July 21, 2009

Should Boulder, Colorado welcome a changed Wal-Mart into our community?


Should Boulder, Colorado welcome a reformed Wal-Mart into its Green-minded community?

Update: it’s coming…looks like. See (just a few) comments, below.

…And, can pigs fly? Is hell freezing over?

Now, Boulderites drive 20 miles to shop at WMT or Costco—bad for local sales tax (which help pay for our famous, treasured Open Space), which has declined steeply—and bad for our environment, which absorbs that much more pollution thanks to the extra driving miles. And given that Wal-Mart has gone from Death Star Evil to On-the-Verge of Eco-Responsible, overall—in part thanks to the efforts of one of my heroes, Adam Werbach, who I saw recently at LOHAS—it might make sense to welcome Wal Mart or Costco into our flailing 29th St. Mall or another shopping center, and help our poorer citizens have a more affordable shopping option.

Click here for more than this excerpt:

…Yet now this activist who’d set foot in a Wal-Mart store exactly once in his first 30 years is bleeding Wal-Mart blue. “I wholeheartedly believe in what Wal-Mart’s doing, which astounds me,” he says. “Wal-Mart is expert at solving problems.”

His new vision: to do nothing less than make Wal-Mart as well known for environmental sustainability as Target is for everyman design. And to do that in a way that’s good for the business. “Our goal,” he says, flopping into a retro orange chair in his Act Now office, “is to have Wall Street look at Wal-Mart’s green performance, and say, ‘Wow, do more of that.'”…

Sure, I still hate that, the employees don’t make a living wage (though some aspects have improved over last few years); much of the stuff is crap, cheaply made under poorly-supervised conditions, shipped halfway across the world, made in China…but from promoting CFLs over conventional light-bulbs a few years back to iniatiting history’s biggest (and yet unproven) Sustainability Index on alllll its products, Wal Mart seems to have realized that if you can’t beat ’em (us), join ’em.

What do you think? Lemme guess. You hate the idea.


Update: the Walmart issue is back.

Boulder: Looks like Walmart is moving to town. They don’t pay taxes on a lot of what they carry, I hear, but it would mean less driving for those in Boulder who already shop at Costco (which treats their employees far better). It’ll mean deadly competition for McGucks and other locally-owned shops that keep their money in Boulder. And lots more Made in China plastic crap! What do people think, pros and cons?


Vicky: Ugh to Walmart.


Mike H Oh no.


Jeremy E Building and supply chain sustainability is something they’ve put a lot of positive effort into, with probably more positive global effects on reducing emissions and toxins than any legislation could bring about. That said, i still don’t , and won’t shop there.


Denise S Yuk. We don’t need it.


Alexis de Can we do anything about it? That is terrible… It goes against Boulder


Radha  No pros to wal mart in my book.


Darren R Cons…

Domo G If wese gotta’, youse gotta’!


Ryan Van Duzer There’s a rally against it today, jump in! http://www.dailycamera.com/news/ci_21963726/occupy-boulder-peace-and-justice-center-holding-stop


Joel Serface I think all of these issues need to be expressed to Boulder’s city council. If they are to move here, lets make sure they do so in the most sustainable way that reflects the community’s values. This could be a new model for Wal-Mart that causes them to continue upgrading. They already work with local company Rocky Mountain Institute on improving their buildings, energy use, packaging, and transportation. Let’s see how effective we can be in moving Wal-Mart and the rest of their stores throughout the nation more towards a Boulder model. Or just not let them in 🙂

Waylon Lewis I’ve never shopped at one, and wouldn’t. Am mostly concerned about the tax issue–if it doesn’t even benefit Boulder taxes much, then why would we do it? Also, they usually want subsidies from towns they move into, any word on that?

I’d love to see Sears or Costco in Boulder…or something that reduced the driving and loss of taxes that’s going on right now. As C Fenno Hoffman said, Boulder may be green, but all the driving in and out isn’t. We’re not just a bubble, we’re interconnected. cc Adam Werbach


Chad W · 9 mutual friends



Walter L I would rather have a Trader Joes… oh yeah that was not part of the discussion. 🙂 We will get lots more RV parking with a Walmart… izzat a good thing?


Sara B Are they still paying women less than men? Potential pro: it will bring jobs to those who may not otherwise find employment in Boulder (even Target predominately hires students in undergrad). That said, there are other outlets that would bring jobs as well that don’t have the corrupt history that Walmart does. I’m surprised Boulder went for this…what is council saying are the pros?

Tom F Isn’t Wal-Mart still on the “top 10 anti-gay companies rights” list?
“This company went under fire last fall for its association with the Charity Giveback Group, formerly called the Christian Values Network, which allows a cut money gained through e commerce to go to anti-gay religious organizations. Meanwhile, Jim Walton, the youngest son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, donated $75,000 to the Family Council Action Committee’s 2008 campaign to prevent gay couples from adopting in the state of Arkansas.”

Cayte B ugh

Waylon Lewis Sara, I don’t think it’s up to the Council, or us really…they can just do it if they want to.

Eric Abramson Its a free market but I hope Wal-Mart fails dramatically.

Sara Furey We all know Walmart is terrible for all the obvious reasons. But let’s face it, who can actually afford to always shop at McGuckins, Alfalfas, Whole Foods etc. all the time? I do wish supporting the local economy and sustainable goods was easier

Sara B: @Way, yes, but figured they have some response or discourse? I like Joel’s thoughts…I have heard recent commentary about Walmart trying to renovate their approach/value system/etc., but I am skeptical. Again, we could’ve gone with another organization to meet employment/economic interests of the city that wouldn’t be so controversial.

Alex Marsh King Churches Dont Pay Taxes Either

Joey Padden · Friends with Laura Ruby and 16 others

Sadly it is next to my house. I plan to never spend a dollar at it.


Sam Gastro Iris & 30th?


Joey Padden · Friends with Laura Ruby and 16 others



Danse Etoile Ballet I hate them.

G: Boulder can’t stop this from happening?

Ryan B If no one shops there they will be forced to leave. If people support them they will stay. Let people decide where to spend their money. I hear they are going green by selling legalized marijuana.

Joey: Had a public comment period months ago. Didn’t do anything. Construction is under way. Sadly, it is indeed happening.

Waylon Lewis Sara, there’s nothing cheaper about cheap. I say that as someone who’s had 500 in my account, give or take, my whole life until this year (pulling myself up by my bootstraps, though it takes a village). Cheap China goods kill good jobs, and take money out of the local economy, and kill local shoppes.

Joey P: No, true, you’re right, perhaps I’m overly pessimistic. But the lack of signage or any indication of what is coming after ~2 months of construction… Doesn’t bode well in my head. Anyone none Walmart would want to shout to the world their arrival to such a huge space.

Sam G: I guess my main question is, was letting Walmart into Boulder something that was approved by Boulder, or was it something where they were free to enter anytime they wanted?

Sophie M: Way, could elephant start an online petition of local Boulderites who don’t want Walmart in their neighborhood and wont shop there?…get people thinking/talking about it, give some feedback to those who are actually making the decision…


Sara B: @Ryan – yep. Don’t shop. Educate those who do. It will be gone in less than a year. I will literally cry to see the local shops (so much the foundation of Boulder and its community of entrepreneurial, Eco-minded leaders), be run out of town in the name of Walmart.

Waylon Lewis Sam, anyone can come in.

Joey P: Oh also, if it is Walmart, I bet they do a huge business. A handful of us won’t ever go there, but many more will.

Aren’t building permits public records?

Waylon Lewis Yes but it’s not filed yet, Joey, so it’s speculation based on some pretty good hints.

Jim A: booo!


Waylon Lewis Obviously, huge public stink if it makes national media would make them rethink. Not sure we want that. Looking for guidance on this from informed greenies and social activists like Joel, Adam Werbach, others?

Liz S So if we can’t stop it, let’s boycott it. Waylon wanna get elephant on that ; )


Joey P: How do build a dirt ramp to get bobcats inside, raise a floor 3 feet, pour 10,000 sq ft of concrete without a permit?


Waylon Lewis Liz, I’m featuring this issue on elephant today–we’ll make noise one way or other. I’m inclined to support it coming in, and boycott it personally.

Matthew T A new one was opened in Chinatown here in LA. The resistance efforts were clever and inspiring, despite losing, they won a lot of consessions from Walmart. Good luck.


Waylon Lewis Let’s win concessions! And make sure we get fair wages and local taxes, lots of ’em!

Sara B @Way, why support it coming in? Not being argumentative – wanting to hear your thoughts on the benefit? I guess that while I see potential benefits (mostly financial for Boulder b/c Walmart is a powerhouse and likely paid a gigantic sum to get this ball rolling), I don’t see how our local shops won’t be greatly impacted (e.g. losses will result regardless, with it’s arrival alone).


Wendy D: I have never in my life been in the inside of a Walmart. I also have never owned a television. I don’t plan on breaking that streak. More importantly, the more people become aware, aligned and awake, the more they make conscious choices. It is the people’s choice on where they shop so I support educating people on what goes in their food, how it made and what goes into big business. There are all important topics and knowledge can help people make mindful decisions. That’s my 2cents. Thanks for making a stink about this!


Sara F The shopping plaza at 30th and Iris has been an eyesore since it was a failing Albertson’s, then a closed Pet Smart, Ross, and a 24 Hour Fitness, if I am correct. The only reason Boulderites (outside of those locals who frequent Vic’s and that good hippie fro-yo place { Ali May Geiser } go into that decrepit parking lot is to go to the DMV. That entire intersection needs a remodel, I’m not saying it should be Walmart, but what are better options for that huge piece of land?


Eartha K  I’ll I have to say is boooo!


Sarah R Not for it!!

This is not the Boulder I grew up in..! I’m very disappointed!


Kelly S ugh!


Francine S I thought we had already dealt with this and kept Walmart out, but I guess the steamroller keeps moving forward. I’m not happy. The only positive I can find is that the increased tax revenue may help to fix the pothole on my street.


Joey P

I wonder if the current work is being done by a permit pulled by the property owner, to mask the future tenant. Sort of a “we’ll improve the space, if you promise to come” sorta deal.


Kimberly P Not good. I Think we should promote McGuckins like crazy, like weekly, like starting now! I think we should ask people to make a pledge not to shop there and put it in writing and to support local independent businesses and businesses with good practices. Not pleased.


Waylon Lewis Sara B: Walmart doesn’t pay to come in, usually towns pay them! And if they’re not paying local taxes, according to a source, on most of there goods (because they find a loophole where they technically don’t “own” what they’re selling), that’s horrible. These are my concerns. As for allowing them to come in, I’m concerned about affect on local shops.

But: I’m an informed adult, and can choose to become more informed, and no one will force me to shop there. It’s up to us to act like adults and decide to go or not, and support them with our dollar or not. I won’t, most likely. I haven’t got coffee more than once or twice, literally, at Starbucks in 20 years. But they’ve reformed in some ways, too. Not enough, but if the giants change (Walmart is number one solar user in the US), the world changes.

So I won’t shop there, most likely, esp not if they’re not helping my local community—but I don’t see why we should boycott, either, esp if it means that those who don’t care about local will drive less out into the suburbs and L towns to spend their money elsewhere, and pollute on the way out and back.


Waylon Lewis Sara B: Walmart doesn’t pay to come in, usually towns pay them! And if they’re not paying local taxes, according to a source, on most of there goods (because they find a loophole where they technically don’t “own” what they’re selling), that’s horrible. These are my concerns. As for allowing them to come in, I’m concerned about affect on local shops.


But: I’m an informed adult, and can choose to become more informed, and no one will force me to shop there. It’s up to us to act like adults and decide to go or not, and support them with our dollar or not. I won’t, most likely. I haven’t got coffee more than once or twice, literally, at Starbucks in 20 years. But they’ve reformed in some ways, too. Not enough, but if the giants change (Walmart is number one solar user in the US), the world changes.


So I won’t shop there, most likely, esp not if they’re not helping my local community—but I don’t see why we should boycott, either, esp if it means that those who don’t care about local will drive less out into the suburbs and L towns to spend their money elsewhere, and pollute on the way out and back.

3 minutes ago · Like

Joey Padden · Friends with Laura Ruby and 16 others

I pledge, no problem.

3 minutes ago · Like

Ali Groff Booooooo. A store that epitomizes the ugly side of consumer America. Yuck yuck yuck.

2 minutes ago via mobile · Like

Kirsten Christ If we don’t shop it, it will close down.

2 minutes ago via mobile · Unlike · 2

Kirsten Christ Although it will make it easier for me to compile my ‘people of Walmart’ series.

about a minute ago via mobile · Like · 1

Waylon Lewis Ali, that’s not quite true anymore…they’ve improved. Read my article above for a bit on that. They still need to improve more.


Joey P:

I just wish it weren’t so close to my house. But to Sara’s point above, that shopping center has been a bit neglected for some time. I advocate for a Northern Sun restaurant every time I go to Mtn. Sun, but so far no dice.


Valerie E: Ewww Walmart in Boulder sounds awful!


Aminda R I hate wall mart…i say no no no

Waylon Lewis As Obama says, don’t boo, vote. In this case with your dollar. Facebook comments are easy. Let’s protest and if this is gonna happen, share articles, make noise, let’s win concessions as Matthew said above: get good local taxes, not pay subsidies for them to come in, get them to build a green store, etc.

Joey P · Friends with Laura Ruby and 16 others

Fair points Waylon. I’m still never shopping there.


Waylon Lewis PS: if you care about this issue, join Elephant Boulder. and Conscious Consumerism, where we’ll be making noise and sharing articles. If you want to write about this, email us: elephantjournal.com/submit …the time to make noise and dialogue is (now)



I don’t shop at Walmart. Period.


Valerie E It seems Walmarts have a correlation with huge parking lots. That’s one issue that needs to be considered if they are coming to Boulder. Make pedestrian/bike options more prevalent that car traffic.


Sanjay R No difference between Walmart Costco Sam’s Club. They are all about low cost. So for peeps who value that over anything else, they will go shop there. Changing demand side would drive the supply side (these mega big box) to change their tune. Walmart btw, has the largest initiative in retail to green their supply chain.

Waylon Lewis Not true. Costco is very different, in terms of how they pay employees, and what they donate money to. It’s not all the same. That said, Sam’s Club was on my panel at LOHAS this year, they’re doing some fair-trade, and will keep doing so as long as folks buy. So there’s the argument that we could change them from the inside by shopping there, but not buying Made in China crap.

Sara F The people who have already been driving to Longmont or Broomsticks to seek out Walmart are the same ones who will now drive all the way to North Boulder to shop there. Devout Target fans will not likely convert to the big blue… And the clientele who get their prescriptions and beauty projects from Pharmaca aren’t going to suddenly decide they’d rather buy Suave shampoo and Walmart brand junk. The evil stigma attached to Walmart is already alive and kicking in the minds of people content to pay the exorbitant high taxes and rent to live in the Boulder Bubble.


Sara B @Way — seriously?!?! (*she says with a sigh, both arms slightly lifted and palms of hands turned upward questioningly*) I thought Walmart paid for the real estate? Misinformed Bollman over here. Eeek…doing some research today in response to all of this fantastic commentary. Post Script: what I would’ve liked to see there instead and to other Sara’s point…a town center, different from 29th street mall, a park, an Udi’s cafe, a bike shop, an art gallery, a wellness clinic, or to Waylon’s point: a Costco, a Sears. Anything other than Walmart? 😉 :-/


Sanjay R Sorry but true Walmart has the largest greening the supply chain initiative that is changing how their suppliers operate. Their impact in terms of sustainability is larger than that of Sam’s Club or Costco. They are using their industry power to drive change.

Waylon Lewis Amen. Then you’re saying yourself they’re not all the “same”?

Sara, they’d pay rent, certainly. But they usually win big subsidies from towns desperate for them. There was a doc on them a few years back.

Waylon Lewis Sara F, that’s a pretty harsh way of talking about Boulder.


Jamie S I don’t shop Walmart, I personally shop local. I am just pointing out there is a demographic who can’t afford it and will shop there. i’m actually agreeing with you Way.

Mike Henderson I don’t like how Walmart treats its employees.

Maggie L: Waylon, you’re right. But let’s say you desperately need a hammer, for example, and you’ve got $5. You’re not gonna save up for a high-quality hammer that will last for years, because you don’t have the income to be that far-thinking and you need the hammer right now.. So you go where you can buy a $5 hammer (ignoring the option of borrowing one for the moment). I totally dislike shopping at chains and buying cheap crap and supporting their crappy policies. AND Boulder local retail prices are amazingly high–way higher than the similar college town from which I hail in the midwest. My belief is that if Boulder wants to fight off big box chain stores, the retailers and restaurateurs need to find a way to make shopping more accessible for all income levels, not just the upper tier. Which means landlords need to start charging reasonable rent so business owners can do so. Which means property taxes and other expenses would have to come down. Which is complicated and probably undoable. I am a low to moderate-income entrepreneur who adores Boulder and believes in supporting local businesses and buying quality products made under supportive conditions for its workers. But my $5 remains $5. I practice all of the above within my ability to do so (I am partially disabled and can’t walk far or ride a bike). Do people like me not “belong” in Boulder?




Monika Wittig Its the consumers that decide… and the local maker culture… is only just (re)beginning… so get excited… it’s going to be big 😉 The silver lining of rising gas prices…




Amy Ippoliti Keep Walmart out! I get physically sick when ever I walk into one of them – which is why I NEVER DO.




Valerie B


Watch this video… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/walmart-black-friday-strike-organized-online-video_n_2094698.html




Heather B I Boycott Walmart and always have and always will – they abuse the labor force in China (which is why their prices are low), they take local jobs away because of their lower prices, i feel strongly about paying a tiny bit more to benefit local merchants, and in turn lower the energy footprint (for distance shipping) for the entire planet. If we all did this they would not keep growing– but our local merchants might. This is how one changes the world.




Linda Sparrowe I’ve actually never been in a Walmart, but I seriously cannot believe that Boulder would succumb to the pressure to bring a walmart to town. What is the city thinking? How can it abandon institutions like McGuckins, not to mention the type of products that are bad for the environment and bad for the health of the folks who purchase them ARGH. What has happened to the Boulder I love and miss?




Emily B


Boooo walmart. It makes me sad b/c it used to be a great company, but that was years ago and they treat their employees pretty bad anymore. I could tell you a story that a friend and former manager told me that would make you say “They did WHAT?”




Chrystos: Didn’t we kill a Safeway superstore from ‘gracing’ north Broadway? And isn’t north Broadway now a friendly, flourishing, aesthetically pleasing, people friendly place, with residential & commercial interests artfully mixed? Have we learned anything from this? One would hope so. Investing in WalMart seems to me like investing in big oil. Maybe a good investment in the short view, but an appalling one in the long run.




Roz Lynn Dorf I never have shopped at Walmart and never will.




Linda Sparrowe Waylon…is it already a done deal?




Erica O


I hope this is one of those places where Wal-Mart won’t last…#SLGTBoulder (Support Local Grow Together).




Jeff Roth Where are they trying to put the store? Post a link?




Jayme Peta I hear people say that it is wrong to ban places like walmart becuase only the poorer folks will suffer by having to drive longer. But, I’m not sure an extra 10 or so miles really constitutes a hardship for people who really need to be able to buy things more cheaply. I, for one, say that Walmart hurts a town more than it helps. It MAKES people poor rather then helps people get goods more cheaply.


Whoops, John Fischer just displayed an unfortunately classist Boulderite view. “We shouldn’t have Walmart because poor, fat people will go there.” Wow, great argument. You’re just a job and a thyroid condition from being fat and poor yourself, mr fancy white guy.




Scott Smith You used the word * and therefore contributed to global warming




Eve W


There are no pros – Walmart destroys local business and sells cheap crap made everywhere but the U.S. The majority of the store’s employees will work less then 40hrs/wk so they will not qualify for benefits.




Sarah Lowe NO. 🙁 ick




David H


Despite what people say, you can tell what they really think by which shop they will spend their money in




Niki Rademaekers are we such a big town that we need another huge store?




Beth Anne Sanchez are there pros in this equation?




Amy Elizabeth Tremper Boo!




It’s official, we’re just like every other town in America. We need more pissed off Hippies to help keep Boulder progressive. Let’s start a revolution!




Laurie Ann Larimer · Friends with Amy Elizabeth Tremper


Walmart is the demise of society. Low pay. Shitty products.






People need a tax break not Walmart. I for one want a refund on all my taxes. If Apple doesn’t pay why should I?




Lars P


Don’t like Walmart? Don’t shop there. But please be sure to be equal in your war cries and not spend money at Target, Safeway, Kroger, Petsmart, CompUSA or, dare I say it, Wholefoods. Please don’t cheapen the progressive movement with what really feels and sounds elitist.




Andy Acker That’s terrible news. I brag about Boulder keeping Wal-Mart at bay. It’s just unnecessary, and the repercussions will affect the whole community. The (late in the game) protest should start now.




Betty K


I don’t shop Walmart, they aren’t much cheaper than other stores, but claim they will match any store price.




I dislike everything that Walmart represents.




Tal Nimrodi big booooo!!




Katie A entirely a con…part of the reason boulder wasn’t hit as bad by the recession is locally owned, operated and stocked stores…which boosts LOCAL ECONOMY. This mean’s multiple tiers of people not being paid properly or treated properly and we will all suffer.




Megan Hebbe Just as I support our President on account of his support of the LGBT community and Planned Parenthood (among other things), I refuse to patronize a chain known to treat employees poorly and whose founder is known to have expressed the opinion that women are not fit for managerial positions. I don’t rake in the big bucks, but I buy local (hey Aspen Moon farm!) because while yes the initial investment is higher, in the long term it’s cheaper because I am healthier and happier, which means lower med bills. Let’s form a FB group to help organize and rally!




Sanjay Katie reason Boulder is recession proof is because most employers are NCAR/NOAA/CU/NIST etc. not because of locally owned. I run SLOWCOLOR based out of Boulder and very few local stores wanted to carry our Fair Trade Handmade naturally dyed scarves/throws.




Adam R


I agree with a lot Maggie said. It’s great to vote with your dollars to support local and tasteful busineses. And we don’t want to support ANY criminally unjust companies. But any retailer of goods in common has to be somewhere in the ballpark competit…See More




Scott K ·


Yay!! Awesome!! Finally, a store in Boulder that REALLY cares about its employees and the community that sustains it! Virtually none of its employees will receive competitive pay or benefits, you can count on plenty of discrimination against women and minorities, they’re dead set against unions and they’ll probably receive plenty of subsidies from local government and put friendly neighborhood stores that for decades have employed Boulder citizens out of business in the process. Yea, too many pros to count. I haven’t shopped at Wal-Mart for eight years now and will NEVER spend another penny there




Amy H I have no reason to go into Walmart… ever.




Sylvia: It’s just wrong. Supporting big box chains is like taking the gun out and shooting yourself in the foot. You might be saving a few dollars now but you will ultimately pay for it higher local taxes to offset the lost revenues from your dollars going towards out-of-state corporate coffers. And just as importantly – WalMart has such HUGE buying power they force vendors to cut their prices soooo much that even companies like Smuckers and Kraft Mac n Cheese have problems with such low margins. This makes it virtually impossible for any “small” vendor to get their products in WalMart. Looks like a lose/lose situation to me. The only upside is maybe they will hire students. Buy your toilet paper from Vitamin Cottage – at least it is a Colorado company!

Waylon Lewis Sylvia, just coincidentally (before seeing your above comment) reshared your Best of elephant journal article re local business dollars on elephantjournal.com.

Kate: Walmart sucks. I know, a person close to me worked for corporate Walmart. It’s terrible how they treat even the employees at the top not to mention all the other ways they help destroy our environment and profit. NOT a good addition to Boulder.

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