Partners in sustainability | VailDaily.com

Partners in sustainability

From left, Peter Krahenbuhl, director of strategic partnerships and consulting for Natural Capitalism Solutions; Nikki Katz; Hunter Lovins, president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions; and Matt Lewis celebrate the end of the Colorado Mountain College sustainability internship. Lewis and Katz attend CMC in Edwards, and their focus was on the community engagement aspect of sustainable living.
Special to the Daily |

On top of taking classes at Colorado Mountain College and working at Cafe 163 in Edwards, Nikki Katz and Matt Lewis recently finished an internship focused on sustainability.

The two moved here together — Katz from Chicago, Lewis from the Illinois-Wisconsin border — about a year ago.

“I don’t even know how to explain it, I have my best friend working with me,” Katz said of the long days, jumping from work to class to internship. “It doesn’t even matter what we’re doing, I’ve got my partner in crime.”

INTENT OF INTERNSHIP

In the fall of 2015, Colorado Mountain College partnered with Natural Capitalism Solutions, a Longmont-based organization recognized internationally for its work with environmental efficiency and sustainability.

The partnership with CMC focuses on the college’s intent to lay out both a short- and long-term plan for promoting sustainable practices at all of the college’s 12 locations by 2050.

Katz and Lewis were tasked with community engagement for the internship, which spanned multiple CMC campuses.

“We were looking at who helps the school, what outside influences the school has and how we can get the community more engaged in sustainable ways,” Lewis said.

The internship culminated with Natural Capitalism Solutions unveiling the students’ report and sending it to CMC for the college to initiate and implement by 2050, with the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

“Something that’s important to know is that there’s hope,” Lewis said. “People need to understand there’s a chance for change. Humanity has done great things in the past. We can definitely turn things around.”

Renowned organization

Natural Capitalism Solutions serves as a consultant at colleges and universities for improving sustainability, as well as doing other sustainability-related work.

When CMC partnered with NCS in August 2015, a select group of faculty were asked to serve on the team led by Pete Waller, director of facilities; Rachel Pokrandt, Rifle campus dean; Tina Evans, associate professor of sustainability studies at the Steamboat Springs campus; Phil Meadowcroft, energy manager; Linda English, vice president of fiscal affairs; and Mercedes Quesada-Embid, Ph.D., professor of sustainable studies, discipline chair and program coordinator.

“As plans of the partnership unfolded, common goals were established connected to Buildings and Energy, Community Engagement, Food and Purchasing, and Transportation,” Quesada-Embid said in an email. “Hiring NCS as a consultant helped create a strategic Sustainability Plan for the College.”

Katz and Lewis, part of the sustainable studies bachelor’s program, joined other interns from the Roaring Fork Valley and Steamboat Springs.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for Nikki and Matt,” Quesada-Embid said. “As new students to the program, they were able to get access to a renowned organization that does significant work in the Sustainability field. They were filled with enthusiasm at having been chosen by NCS’s team. To know that they had met the criteria sought by NCS for such a position was very satisfying to them and they worked hard to meet all expectations of the internship.

SMALL STEPS

Colorado Mountain College’s campus across the state will continue their promotion of sustainable living, and the internship sets a blueprint for the future.

The college has youth programs, initiatives and collaborations dedicated to sustainability, as well as presentations at buildings on campus so the community can come in and experience.

CMC’s Edwards campus is opening its community garden this summer for residents.

“I think that’s a great thing that will engage the community to come to CMC and do something sustainable and do something good for the environment,” Katz said.

Katz and Lewis are a tandem dedicated to their studies, work and the environment. They both have one more year of school at CMC in Edwards and hope to find another internship as enjoyable as the one with Natural Capitalism Solutions.

It’s not a life many understand, especially their friends back home farther east.

“Most people, we tell them we’re going to school for sustainability and we’re doing a sustainable internship,” Katz said, “and people from back home don’t even know what sustainability is. They’ve never heard of it before.”

And that’s why these partners in crime are taking the initiative.

“The next steps in the process are to implement components of the NCS study. And we must do so while the momentum is strong,” Quesada-Embid said. “CMC’s staff and faculty Green Teams are anxious to make sustainability efforts more visible at the College. … Stay tuned for some great change to come.”

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-478-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.