April 9, 2024 | Sierra Babcock, YVSC Intern

Hi everyone! My name is Sierra Babcock, and I am working as the community engagement intern at YVSC this term. I am in my final semester of the Sustainability Studies program at CMC, and am having a great experience working with the Sustainability Council so far. My project for the term centers around finding strategies to better involve Colorado Mountain College students in sustainability related volunteering, events and internships in town. To help inform strategies to improve youth and young adult engagement, I’ve been looking into what has made youth-led environmental movements successful in recent years.

When you think of the Youth Climate Movement, it is likely that you picture Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future demonstrations. In August 2018, Greta Thunberg skipped school to protest inaction on climate change outside the Swedish Parliament, inspiring 12.8 million young people to participate in their own school strikes to demand policy changes that respond to climate issues in 2019. The Youth Climate Movement gained traction with Fridays for Future, resulting in organizations like the Sunrise movement that put pressure on governments to take climate action by implementing a “Green New Deal”. Youth have proven to be a powerful voice in the pro-environmental movement by calling attention to the truth that government decisions today will affect the futures of young people down the line. 

The election of President Biden marked a win for the youth climate movement as his campaign centered around the implementation of a Green New Deal. In 2022, the inflation reduction act was passed by the senate and signed into law by president Biden, successfully implementing the largest investment in decarbonization in U.S. history. Using these funds, the EPA established the National Youth Environmental Advisory Council to involve young people in environmental decision making. An 18 year old from Denver, Gabriel Nagel, has been appointed to this council after his involvement in his high school’s sustainability club led him to create a group with other young people in the city called Denver Public School’s Students for Climate Action.  

Locally in Steamboat, young people have been getting involved in the climate movement for years. In 2019, the plastic bag ban was passed by City Council after it was brought forward by a group of Steamboat area high school students involved in Teen Council. Since then, the Eco Club has put on their own Fridays for Future demonstrations that received great turnouts among their peers. Most recently, the club organized a demonstration where youth were invited to come out and build snowmen on the courthouse lawn that held signs advocating for climate action throughout the weekend. Additionally, the Steamboat Springs Middle School has their own environmental club called the Green Team that has organized climate action initiatives within their school.  These initiatives include a cafeteria waste reduction contest, an energy conservation challenge, the use of produce growing towers and more. 

YVSC is seeking to uplift the voices of young people in our community who strive to be leaders in advocating for sustainable change and reducing their own environmental impact. YVSC’s Rising Leaders Initiative engages young people in our community who demonstrate interest in and passion for the environment. YVSC’s board of directors also includes a youth board seat that is currently filled by Steamboat Springs High School student and Eco Club co-president Shea Spear. This board seat is intended to empower youth by bringing their ideas to the forefront of the organization’s processes. 

YVSC works to connect young people with information and opportunities to help them get involved in local climate action initiatives. One way YVSC accomplishes this is by hosting and helping to organize Career Fairs to connect Colorado Mountain College and High school students with meaningful opportunities within the environmental sector. The organization also sends out the Next Generation Newsletter that is tailored towards high school and college students, which provides engaging and educational information about climate change and how to get involved with local environmental organizations and events.  

It is inspiring to see young people in the climate movement taking a stand to ensure a better future here in our own community. Steamboat’s youth have been working hard to grow more participation in climate action initiatives, and this hard work has paid off in many ways for the place we call home. With the support of YVSC and other organizations, it is for certain that the integrity, positivity and untainted perspectives of youth will continue to be a powerful and impactful factor creating sustainable change in the years to come.