By KELSEY MAXWELL
This past summer, senior Cory Page interned at Protect Our Winters (POW). POW is a small but influential non-profit organization based in Colorado that works to mobilize the outdoor sporting community against climate change. As an environmental policy major, Cory is passionate about sustainable design, and has pursued these interests at CC by getting involved with the Office of Sustainability and the Integrative Design Group. By working with POW Cory learned just how complex it can be to effectively mobilize communities, companies, and politicians to fight for a more sustainable future.
Kelsey Maxwell: Why are you passionate about sustainability?
Cory Page: I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where the emphasis is not always on the environment, but rather how the environment can serve us. Only when my family and I moved to Telluride seven years ago did I realize my connection to my surroundings. Understanding my sense of place served as my initial inspiration for sustainability.
KM: What lead you to be interested in pow?
CP: I have been following POW ever since I moved to Telluride. They have a huge presence in ski towns like Telluride, so it has always been in the back of my mind that I could one day be involved in their efforts. In terms of how I actually got the job, it required a lot of persistence and trying to find the best way to get involved.
KM: What was your experience like working at pow?
CP: I was the policy and operations intern for POW. POW is working to put a price on carbon nationwide because they believe that that will drive emissions down and also encourage renewable energy production.
My work spanned across three states: Oregon, Vermont, and New York. I was working to get ski resorts, major companies in the outdoor industry, and local businesses to support ballot measures related to carbon pricing. In the fall, as legislation is being re-introduced, POW will send a letter to Congress in the name of close to 500 companies in Oregon and 100 companies in Vermont stating that they support these measures. So I did a lot of outreach which was very fun.
KM: What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned?
CP: I learned that even a small organization can have a large impact. POW recently introduced their CEO alliance, which is a grouping of CEOs that are committed to act on climate. The program doesn’t focus on energy reductions or being “sustainable,” but rather on speaking out and encouraging politicians to act on climate. I think this is something that needs to happen more in the US, and during this summer I was faced with the reality that this political mobilization is essential in the fight against climate change.
KM: In what ways do you believe the organization could improve?
CP: POW is a staff of four people when really they should have 40. But I feel like this is the struggle of every non-profit. I think that their biggest struggle going forward is how to grow their operations while still accomplishing their policy agenda goals, without compromising the integrity of the donations they are receiving. I think they do an amazing job compared to most companies, something like 90 percent of every dollar they receive goes straight into the work that they are doing, so they are only taking 10 percent off the top for operations and continued development of their brand and salaries for employees. However, at the end of the day, climate groups are outspent 20 to 1 in Washington by the fossil fuel industry. That is why POW’s principal goal is to encourage politicians to support progressive environmental platforms. I think the practical approach they take to fighting climate change is definitely the strength of the organization.
KM: How has this summer internship experience impacted your plans for your senior year and your career goals?
CP: I’ve always had an inherent interest in architecture and design, and have dedicated past summers to pursuing those goals. However, I think deciding against working in the design field this summer was probably the smartest decision I’ve made for my career because now I have an infinitely more clear understanding of my career path. Being exposed to the perspective of an environmental group helped me understand how I can apply what I’ve learned as an environmental policy major to my passions for design. While working at POW I learned that small details like webpage structure and infographic design are essential to the success of environmental nonprofits.
KM: Is there anything that you learned at pow that you would like to bring to the sustainability community at CC?
CP: I think the biggest thing with POW is that they would not exist without their partner relations, resort alliances, CEO alliances, and annual contributors. POW has a very strong brand and a clear message so when you see that POW logo on a shirt or a hat you immediately begin to associate whatever company or organization is representing POW’s brand with progressive climate advocacy views.
So, in terms of my job with the sustainability office, I feel like our biggest challenge is bridging the gap not only between students but between faculty, board members, and staff on how we begin to associate Colorado College with sustainability. The library is an amazing start to our journey along that path but I think we have a lot more to do if we want to brand ourselves as a sustainable liberal arts institution.