Colorado Association for Recycling names Walking Mountains Science Center’s Melissa Kirr Recycler of the Year |

Colorado Association for Recycling names Walking Mountains Science Center’s Melissa Kirr Recycler of the Year

Walking Mountains Science Center's sustainability and zero waste management teams are often seen at large events throughout the year.
Special to the Daily

Recycling and sustainability is a team effort, and Eagle County is lucky to have Melissa Kirr as its unofficial captain.

If you’ve been to the Mountain Games, Vail Farmers’ Market, the Taste of Vail or any major event, then chances are Kirr — along with her team — has gone through your trash to help sort it before recycling.

Through her position with Walking Mountains Science Center, Kirr has been at the forefront of coordinating the valley’s zero waste and sustainable practices at events large and small in Vail and throughout the county for the past six years.

For all of her hard work, long hours and leadership, the Colorado Association for Recycling named Kirr the Centennial State’s Recycler of the Year.

Adding up to a 90 percent diversion rate at such large food-based events probably also helped, and like any good team leader, Kirr is quick to share the recognition.

“We wouldn’t be receiving this award if the community didn’t allow us to be part of everything that’s happening,” she said. “The reason why we got it is because of all the great work that’s happening within our community, and everyone’s a part of that.”

‘Few and far between’

From the town of Vail to Angela Mueller with the farmers market, and from Shawn Bruckman at Vail Honeywagon to Kirr’s own team at Walking Mountains, she is grateful for the support from the community, large and small.

But this award recognizes Kirr.

“Melissa added measurable value to the 2018 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships,” said Jenn Swain, sustainable innovation project manager with Burton. “Despite the long hours, Melissa always showed up with a positive outlook, a plan and constructive feedback.”

Kirr’s boss at Walking Mountains is Kim Langmaid, who along with others helped nominate her for the state award.

“Recycling is very challenging and complex, and the people that rise to leadership roles in that work are few and far between,” Langmaid said. “They just have to have a lot of passion and perseverance, and I think just because of the challenges that it’s extra special.”

Kirr will be recognized at an annual conference in June in Aspen.

“What she does here at Walking Mountains really transpires through her entire life.”

Behind the Scenes

Kirr and her team at Walking Mountains have no problem staying busy, and “getting trashed” has a very different meaning for her interns.

They will work everything from small events that take four hours to the larger events that require 14-hour work days — from setup until cleanup.

She will be leading her biggest team of interns yet this summer, and she’s keeping the excitement going.

“What’s really cool about recycling and doing it properly and especially these Zero Waste events is that at the end of the day you can see what you accomplished, and I think that helps a lot of the staff members and volunteers that work with us, just having that sense of accomplishments,” Kirr said.

Her one tip for people attending events where zero waste and sustainable management is present is to simply just take a moment to think.

“It’s not that hard to look at the signs in front of you,” she said. “Just take a moment to think about how to recycle. We are there sorting all of those bins.”

So when you’re at the Mountain Games or any of the summer events in town, feel free to strike up a friendly conversation with Kirr and her team. And if you have any questions about sustainability or recycling, then feel free to reach out to Walking Mountains Science Center.

“We’re here for a reason and that’s to be a resource for the community,” Kirr said.

We are lucky to have such a dedicated resource working behind the scenes.

Entertainment & Outdoors editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at and 970-748-2984. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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