2020's class of Top 30 under 30 sustainability leaders shape #nextnormal

Even in the midst of the pandemic, young people are leading the push to better the world

Corporate knights 30 under 30

As COVID-19 swept the globe, #climatestrike marches were cancelled, bans on single-use plastic were put on hold, along with, well, everything. The pandemic also brought into sharp focus widening societal divides, with youth, women, and racialized and marginalized communities feeling the brunt of the economic fallout. During the first wave of the pandemic, nearly one in four Canadians under the age of 30 were NEET – not in employment, education or training – according to Statistics Canada. Polling from TD Bank shows that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) youth were hardest hit.

Yet despite all that, today’s young people remain resilient and determined to better the world, as Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey of millennials and Gen Zs across 43 countries found. “They are deeply affected by the pandemic but seem able to see opportunity in the darkness,” said Deloitte analysts in June, noting that the battle-hardened generation isn’t just “hoping for a better world to emerge after the COVID-19 pandemic releases its grip on society – they want to lead the change.”

Eight months after Canadian schools and workplaces first shuttered, today’s young people know there’s work to be done, and as the world’s future leaders, they’re finding creative ways to do it all during a global pandemic. They’re taking to the streets and to the boardrooms calling for racial justice, they’re pushing their workplaces and businesses to embrace a higher purpose, they’re determined torchbearers of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and they’re making their voices heard, demanding a more equitable, caring and green economic recovery.

When Corporate Knights, with support from Telus, opened up this year’s 30 under 30 nominations to the public, we were overwhelmed by an astonishing list of accomplished candidates. Nominations for the list opened in June with only two requirements: nominees must be under age 30 and either work in Canada or be a Canadian working abroad.

An internal team brought the submissions down to a shortlist of 50, then a panel of judges each submitted their top 30 picks and the votes were tallied. Narrowing the list was harder than ever, but the final 30 sustainability champs are an awe-inspiring group of Indigenous leaders, social entrepreneurs, non-profit founders, cleantech champions and beyond.

The list is in no particular order, but we do offer a word of warning: reading these bios is sure to inspire and energize you to get involved in building back better from the pandemic – and to join the growing roll call of youth leaders shaping the #nextnormal.

There is an army of young sustainability leaders in Canada who deserve recognition for the great work they do. Be sure to let us know about any change-makers under 30 that you think should be considered when nominations open again in the spring of 2021.

Three judges helped us to select this year’s final 30:

Susan Uthayakumar
President, Schneider Electric

Terri Lynn Morrison
Director of strategic partnerships, Indigenous Clean Energy

Adria Vasil
Managing editor of Corporate Knights and bestselling
Ecoholic author

Autumn Peltier
16, Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Anishinabek Nation chief water commissioner

Autumn Peltier was eight when she attended one of her great-aunt Josephine Mandamin’s water ceremonies and ducked out to use the restroom. “I noticed these signs on the wall that read ‘Not for consumption,’ ‘Boil water advisory,’ ‘Not for hand washing.’ I felt sad to see younger kids running around me [who] had no idea what clean water was from a tap.” Five years later, Autumn was addressing the UN General Assembly, urging world leaders to protect our sacred waters. Today, the internationally renowned water advocate is the chief water commissioner of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation (replacing her now-deceased great-aunt), using her platform to advocate for First Nations communities that need help getting clean water and new water-treatment plants. What advice would this water warrior offer to youth who feel hopeless about the future? “Keep using [your] voices to speak up for the future and for the planet. We need to act today and not wait 10 to 15 years.”

Steve Petterson
28, Vancouver, executive director, National Social Value Fund

Steve Petterson’s first plan was to go into traditional investment banking. Then, a third-year social enterprise course at the University of British Columbia set him on a different path. “It was the small spark that quickly became a burning interest in impact investing.” While working as an impact investor at Helder Ventures in Vancouver, Steve created the National Social Value Fund, a non-profit group that provides experiential education programming in the social investment space by empowering youth to run their own community-based impact funds. NSVF now supports youth-led funds in five Canadian cities that invest in social enterprises that are underserved by the current impact-investing market. “There is a gap in the ecosystem right now in being able to support these organizations really well. Our social value fund model is one solution.”

Kehkashan Basu
20, Toronto, founder, Green Hope Foundation

Dubai-raised Toronto resident Kehkashan Basu is a powerful global voice for her generation. This winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize has spoken at more than 165 United Nations and other global forums across 25 countries. By the time she was 12, she’d founded her own social innovation enterprise, the Green Hope Foundation, whose 208 environment academies have empowered more than 97,000 young people in 15 countries, from the most marginalized sections of civil society. That same year this trailblazer also became the youngest-ever global coordinator for the UN Environment Programme’s Major Group for Children and Youth. She says we need systems in place to enable youth to decide their future for themselves. “[Youth] continue to be marginalised in all forms of decision-making. It is absolutely imperative that we have a seat at the table.” Her five-year plan? Expand Green Hope into 15 more countries and plant one million trees, all by 2025.

Nadine Pinto
27, Toronto, sustainability manager, TreadRight & The Travel Corporation

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the travel industry to an abrupt standstill in 2020, devastating many communities that depend on tourism. Although it’s still unclear when global leisure travel will resume, Nadine Pinto’s work at The Travel Corporation (which owns 40 travel brands in 70 countries) and its non-profit, TreadRight, involves developing ways to ensure that travellers can venture out sustainably when the gates open. Those tools include identifying the carbon footprint of trips, identifying low-emission transportation, sourcing new travel routes to relieve over-tourism, and establishing Make Travel Matter experiences that benefit both the traveller and the destination communities, in line with the UN SDGs. As Nadine explains, “Businesses are well positioned to see through long-term sustainability goals and create real change that has a measurable impact. I’m fortunate to do just that in my work.”

Truzaar Dordi
29, Waterloo, PhD candidate in climate finance, University of Waterloo

“As we approach what will be the largest transfer of wealth in human history, youth will play a pivotal role in how that money is invested,” says Truzaar Dordi. His research, which examines pathways for a just, low-carbon transition through social and financial movements, has earned him an Energy Policy Research Fellowship with the Energy Council of Canada. Truzaar’s research on stranded assets in particular seeks to reconcile Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement with its role as a major exporter of oil from the emissions-intensive oil sands. He also co-founded a regional chapter of Sustainable Youth Canada and led a team to host two What can YOUth Do? sustainability conferences, connecting more than 300 community members and 30 local organizations on environmental sustainability.

Cheyenne Sundance
23, Toronto, founder, Sundance Harvest

While travelling and working on a friend’s farm in Cuba, Cheyenne Sundance picked up more than just basic agriculture skills; she learned about radical social change, cooperative farming and what oppression in the food system looks like. Once back in Toronto, Cheyenne says, “I needed to create a new tool for food justice that looked very different from anything being done in my city.” Her food-justice-centred urban farm, Sundance Harvest, now grows food year-round and offers free 12-week training and mentorship programs to low-income marginalized youth. Its graduates are offered resources, including land and seeds, to start their own farms. Cheyenne’s goal is for her community to grow a lifelong connection to the earth, and she wants the most marginalized in the food system, particularly BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+ and disabled youth, to become its leaders. Says Cheyenne, “The fact that I can help jump-start radical projects towards change makes me happy.”

John McNally
26, Ottawa, research associate, Smart Prosperity Institute

John McNally was 17 when he volunteered at a rescue centre for injured wildlife in the Peruvian Amazon. He soon discovered that the lumber used to build the cages to protect the animals was delivered cheaply by poachers, whose livelihoods depended on cutting down trees illegally. That was the moment John realized that inclusive growth and prosperity go hand in hand with environmental sustainability. Today, as a research associate with the Smart Prosperity Institute and one of the lead researchers supporting Canada’s Task Force for a Resilient Recovery, John designs solutions that support progress toward a net-zero transition in Canada’s post-COVID economic recovery. “I’m drawn to the strategy to grow clean competitiveness and jobs across Canada, in particular,” John explains. “This strategy has a comparatively small price tag, but once the economy is recovered, it lays the foundation for further GHG reductions and investment for decades to come.”

Sarah Hanson
24, Ottawa, Youth Forum coordinator, Experiences Canada; North American regional director, Youth4Nature

As an Anishinaabe from Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, Sarah Hanson knows that many Indigenous people don’t see their perspectives on well-being and self-determination reflected in the environmental movement. She is determined to bring an Indigenous voice to some of Canada’s sustainability and youth networks, including as director of participants for Leading Change Canada, in addition to her roles at Experiences Canada and Youth4Nature. “Being an older Indigenous youth, with most of my family still living in my home community, the issues that youth face today are deeply personal to me,” she explains. “I hold the burden of knowledge on the experiences of Indigenous people within what is currently Canada, in spaces that are discussing health, education and well-being without this critical perspective. Practically speaking, this means hours of brainstorming.”

Anastasia Boutziouvis
28, Guelph, specialist, GRE&T Centre, Alectra Utilities

With more Canadians adopting clean grid-edge technologies, be they solar panels or electric vehicles, utility companies are faced with new challenges. The pilot project that Anastasia Boutziouvis manages at Alectra Utilities is working toward solving those challenges while seizing the opportunities that are inherent in clean innovation. Set to launch to a select group of Alectra customers in 2021, GridExchange is a blockchain-backed energy platform that allows customers to make transactions within an energy marketplace, earning rewards and compensation as incentives. As project manager, Anastasia oversees all aspects of the clean energy trading platform, including the web and mobile apps, testing the platform with real energy sources in Alectra’s microgrid lab. “I want to help scale the solutions I’m working on beyond pilot stages to hopefully thousands, and possibly millions, of Canadians over the next five years.”

Taylor McCarten
29, Victoria, founder, Build a Better Earth

After graduating from the University of Victoria’s MBA in Sustainable Innovation program in 2019, Taylor McCarten co-founded Build a Better Earth, a consumer product company that transforms waste into resources. The company’s first product, BinBreeze, is a green-bin additive that encourages households and businesses to compost by controlling odours and fruit flies. With their products already available in Sobeys and Canadian Tire stores, the Build a Better Earth team will pitch their wares on CBC’s Dragon’s Den in the fall, with plans to expand into other grocery retailers and restaurants. On starting a social enterprise from scratch, Taylor says, “If you want to learn how to walk on your own, you have to accept that you will fall flat on your face at times. But once you realize that there’s almost always a way to get back up, the path becomes an easier one to walk.”

Larissa Sequeira
26, Toronto, senior advisor, Mantle314

“Future-oriented organizations are facing growing pressure from investors, peers and consumers for climate action,” Larissa Sequeira explains, “and there isn’t one clear path forward.” In her role as a senior advisor at Mantle314, a Toronto-based climate consultancy, Larissa navigates the risks and opportunities of climate change for public- and private-sector clients. She uses her background in civil engineering to advise large Canadian municipalities on integrating a climate lens into their core operations and to develop strategies for low-carbon, resilient assets. She has secured more than $70 million in intergovernmental funding for climate-resilient infrastructure, and her work with the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure and the National Research Council of Canada has advanced procurement of lower carbon construction materials across Canada. Larissa also serves on the infrastructure advisory committee for the Principles for Responsible Investment network.

John Lau
25, Ottawa, policy research analyst, Natural Resources Canada

As a clean-energy policy expert, John Lau knows first-hand how much work is involved in ensuring that Canada meets its pledge to be net-zero by 2050. “Achieving net-zero emissions will require significant collaboration,” he says. Besides keeping tabs on how the federal, provincial and territorial governments are implementing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, John has been working to ensure that Canada’s clean-energy transition enlists participation and support from all Canadians and stakeholders, including industry, Indigenous Peoples and marginalized communities. While meeting our climate goals is a herculean task for government and industry, he finds hope in everyday Canadians. “Canadians from coast to coast are eager to contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy and are increasingly telling governments that combatting climate change should be at the forefront of policy agendas.”

Dayna Stein
29, Toronto, founder, bare market

Before founding one of Toronto’s first zero-waste stores, Dayna Stein worked as a sustainable food systems consultant. In 2017, she decided to launch a package-free pop-up shop; now bare market is a brick-and-mortar one-stop store for package-free goods. Customers were encouraged to bring their own containers to load up on sustainably sourced food, as well as body-care, home-care and DIY products – until the pandemic brought product refills to a halt. Dayna has now developed a COVID-friendly, low-waste in-store shopping model. While the explosion of single-use plastics during the pandemic has caused a lot of backlash in the zero-waste movement, Dayna hopes that stores like hers can help spark change on larger and more complex waste issues: “Canada needs top-down policies, local funding, monitoring and evaluation reporting, and accountability for corporations and municipalities that don’t comply.”

Maxime Lakat
21, Montreal, chair, Canadian Business Youth Council for Sustainable Development

Maxime Lakat wants to change the perception business leaders have of youth – and ensure that youth have the tools they need to effect change. “The 2030 agenda is about intergenerational equity, valuing the present and future generations, and youth need to be at the table to achieve that world.” Maxime has been advocating for business schools to modernize their curricula to teach students how to harness the $12 trillion in business opportunities that the 2030 UN SDGs represent. As founder and chair of the Canadian Business Youth Council for Sustainable Development and co-president of the Desautels Sustainability Network at McGill University, the 21-year-old co-created the first Montreal Youth Summit on Sustainable Business. Maxime and a coalition of youth organizations have been collaborating with some of the Corporate Knights Best Corporate Citizens in Canada to ensure that youth have an active role in rebuilding Canada’s post-COVID economy.

Cyrielle Noël
28, Montreal, program specialist, Ocean Wise’s Ocean Bridge program

Cyrielle Noël has long been drawn to the enigmatic qualities of both urban spaces and coastal environments and the reciprocal relationship between humans and the environment. With a background in spatial planning, she noticed how most Montrealers are cut off from their urban coastal environment and founded Eau-Dacité Waterway Festival to heal that disconnect through visual and performance-based art. Cyrielle is now a program specialist for Ocean Wise’s Ocean Bridge program, supporting service projects for waterway conservation and health, and experiential environmental education opportunities for youth. “I’m most passionate about promoting youth entrepreneurship and innovation in the ‘blue economy.’ Since Canada has the longest coastline in the world, there is potential to leverage youth talent in order to become a global leader in blue affairs.”

Manvi Bhalla,
Janaya Campbell,
Christina Di Carlo,
Samantha Casey
22–24, Ontario, co-founder and executive team, Shake Up the Establishment

“The greatest misconception we face is the political disengagement of youth,” says Manvi Bhalla, one of the co-founders of Shake Up the Establishment. “Our existence and the support we have received speaks volumes about youth engagement in politics.” Founded in 2019 by a group of University of Guelph alumni, Shake Up the Establishment is a registered national non-profit that disseminates information about the environmental platforms of political parties and candidates and helps improve climate and political literacy through the creation of free, accessible, scientifically backed resources. The group offers easy-to-understand news and information about climate adaptation and mitigation, Indigenous sovereignty, health, and transitioning to a clean economy, in addition to explaining legislation and electoral candidate platforms. Manvi explains, “Our hope is that youth will understand you do not need a political or environmental background to advocate for change.”

Saif Malhem
29, Montreal, project manager, SEED AI; founder, Greien

Saif Malhem is driven to find cleantech solutions to the climate crisis. As an immigrant to Canada from Jordan, he “saw first-hand the commonalities of the human experience,” he says. “I found my purpose in developing and deploying technology with soul, technology that embraces and operationalizes human values.” His journey in cleantech and AI began with an internship at the Clinton Global Initiative, after which he founded Greien, designed to accelerate Canada’s trajectory as a cleantech innovator by matching undergraduate students with cleantech start-ups. While cleantech is on the rise, Saif says deployment is still too slow. “The power of AI lies in augmenting our ability to do more, faster and with higher precision.” He’s led the AI team at ABB Canada and is now bringing together the top three Canadian AI R&D centres to pilot AI-powered cleantech solutions. Says Saif, “Exciting developments are ahead of us!”

Beth Eden
24, Waterloo, SDG and sustainability consultant

In her talks to the United Nations, the U.K. Parliament and various conferences around the globe, Beth Eden works to transform conversations about the climate crisis into action. “Although the climate crisis is a global problem,” she says, “our individual experiences and perceptions of it are very different.” Beth has been heavily focused on bringing the UN SDGs to fruition: through her work at SDSN Youth, part of the UN’s global Sustainable Development Solutions Network; as co-founder of the Impact Alliance at the University of Waterloo; and as co-chair of the impAct initiative for CICan, which works to implement the SDGs at 150 Canadian colleges. As a member of the City of Waterloo’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, Beth co-wrote a climate report advising the city on setting a carbon budget and broadening the scope of its emissions. Those recommendations were unanimously approved by city councillors and led to the declaration of a climate emergency in Waterloo.

Graeme Reed
28, Ottawa, senior advisor, Assembly of First Nations

As an Assembly of First Nations senior advisor of mixed Anishinaabe and European descent, it’s Graeme Reed’s job to hold federal and international policy-makers accountable for ensuring that their climate policies respect and safeguard First Nations rights, jurisdiction and knowledge. That also applies to pandemic-recovery discussions. “The concept of ‘building back better,’” he explains, “is not value-neutral. We must recognize the history of colonization, land dispossession and systemic racism as a starting point to recovery discourse. Canada must support self-determined Indigenous climate leadership in all of these efforts.” Graeme has represented the AFN at three UN climate talks and worked with Chiefs to pass a resolution at the AFN Annual General Assembly declaring a First Nations climate emergency. All the while, he is working on his PhD at the University of Guelph, researching the intersection of Indigenous governance, environmental governance and the climate crisis.

Madeleine Orr
26, Montreal, founder, Sport Ecology Group

During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Madeleine Orr witnessed first-hand the pollution and waste created during the massive sporting event. In 2019, the assistant professor of sports management at SUNY Cortland founded the Sport Ecology Group, a non-profit academic consortium dedicated to bridging the gap between sport sustainability research and practice. She has since helped major sporting events, including the NCAA Women’s Final Four basketball tournament, to reduce their climate impacts, advising franchises, leagues, managers, athletes and coaches on how to shrink their environmental footprints. She also encourages them to partner with firms that are women- or minority-owned and -operated: “It’s important for sport organizations to leverage their massive platforms and popularity to promote sustainable and equitable solutions and policies.”

Charles Beaudry
27, Montreal and Quebec City, mobilizer, Accélérer 2030 pour le Québec

Quebec currently has no provincial plan or public policies that give organizations an incentive to implement the UN SDGs, but Charles Beaudry, the mobilizer of Accélérer 2030 pour le Québec consortium, has been working on rectifying that by developing a coalition of more than 50+ organizations dedicated to accelerating that mission. “I became interested in the relationships between a variety of stakeholders to achieve common objectives, which eventually led me to this type of work,” Charles says. Unveiled in spring 2020, Accélérer 2030 pour le Québec nurtures partnerships between governments, the private, philanthropic, academic and plural sectors to guide Quebec’s prosperity in alignment with the SDGs and a fair and green recovery. “I hope to grow this movement in Quebec in order to have an international voice for the SDGs, both nationally and internationally."

Anna-Kay Russell
27, Toronto, director of strategy and governance, Leading Change Canada

Anna-Kay Russell is an environmental policy professional and community leader on a mission: she’s engaging governments, corporations, non-profits and youth in the transition to an equitable, low-carbon world. As the manager of public affairs for WoodGreen Community Services and the co-founder of the Canadian Black Policy Network, Anna-Kay fosters platforms for underrepresented voices in the policy process. “All organizations, including sustainability- and climate-focused ones, need to start looking critically at the spaces they take up and question, ‘Who is here, and who isn’t here but should be?’” Appointed to CivicAction’s Re:Action Task Force, she’s working to ensure that a diverse set of voices are included at the decision-making table as the City of Toronto maps out its COVID-19 recovery plans. Says Russell, “We can’t build back better and achieve a sustainable future if it is not sustainable for all.”

Ahsan Syed
28, London, U.K.; climate change consultant, ERM (Environmental Resources Management)

Ahsan Syed started his career at Cap-Op Energy (now Radicle Balance) in Calgary, helping to decarbonize the oil and gas industry by advising on projects that curb 500,000 tonnes of CO2e annually. During that time, this cleantech enthusiast also served as the projects chair of the Emerging Leaders for Solar Energy Alberta Chapter. Ahsan moved to the U.K. to pursue an MSc in environmental policy at the London School of Economics on a Chevening scholarship, researching corporate-led approaches to managing plastic waste while working at SYSTEMIQ as a circular economy associate. He now works at Environmental Resources Management as a climate change consultant and also advises hydrogen-focused cleantech start-ups in his spare time. His advice? “It’s important to stay nimble and flexible by focusing on the high-level impact, and not on the business idea.”

Dr. Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers
28, Montreal, president, Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement

During her first year at medical school, Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers read a scientific study on how climate change would become the greatest threat to public health in the 21st century. “From that moment on, I simply knew I could not be a doctor without investing in that issue,” she says. Since then, she has worked with the World Health Organization on climate and health, advocated for a health focus on the road to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, and, last summer, co-founded a citizens’ initiative to mobilize Quebec health professionals in the fight against the climate crisis. Recently, she was invited by the Quebec government to sit on a working committee to design the next provincial climate action plan, all while caring for patients. “Our patients are directly impacted by climate change. If the only way to deliver our treatment is through political and systemic changes, then we ought to do it.”

Tristan Surman
21, Montreal, founder, My Media Creative

In today’s media landscape, resource-rich media empires disproportionately capture our limited attention, while resource-constrained non-profits struggle to get their messages out. That’s why Tristan Surman founded My Media Creative (which provides low-cost or free creative services to non-profits, social enterprises, community organizations and activist groups) with a mission to rebalance society by amplifying underrepresented voices. My Media Creative has run 26 marketing and media campaigns for 22 organizations. Tristan’s advice to young people who want to be more critical consumers of media? “Learn to make things,” he says. “Whether it’s movies or websites or marketing campaigns, once you learn what goes into making media, you will be a much more critical consumer of it. Beyond that, take classes, diversify your content diet and engage with multiple perspectives in person.”

Nabil Ali
28, Toronto, director of programs, International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF)

As a child of refugees, Nabil Ali always felt a personal connection to the neglect of children in refugee camps. The international development grad moved to Somalia to administer long-term development and humanitarian relief projects for people affected by drought and conflict. He’s also organized the trucking of fresh water to schools in Gaza, helped Rohingya refugees access food and permanent shelters in Bangladesh, and, when the pandemic hit, he helped the IDRF pivot to bring medical support, clean water and food parcels to those in need. Throughout all this, Nabil says, “The questions I continue to ask myself are: What will it take for us to become better humans who are supportive to one another? What can I do to help, so children worldwide never have to think about losing their parents to conflict or never finishing school? These questions drive my work.”

Anjum Sultana
29, Toronto, director of public policy and strategic communications, YWCA Canada

Anjum Sultana was taught from a young age that if you see a barrier, it’s up to you to try to remove it. For Anjum, that means advocating for justice and equity for women and racialized and immigrant communities. “As COVID-19 is showing us, existential threats to humanity, whether it be pandemics or climate change, pose [greater] risks to women and gender-diverse people, as well as Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities.” She has leveraged her expertise to co-author a Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada, advocate for the establishment of the Gender Equality Office at the City of Toronto, and push for gender-responsiveness in Canada’s National Housing Strategy. Anjum represented Canada at the 2019 G7 Youth Summit in Paris through Young Diplomats of Canada and uses her voice to advocate for inclusive climate action: “We cannot have true action on climate change without addressing the root causes and impacts of systemic racism and sexism.”

Cedric Gray-Lehoux
28, Quebec City, spokesperson, First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Youth Network

At last year’s Global Climate March in Montreal, organizer and Indigenous youth representative Cedric Gray-Lehoux addressed the crowd of 500,000, alongside Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, with a powerful message: “If we do not protect Mother Earth, Mother Earth will not protect us.” Cedric first became involved with the First Nations Youth Network as a volunteer and ended up being elected its spokesperson. Since then, Cedric has become a leading voice for climate action in Quebec, teaming up with Concordia University on a consultation of First Nations youth across the province, in addition to working as an advisor on justice initiatives at the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission. “As youth, it is our duty to come together and protect the land so that our seven future generations can all have access to a healthy Mother Earth. The very well-being of our peoples relies on this connection.”

Luna Yu
26, Toronto, CEO, Genecis Bioindustries

Genecis was founded in 2017 after Luna Yu and her team recognized that about a third of food becomes organic waste, representing a significant contribution to carbon emissions and a major under-utilization of resources. The award-winning company offers a true circular economy model, for instance by taking food waste from French food-services giant Sodexo and using bacteria to convert that food waste into bioplastics for compostable food containers, packaging and 3D printing materials. While women in the traditionally male-dominated tech sector still battle inequity, Luna sees the silver lining to being a woman in the technology start-up space in Canada. “In fact, it has been an advantage,” she explains. “There are an abundance of resources and programs like NRCan [Natural Resources Canada] and MaRS’s Women in Cleantech Challenge, which exclusively support female entrepreneurs and have supported our success.”

Chúk Odenigbo
27, Gatineau/Calgary, co-founder, The Poison and The Apple; director, Future Ancestors Services

As a Franco-Albertan from Calgary and a Black Canadian, Chúk Odenigbo says he never saw himself reflected in the environmental movement. “I grew up thinking that an environmentalist was someone who wanted to conserve nature at the expense of humanity and progress.” The doctoral student in medical geography at the University of Ottawa co-founded the non-profit The Poison and The Apple to create cultural change by finding innovative ways to help people connect with nature so they, too, can become stewards for the environment. Having worked in a variety of sectors, including oil and gas, fashion, and academia, the director of Future Ancestors Services, an Indigenous- and Black-owned, youth-led enterprise, now offers speaking, training and research services on the importance of being a good ancestor for future generations. “My green dream is to have Canadians see themselves as a part of nature.”






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