Annual sustainability award winners represent collaborative efforts

Individual and organizational winners of the annual Sustainability Awards presented by nonprofit Yampa Valley Sustainability Council were honored Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, during a celebration at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The winners of the annual Sustainability Awards representing educators, rising leaders and shining stars were honored by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs.

YVSC Executive Director Michelle Stewart told the audience the awards presentation was the most fun day of the year for the nonprofit because it highlights the collaborative actions across the valley that contribute toward sustainability and environmental efforts.

This year’s categories recognized work throughout 2022 including the Sustainable Business, Shining Star, Recycler of the Year, Sustainable Government Leader and Environmental Cairn awards, as well as two selections for Partner of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Yampa Valley Connector, Educator of the Year and two Rising Leaders.

The 2022 Environmental Cairn Award recognized years of collaborative work by many volunteers to create the Yampa Integrated Water Management Plan, which is helping to chart a path for a balanced and vibrant Yampa River. The plan is designed to spur projects and strategies that benefit water users, the river environment and recreational users.

Two Steamboat Springs High School seniors — Margaux Shea and Thomas Cooper — were honored with the Rising Star Award. Together, the students lead the SSHS Eco Club that has worked on projects from planting trees to organizing a clothing swap.

The students also organize the local chapter of Fridays for Future to advocate for climate action. Shea also serves as a youth board member for YVSC, and Cooper served two terms with the YVSC Internship Program to lead projects focused on increasing youth engagement.

Aspen Tree Service and Lightscapes of Steamboat received the Sustainable Business Award for advancing sustainability as the pilot company for the new Yampa Valley Green Business Program. The company’s efforts include purchasing electric fleet vehicles, keeping wood waste out of the landfill through a wood-chip recycling program, working on facility energy improvements and sponsoring free holiday lights recycling for the community at the Yampa Valley Recycles Depot.

The Recycler of the Year award was given to Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. for leading by example in deconstructing the former gondola building to show the community how to keep reusable materials out of the landfill. Employees were given the opportunity to take used doors, windows, furniture and appliances. Items such as metal lockers, lightbulbs, steel and concrete were all separated for recycling or upcycling.

U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Program Leader Melissa Dressen received the Government Leadership in Sustainability Award to honor her lifelong passion for conservation and habitat restoration. Dressen’s work ranges from wet meadow restoration projects in California Park in northern Routt County to educating skiers about the problems of feeding Canada jays from the lift and team management of environmental impacts during last summer’s Rainbow Gathering.

Proud dad Nat Cooper, a retired science teacher from Steamboat Springs High School, films his son SSHS senior Thomas Cooper receiving a Rising Leader Award during the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council annual awards celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at Library Hall in Steamboat Springs.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation department was honored as a Partner of the Year for promoting a healthier riparian corridor along the Yampa River by helping to implement the Yampa River Forest Restoration Program.

General Manager Frank Alfone at Mount Werner Water also accepted a Partner of the Year award for his progressive approach to collaboration on water resources projects. Alfone helped with multiple water planning efforts ranging from the Fish Creek Watershed Wildfire Protection Plan to the 2020 Water Conservation Plan.

Jennifer Holloway, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce and Moffat County Visitor Center, received the Yampa Valley Connector Award that recognizes individuals who bring the valley’s people and places together. In addition to her environmental advocacy and work serving on many community boards, Holloway received a Boettcher Foundation 2022 Doers & Difference Makers Fellowship.

The Educator of the Year Award went to the nonprofit Yampatika, which provides environmental education to students, youth and adults across Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Jackson counties. Last year, Yampatika partnered with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District to host a new Yampa Youth Water Festival for all fifth-grade students across Routt and Moffat counties. In 2022, Yampatika hosted 179 campers for 1,595 total summer camper days, served 646 adults with winter naturalist tours and served some 8,400 adults through summer tours and programs.

The Shining Star Award was presented to George O’Brien for his help in advancing sustainability in impactful and unique ways including helping in customer service at Yampa Valley Recycles Depot now at Riverside Plaza.

Steamboat resident and sustainability advocate Suzy Sayle received the Volunteer of the Year Award for her longstanding commitment to volunteering with YVSC initiatives including with zero waste efforts.

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