align with eco-friendly values, here are several lodgings known for their commitment to sustainability through energy-efficient practices, waste reduction programs, and eco-certifications:

    The Little Nell

    • Sustainability Highlights: The Little Nell is a five-star, LEED Silver-certified property that integrates luxury with sustainability. It has implemented energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, uses LED lighting throughout the property, and offers organic, locally sourced food options in its dining facilities. They also have a robust recycling program and prioritize sustainable wine and spirits. 

    Limelight Hotel

    • Sustainability Highlights: Part of Aspen's "Green Key Eco-Rating Program," the Limelight Hotel engages in extensive recycling and composting programs, uses environmentally friendly cleaning products, and offers a Tesla electric car charging station. The hotel promotes low-impact transportation options by providing guests with complimentary bicycles and local transit passes.

    Element Basalt Aspen

    • Sustainability Highlights: This eco-conscious hotel near Aspen is LEED-certified and utilizes materials and resources that emphasize sustainability. It features energy-efficient appliances and systems, offers a complimentary healthy breakfast with local options, and encourages recycling and reduced water use.

    Aspen Meadows Resort

    • Sustainability Highlights: Nestled on 40 acres and designed with environmental preservation in mind, Aspen Meadows Resort operates with sustainable practices, including energy-efficient building designs and operations that aim to minimize waste and reduce water usage. The resort also hosts symposiums on environmental conservation. 

    Where to Stay in Aspen [CAMPING]

    Difficult Campground (yes that's their name!)

    • Location & Features: Just a few miles southeast of Aspen, Difficult Campground offers a more sustainable camping experience in the White River National Forest. The campground encourages minimal impact practices and provides facilities that support recycling and proper waste disposal.
    • Activities: Enjoy hiking on nearby trails, fishing in the Roaring Fork River, and wildlife watching, all while staying in a site that encourages preserving the natural environment.

    Silver Queen Campground

    • Location & Features: Located near the Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed areas near Aspen, Silver Queen Campground offers a pristine setting with a focus on eco-friendly camping. The campground has implemented measures to reduce human impact on the surrounding wilderness.
    • Activities: Ideal for those who love hiking and nature photography, with easy access to several trails leading into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

    Lincoln Creek Campground

    • Location & Features: This campground is accessible via a rough dirt road off Independence Pass and is suited for those looking for a rustic and minimal-impact camping experience. It operates on a first-come, first-served basis with minimal amenities, which encourages campers to be self-sufficient and leave no trace.
    • Activities: Explore nearby ghost towns, hiking trails, and fishing spots, perfect for those who appreciate a more secluded and nature-focused visit.

    Eco-Friendly Dining in Aspen

    When dining in Aspen, you'll find a variety of sustainable eateries that not only offer delicious meals but also adhere to practices like using locally sourced ingredients, minimizing waste, and providing organic and farm-to-table dining experiences. Here are some standout restaurants and cafes in Aspen that are known for their commitment to sustainability:

    Element 47 at The Little Nell
    • Sustainability Highlights: Known for its exceptional commitment to sustainability, Element 47 sources local and seasonal ingredients to create exquisite dishes. The restaurant has a robust waste reduction program and is a leader in recycling and composting.


    Pyramid Bistro
    • Sustainability Highlights: Located on the second floor of a bookstore, this vegetarian bistro focuses on nutrient-rich, health-conscious meals made with organic and locally sourced ingredients. Their commitment to minimal waste and sustainable practices makes them a favorite among eco-conscious diners.

    Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop
    • Sustainability Highlights: As both a restaurant and a farm shop, this establishment practices a farm-to-table philosophy, showcasing local artisans and farmers. They emphasize whole animal butchery and homemade fermented foods, reducing food waste significantly.

    The White House Tavern

    • Sustainability Highlights: This cozy tavern not only serves delicious comfort food but also prioritizes local sourcing and sustainable meat production. Their commitment to local farmers and minimal waste policies enhances their community-focused dining experience.
    Spring Café
    • Sustainability Highlights: Spring Café offers organic plant-based cuisine that appeals to health-conscious diners. They use organic and locally sourced ingredients to support local agriculture and reduce environmental impact.

     Hickory House
    • Sustainability Highlights: Famous for its ribs, Hickory House takes pride in its approach to sustainability, using locally sourced meats and organic ingredients wherever possible. They also engage in significant waste reduction efforts to minimize their ecological footprint.
     Field2Fork Kitchen
    • Sustainability Highlights: Specializing in scratch-made, seasonal food, this kitchen sources ingredients from local farmers and producers. They focus on sustainable, organic produce and offer a transparent kitchen policy to promote awareness about food origins and production.
    • Each of these establishments not only serves high-quality, delicious food but also contributes to a sustainable food culture in Aspen. By choosing these eateries, visitors can enjoy culinary delights while supporting environmentally responsible practices.

    Shopping Sustainably in Aspen

    • Aspen offers a vibrant local shopping scene that highlights the craftsmanship of regional artisans and promotes sustainable consumption. Supporting local artisans and boutiques not only enriches the local economy but also minimizes the environmental impact associated with mass-produced goods. Here are several standout local artisans and boutiques in Aspen that visitors should explore:

      1. Explore Booksellers

      • Location & Details: Located on Main Street, this iconic bookstore offers a curated selection of books and hosts events with local authors. They also feature locally made arts and crafts, perfect for unique gifts.
      • Sustainability Highlights: By supporting local authors and artists, Explore Booksellers helps sustain the cultural richness of the Aspen community.

      2. Aspen True

      • Location & Details: Aspen True offers jewelry designed and crafted in the Aspen area. The boutique focuses on pieces that incorporate natural elements and local motifs, reflecting the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
      • Sustainability Highlights: The use of locally sourced materials and artisan craftsmanship ensures each piece has a minimal carbon footprint and supports local talent.

      3. Pitkin County Dry Goods

      • Location & Details: As one of Aspen’s longest-standing boutiques, this shop offers high-quality clothing and accessories, with a focus on American-made products and brands that practice sustainable manufacturing.
      • Sustainability Highlights: By choosing brands that adhere to ethical production standards, Pitkin County Dry Goods promotes sustainable fashion consumption.

      4. Toklat Gallery

      • Location & Details: This gallery in Basalt, just a short drive from Aspen, showcases fine art and crafts made by local artists. It’s a great place to discover pottery, sculptures, and textile arts that celebrate the heritage of the region.
      • Sustainability Highlights: Toklat Gallery supports local artisans whose work preserves and promotes the environmental and cultural stories of the Rockies.

      5. Maker + Place

      • Location & Details: Located in the heart of Aspen, Maker + Place highlights the work of local and international makers who focus on high-quality, handmade products. From home decor to artisanal foods, every item tells a story of craftsmanship and sustainability.
      • Sustainability Highlights: The store not only supports local artisans but also encourages sustainable practices by featuring products made from recycled and eco-friendly materials.

      6. Aspen Hatter

      • Location & Details: This bespoke hat shop offers custom, handcrafted hats made from sustainable materials. Each hat is tailored to individual tastes and styles, reflecting both personality and craftsmanship.
      • Sustainability Highlights: Aspen Hatter emphasizes slow fashion by crafting durable and timeless pieces that stand the test of time, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

    6. If You Go

    • Best Times to Visit: Suggest the best times of year for sustainable travel in Aspen, considering both weather and tourist volume.
    • Transportation Tips: Provide tips on getting around sustainably, like using the free city shuttle services, renting bicycles, or walking.

    Transportation Tips for getting around in Aspen Sustainably

    Aspen is well-equipped to support eco-friendly transportation options, making it easy for visitors to get around while minimizing their carbon footprint:

    Free City Shuttle Services: Aspen offers excellent free shuttle services that connect the entire town and key points like the Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass Village. These shuttles are a convenient and green way to explore different areas without the need for a car.

    Bicycle Rentals and Paths: Renting a bike is a great way to see Aspen. The town boasts an extensive network of bike-friendly paths like the Rio Grande Trail, which runs through the heart of Aspen and stretches all the way to Glenwood Springs. Many hotels and shops offer bike rentals, and the city’s WE-cycle program provides public bike-sharing options.

    Walking: Aspen is a very walkable town with much of its attractions, restaurants, and shops concentrated in the compact downtown area. Walking not only reduces transportation emissions but also allows you to fully enjoy the town's vibrant atmosphere and stunning architecture at a leisurely pace.

    Carpool and Ride-Sharing: If you need to travel outside of shuttle routes or bike paths, consider carpooling or using ride-sharing services. This reduces the number of vehicles on the road, which helps decrease traffic congestion and emissions.

    By visiting Aspen during less busy times and utilizing its array of sustainable transportation options, you can enjoy a more eco-friendly and enjoyable vacation.


    Aspen is not just a destination but a community deeply committed to environmental stewardship. By visiting during quieter times such as late spring or early fall and using sustainable transportation like free city shuttles and bicycles, you help preserve its pristine environment. Engaging with local conservation efforts and supporting eco-friendly businesses also enhance your experience and align with Aspen's values of sustainability. Your mindful actions ensure Aspen remains a beautiful and thriving destination for future generations.
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