We had the good fortune of connecting with Julie Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
We started Aspire out of frustration with being deluged by big corp brands of personal care products that are killing our planet. When you go to the grocery store, the shelves are packed with products in single-use plastic, with no way to refill them. We wanted to provide responsible products that are simple and natural, in containers that are recyclable and refillable. Most products in stores are in single-use plastic, and only 8% of it is recycled. Single-use plastic is made from fossil fuels, and adds nearly 2% to our U.S. carbon footprint just in its manufacturing. After use, it is polluting our earth and killing wildlife on land and sea, when they mistake the plastic for food and die when they try to eat it. We have already lost 50% of our wildlife in just the past few decades, and this is one of the causes. Aspire products are all refillable, so you can use the same container for years. We also offer refills, and containers with other materials beside plastic, such as glass, aluminum and metal. Our lotion bars are wrapped in paper. By changing our consumer habits and refusing to buy products in single-use plastic from big corporations, we can stop the destruction of our planet and wildlife.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I spent the first half of my career in the oil industry, developing and providing processes to improve oil recovery from known reserviors. During that time, I worked as a full-time chemist while taking college courses, first at Denver Metro, and finally at Colorado School of Mines, to earn my chemical engineering degree. Once I had that degree, I worked as a chemical engineer. When I was in my 30’s, I realized I could not in good conscience continue to support our addiction to fossil fuels on this planet, and I started looking for a different direction in my career. I found a suitable position at the Coors Brewery in Golden, working in the water and wastewater lab, where I developed a love of that industry. I went back to Mines, which was only 6 blocks from the brewery, and earned a master’s in Environmental Engineering, with emphasis on water and wastewater treatment, while working full-time at Coors. I also joined the professional organization for wastewater, the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association, and became active, eventually working my way up to President. I learned well the impacts of our personal care products on water quality. I moved into an engineering position at Coors, and joined their Green Team and started single stream recycling at the plant, and that segwayed into the position of Energy Engineer. As Energy Engineer, I tracked the brewery’s energy and water usage, and found ways to reduce water and energy. While there, we reduced our energy by more than 50%, our water by more than 20% and we discontinued the use of coal at our power plant, moving to 100% natural gas. We also transitioned several facilities, including the Blue Moon Brewery in Rino, to 100% solar energy. I took a retirement package a few years ago and started dedicating my energy to growing Aspire.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We currently live in Golden, so that’s where we entertain friends who visit. There are tons of awesome restaurants and sites. Before Covid, I’d tell them to take a tour of the Coors brewery, for one thing. We are climbers, so we get visits from friends who are climbers, and we love to take them up on the South Table Mountain, which we can walk to from our house. The Colorado School of Mines geology museum is an absolute must. And don’t miss the American Mountaineering Museum in Golden. We love to show off our own home, which is on solar energy, and has gardens of native xeriscape plants, fruit trees, herbs and vegetables, with no lawn whatsoever. We grow and can about half of our food from our little yard, and we don’t waste any space on lawns, it’s all productive. We water with a drip system to minimize water, and use rain barrels to collect rainwater for outdoor use. We are a zero-waste household and we show our friends how we do that. We also love to take the lite rail from Golden to Denver, and the trip itself is just awesome. Favorites in Denver are the Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My father has been my biggest inspiration. He was an oil industry engineer, and he constantly encouraged me to work hard, and told me I could do anything I set my mind to. He always told me he was proud of me. He encouraged me to collect aluminum cans from neighbors when I was 10 years old, and he would take me to the Coors Golden Goat to get them recycled for a half cent each. He rode his bike to work before it was fashionable, and encouraged the use of public transportation. He said there were more important ways to use fossil fuels than spewing them into the air with personal cars. After I graduated high school, he founded an oilfield service company and let me work in the lab for minimum wage. I worked up to lab manager, took college courses to earn a chemical engineering degree and became an engineer who developed patented processes for the company. In my 30’s, I realized I could no longer support the oil industry because of the environmental impacts, and I left the company and went to Coors, where I became the energy engineer, dedicated to reducing energy at the brewery. He expressed his pride for me with every move I made, even when I left the company, he supported my decision and my ethics.
Photo of products outdoors, taken by Karyne Clark.