So, Who is Julie Smith Anyway?
There are times when I wonder who I am, why I'm here, what I’m supposed to do, what direction I am going, and why. I think that might be because I’m always changing, just like we all do. Maybe a little now, more later, but everything I learn and experience in life accumulates to make me who I am, and how I change in small ways from day to day. Some of this will come out in my writings, because they really are driven by changes in my perceptions of my experiences as time marches on, in a generally forward direction. At least, for me. So, my story is chronological, moving mostly forward from the start to the present.
"I am an old woman
named after my mother.
My old man is another
child that's grown old."
Beginning at the very beginning, I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1959, the eldest of three closely spaced girls. Dad was an oilfield engineer, and mom was a house wife and stay-at-home mom. We lived in a house with a back yard that opened into woods behind the house, and we spent our early lives exploring back there. In summer, we spent most of our time outside, and mom made sure we all learned to swim, saying everybody should know how to swim. Dad would take us to lessons, and afterwards we’d stop at a local ice cream shop for a chocolate dipped cone. We lived in an idyllic neighborhood, with lots of other little kids to play with, the parents knew each other, lots of babysitters around, and easy access to Frederick Remington Elementary School, close enough for us to walk. In 1961, dad founded the Tulsa Ski Club, dedicated to coordinating weekend excursions for members to ski in Colorado and New Mexico.
When I was 7, in 1966, we moved to Lakewood, Colorado. Dad basically got himself transferred there because he wanted to ski. As much as possible. It was his total thing. What he lived for. He immediately got us seasonal rental skis at Gart Brothers, and we skied all over Colorado, checking out all the areas, and finally settling on the Summit areas, mostly Arapahoe Basin, now A-Basin, for season passes. He and mom bought land in Breckenridge, in 1968, planning to build a house there, but never got around to it. I got into horses and spent a lot of my time at the stables, but the rest of my time was skiing, swimming, hiking and biking. And working. I babysat for spending money from about age 10 on, and when I was 14, landed a nice cushy restaurant job at the local Taco House. I also rode around with a large animal veterinarian in Golden, Dr. John Pallaoro, when I was in high school, to get experience and a recommendation to CSU School of Veterinary Medicine.
In the end I couldn’t face 6 more years of school, so after a short stint at post-high-school college, I blew it off. After 13 years of school, and taking hard-core science and math classes that would get me into vet school, I was burned out. So, I took on two hourly jobs to support my horses, and lived at home. I also had a side-hustle training horses. One of the hourly jobs was a pantry cook at Simm’s Landing, where I met my future husband, Hilary, a chef. We were married just over a year after we met, just before I turned 20. The other job was as a lab technician for Tiorco, an oilfield service company that my dad started with a partner in 1977. I grew in that job from lab technician to lab manager, and went back to school part-time, eventually earning a Chemical and Petroleum Refining Engineering degree, from the Colorado School of Mines, in 1995. After quitting college the first time, I took the long, hard road, juggling classes with a full-time job and family, so instead of the dreaded 6 years I originally avoided, I ended up spending another 12 years in school, not counting my master’s degree!
We had two sons a few years after we were married, Skyler and Cameron. We spent all of our spare time outdoors, gardening, camping and skiing, with our kids. We gardened organically, and grew a lot of our own food. Hilary led the way on gardening, since his mother gardened organically, and I had no idea where to start. I had no previous exposure to organic food, and had never even heard the term growing up, until Hilary told me about it. We lost Hilary’s mother to cancer early in our marriage, but not before she taught me how to can food. Sometime when the kids were still really young and I was early in my college courses, I woke up to the sustainability problems on our planet. It happened kind of fast, over a two-year period, before which I can honestly say I was completely oblivious to the environmental problems that were already becoming worse and worse on our planet. I’m not sure exactly what did it. The oilfield periodicals hollering something about how environmentalism was an exaggeration with no science behind it, and just a passing trend that was designed to victimize the oil industry. Which didn’t seem to match what was happening in the real world, depending on who you listened to. The New York barge fiasco in 1987 drove me to recycling, and I learned how important it is. I even had our lab rinse the oil-coated sample bottles with toluene, into a contained hazmat drum, so we could recycle the bottles. I made sure we recycled everything possible, and took it to King Soopers each week since curbside wasn’t yet a thing. In my thirties, I had become fanatical, some sort of environmental OCD had set in, and I couldn’t face working in the oil industry for the rest of my career. It no longer felt right, and it seemed hypocritical to work in an industry that was destroying our planet. So, I began to look for another career that I could feel good about.
It took a few years, but I finally settled on the Coors Brewery in Golden. Close enough for a reasonable drive, about 10 miles from Lakewood, and lots of challenge and development opportunity. They turned me down on the engineering positions, because I had no food background, but I got my foot in the door by accepting a position as a lab technician. I figured I loved lab work, and it would be fun. I was right about that, and after a few years I got my PE license and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from Mines. It was great to go to school right by where I worked. I also got three class A operator licenses in the state of Colorado, for Wastewater, Industrial Wastewater and Water.
I moved into an engineering position after about 5 years, working in the Utilities department as an Engineering Project Manager, and then as the Energy Engineer for the brewery. I also was on the first board for the sustainability green team at the brewery, and one of our first initiatives was to start a single-stream recycling program. As Energy Engineer, my job was to find opportunities to reduce energy and water, as well as CO2 emissions, for the brewery, and we managed to reduce energy by more than 50% and water by almost 30%, per barrel of beer, while I was there. There were still plenty of opportunities to reduce even more that were in the works when I left.
In 2019, the brewery offered a retirement package, and I decided to take it. As much as I loved my job, I figured I might as well take advantage of the extra retirement time. I had breast cancer in 2010, and so far, so good, but I consider every day a gift, and feel like the right thing to do is make my time on this planet as good for me and for the planet as possible. I am involved in several environmental organizations, and I started a company, Aspire Colorado, LLC., to make
sustainable and responsible personal care products and all-purpose liquid soap in containers that are refillable and recyclable. I’ve been working on a couple of books that I will begin to roll out on this blog, to help educate people about the urgency of our environmental problems and what we can do about it. The part about “what we can do about it” is a tricky thing. In my own opinion, there is a lot we can do about it. Hilary and I are already doing a lot, and there is still morethat we can do. We're on a journey of change, one change at a time, to change our habits so that they align with what our planet can provide, in order to make it through this crisis, if that is possible. If we haven’t already pushed it over the edge. If it’s not already too late.
“The world’s best reformers are those who begin on themselves.”
George Bernard Shaw.
I have people who thank me for all I do, and others who roll their eyes and ask me why I bother, when we’re probably so far gone that recovery is unlikely. And, while I can’t argue with the latter perception, I actually think we might have a chance at stopping a complete disaster, and possibly balancing things where they are, without getting worse. I also believe that we can’t wait for government to do it, mainly because government officials are all basically corrupt, by definition. Why would I say that? Well, as long as we have campaign financing, big money always wins, and once a government official has been bought and paid for, he or she becomes basically a slave to whoever bought them. Or a minion. Or whatever. So, we have politicians who are owned by big corp, and big corp is mainly what’s destroying our planet with everything they do, from fossil fuels to food to electronics to transportation. And they’re not going to stop any time soon, because they want to keep on earning those big bucks that keep them and their pathetic extended families obscenely wealthy.
Since government is driven by politicians, then it follows that government will never save our planet. It’s entirely up to us. Each and every one of us votes every day, all day, with our consumer dollars. At the end of the day, these are the most important votes on the planet, because every dollar we spend either helps the planet or pushes our planet further down the path of destruction. Our collective purchasing decisions can either drive the wild success of irresponsible big corporations, making greedy CEO’s richer with passing minute, or put them out of business, by purchasing only from responsible companies. We can’t expect government to force big ag to stop using pesticides, because they are paid by big ag to allow the practices. But we can refuse to buy food that is not grown organically, and if big corp can’t sell their products, then they’ll either be forced to grow organically and responsibly, or to go out of business. To me, it seems pretty simple. But evidently, it’s not. And that’s why I’m writing books and blogging. Maybe that’s why I’m here, and what I’m supposed to be doing. Educating people on the what, why and how of saving our planet. I have a unique way of viewing things, and that has served me and my previous employers well. So, now it feels like it’s time to serve our planet.
I think the public has largely been brainwashed in the past two generations into thinking we can’t do without things that in reality we don’t need or want, and that aren’t good for the planet. One thing I have learned in life is that we all need to clean our own house before telling other people what to do. In other words, don’t tell people to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. We must cut our population by at least 40% globally. Hilary and I had two kids, and controlled our family size with modern birth control. We must cut our carbon footprint to less than half the average global footprint per capita. Hilary and I are already where we need the world to be to save this planet for future generations. Our carbon footprint is at half the global average, and that’s where all of us need to get, to balance with our planet. We are not living in a tent, or even a small apartment. We have two decent sized houses and we even travel. It can be done and it’s not that hard. I’ve had people tell me they can’t afford to be sustainable, which is completely misguided thinking. When you save energy and avoid packaged products, and don’t buy things unless you truly need them, you save money as you help the planet. It’s a simple matter of responsibility, and we are all up to it. We all have a responsibility to our planet, and to the life on our planet. All of it. I hope you’ll join the much-needed movement to save our planet.
It’s our planet.
We need to be in this together.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”