December 22, 2022 4 min read
As a team of outdoor enthusiasts and former ski bums, we have seen with our own eyes how climate change has affected the length and quality of our winters. Here at HEST, we are proud to be partnered with Protect Our Winters (POW) whose mission is to fight against climate change and protect the lifestyles we all love.
We had the honor to interview Justin Van Saghi, POW's Strategic Partnerships Manager and longtime split boarder, about his thoughts on POW and what the fight against climate change truly means:
Can you explain your role within POW and your journey of joining the organization?
I work on our Development team, specifically handling all aspects of our corporate partnerships which fund a large portion of our work each year while helping spread the word about our work. It’s been a rather long journey on my way to working for POW but I first became interested in working on climate change while ski bumming in Telluride after college. I had a few really great seasons and then watched winter get shorter and shorter in front of my eyes, I eventually left Telluride and after chasing another dream for a few years, decided to go back to school for Snow Hydrology which I thought would lead to me working on climate change through science but ultimately lead me to working at Protect Our Winters.
What does POW mean to you?
POW means having another mission in life bigger than me to be a part of, the opportunity to work on something as all consuming and as monumental as climate change has been truly fulfilling.
Any exciting stuff in the works? / Anything you in particular are proud of that POW has accomplished recently?
Yes! I can’t talk about it too much but we are preparing to introduce a climate related bill into Congress in 2023 that will represent one of our largest federal government relations projects to date. I’m really proud of the Inflation Reduction Act along with all of the groundwork that environmental and conservation orgs have been laying for years to get us to this point.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for POW in the near future?
I think the biggest risk to POW and to the environmental movement as a whole is not bringing both sides of the aisle together along with all businesses, to figure out how we can collectively work together to mitigate the effects of climate change in a timely manner.
Why focus on winter?
While everyone associates us with winter, we have been making inroads over the past few years in talking to all outdoor enthusiasts through various alliances with trail runners, bikers, climbers, etc. But to answer the question, we started out focused on winter because of our founder and his 'aha moment' stemming from seeing how much a poor winter and snowfall affected his and his friends' communities.
How does the conversation about climate translate from a national/global perspective to actionable regional steps?
In terms of POWs work the outdoor community (that’s you!) knows the importance of ultra-thin margins. The seemingly small efforts made at just the right moments carry enough weight to tip the scale from failure to success. Environmental and political history are also made at the margins. Did you know that just 77,000 votes in key districts won the 2016 presidential election? Or that only three Senate votes opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling? We believe that the outdoor community can have a disproportionate impact by driving civic participation at those thin margins both locally, at the state level and nationally.
What does POW suggest for individual/personal actions one can take to combat climate change?
We typically don’t advocate for individual actions, given that in order to have a significant impact on climate change, we will need technological innovation and structural changes, along with strong environmental policies in place. That being said, carbon offsets through RECs (Renewable Energy Credit) is a great way to measure and see your impact on a trip-or for your whole year of travels, contribute to getting a local renewable energy project online, and also to educate yourself at how little your personal carbon footprint is compared to major industry and ultimately to see why we need large scale technological and financial solutions, political will, and a major cultural shift.
Where is your favorite resort to ski?
I’m biased from my time ski bumming - Telluride, CO.
Which brand in the outdoor/ski industry world do you think is doing the best job at taking action towards climate change?
Through my work in corporate partnerships, I’m exposed to a lot of brands doing really good sustainability work along with great advocacy work and it’s something that keeps me coming back day after day - seeing how much people truly care and how they go about using their businesses' for good. While everyone thinks of Patagonia, who is doing amazing advocacy work, another standout for me that's tied to the outdoor industry is New Belgium Brewing, not only do they have an incredible sustainability story, but they also use their corporate voice to speak up and run campaigns each year-bringing awareness and calling for action to help mitigate the effects of climate change, sometimes through really fun outlandish activations like their Torched Earth Beer Campaign from a few years ago (if you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up, it was a brilliant campaign that got people talking about climate and having a good time doing it).
You can learn more about POW or donate to their cause here.