Talking Green: YVSC encourages young professionals to get involved with local climate action


The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council is now hosting a competitive internship program for local students and young professionals. The 12-week program brings interns into contact with YVSC staff and engages them in our programs addressing sustainability issues in the Yampa Valley, while providing them with training and on-the-ground experience in nonprofit work. Using a project-based approach, participants apply what they learn through the internship to contribute to, expand on or develop a meaningful environmental project within our community.

This summer, YVSC hosted the first cohort of interns for its new summer internship program. Our three summer interns all have roots in the Yampa Valley. Peter Wharton grew up in Steamboat Springs and recently graduated from University of Colorado Boulder. Wharton has teamed up with our newly appointed Energy and Transportation director, Paul Bony, on a project to connect local commercial businesses with information on energy usage, scheduling energy assessments and taking advantage of the various grant and rebate programs available for energy efficiency retrofits.

“Working with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council has been a tremendous experience, enabling and showing me what a career within the environmental and sustainability fields truly looks like. Being a recent college graduate, I was nervous and unsure of what my future holds, but because of this opportunity, I feel as though I have more clarity and am excited for all of the new advancements and opportunities ahead in this field,” Wharton said.

Gretchen Jacobs also grew up in Steamboat and is currently attending Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Gretchen has leaned into her interests in policy action and sustainability to develop a structure for YVSC to better incorporate youth in local climate action work.

Sidney Barbier recently graduated from Steamboat Mountain School and will be attending University of Denver in the fall. This summer, she partnered with Winn Cowman, YVSC’s waste diversion director, to improve our Zero Waste program at the Steamboat Springs Farmers Market.

“The YVSC summer internship has been such an amazing and enriching opportunity for me to take on leadership roles and really make a difference in the community. Through my work in zero waste at the local Steamboat Farmers Market, I have been able to learn the true challenges of waste diversion and the many solutions that are possible,” Barbier said.

“This internship has provided me with the opportunity to learn from experienced individuals with sustainability careers and to look towards my own possible future in environmental science,” Barbier added.

Water scarcity, extreme heat, wildfires and variability in snowpack are a few ways that we know climate change in the Yampa Valley. Much of the burden of our decisions from today will fall on our generations of tomorrow. It is important that young people within our community know that there are ways for them to make an impact through local climate action.

Are you a student or young professional seeking experience and training in the field of sustainability? We are now accepting applications for our fall internship term. The application window runs through Aug. 27. We encourage individuals of all backgrounds to apply for this position. No previous experience is required for this program, just an eagerness and interest to learn. For more information visit or contact directly.

Nicole Pepper is Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s geospatial analyst and internship program manager.

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