“The concept of Clean Up The Lake is in itself fun, yet it equally includes a mission designed to bring about positive change in the world.”
Colin West is the Founder and Executive Director of the environmental non-profit, Clean Up The Lake, who plans to tackle the long existing problem of trash both above and below the surface of Lake Tahoe by organizing a 72-mile, basin-wide cleanup project.
Congratulations to this week’s 40 under 40 honoree, Colin West!
Can you tell us a little about your responsibilities and accomplishments in your current position?
As the Founder & Executive Director of Clean Up The Lake, the responsibilities are absolutely endless! Having owned a creative agency and film company for a while; I knew what business management involved yet establishing a 501(c)3 non profit organization is another beast of it’s own! There is all of your typical responsibilities involved in running a business (marketing, managing people, promotions, coordination, events, compliance) yet the non profit world has included learning an entirely new way of operating in the public sector while also involving academics, science, government and more.
If I would have to focus on accomplishments to date, I would say the efforts I’ve been able to mobilize with our amazing team of supporters; has been to formalize an approach to the long existing problem of trash both above and below the surface of Lake Tahoe. Some great support exists in our community for shore based clean ups; yet there has been trash piling up for decades under the surface of Lake Tahoe and our team at Clean Up The Lake has been formalizing an approach to tackle the problem head on with a 72 mile clean up in June of 2021 & remain committed to mitigating this problem in the long run.
Some people already getting board to work with us include organizations and agencies like UC Davis TERC, NV Department of Environmental Protection, NV Division of State Lands, Desert Research Institute and many more. It’s an honor to spearhead this approach and work with such influential members of our community.
What has been your favorite professional moment in the last year?
My favorite professional moment in the last year would have been the moment we were pulling out 311 pounds of trash on a scuba clean up on East Shore of Lake Tahoe. The discovery of the trash in itself is of course sad, but the moment where you know you are truly making a difference is rewarding.
Do you have a professional/life mantra that you live by?
I’ve always believed that no matter what we do in life, it needs to be FUN. If we all did what we enjoyed, we would be happier, jobs would get done in the best way possible and the world would be a better place. Everything I choose to focus on in my professional life has been sincerely enjoyable and fun to be involved in and based on this motto; the concept of Clean Up The Lake is in itself fun, yet it equally includes a mission designed to bring about positive change in the world.
Who is your role model?
I don’t have too many role models to be honest. I usually set my sights on being the best version of myself I can be, which then involves making the right choices, being kind to others, a little belief in karma and overall I think it’s those choices that drive me to not look up to a role model per se; but instead I try to make the best out of the life I have here and be the best version of myself I can be.
Why choose Tahoe to make your home and career?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. For 10 years, I lived all over the world from Australia to Italy, to New Zealand, LA, Washington and I always loved where I grew up but it never felt like I could sustain the professional life and career I wanted there. Yet when I saw Tahoe, the mountains, rivers, lakes, snow, fishing and everything reminded me of the PNW and my own little version of home. When I moved here I started a company and it began to grow quickly and my love for Tahoe grew even quicker and at that point I knew it was my TAHOME.
Are you active in any volunteer roles or community groups?
I would say my biggest volunteer role is within the organization I founded. I was lucky my business was successful enough to allow me to work full time on the NPO long enough to get it up and running without ever taking a salary. So plenty of volunteer time with Clean Up The Lake. Past that I’ve also tried to work more with Take Care Committees and the “Below The Blue” event that is a cooperative event with various agencies in the basin.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
Outside of work I love to get into old school film-photography (35MM and Medium Format cameras), go scuba diving, hiking around Tahoe with my girlfriend Ariel and our 3 dogs, getting into a delicious bottle of wine, and lately I’ve gotten into wandering around the woods foraging for mushrooms!
Where are your favorite South Shore stomping grounds?
Kingsbury access to hiking trails. Lucky enough our house in at the top of upper Kingsbury and we have about 6 points of access to the rim trail; so we’ve been able to enjoy our favorite spots even while quarantine has taken us over in 2020!