Climate Action: The Next Generation, Part 6

By: Gavin Pitchford

Between the pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, things are looking rough – but you can still find hope through the actions of others. Today, we’re recognizing 11 Emerging Leaders living in Canada who are fighting climate change and advancing sustainability at home and around the world! The next generation of climate leaders are taking action and inspiring all of us to join them.

Every year the Clean50 recognizes 10 Emerging Leaders, honouring individuals under 35 (at the time of their accomplishments) who are driving sustainability in Canada and globally. This year, we’ve had the honour of receiving more than 60 nominations for our Emerging Leader award – far more than we can recognize in a single year!

As nominees, these individuals are eligible for both the main Clean50 list and an Emerging Leader award, but given the sheer volume of nominees we’ve received this year, we can’t guarantee they’ll win either award. So we’ve decided to run a spotlight on each of our Emerging Leader nominees over the course of six weeks, to give recognition to all of our inspiring young leaders even if we can’t award them, and provide some good news in difficult times.

This is the final week in this six part series, and we’re spotlighting our final dozen nominees: Ana Gonzalez Guerrero to Ryan Zizzo!

You can check out the previous articles in the Emerging Leader series here: Group 1 – Meredith Adler to Louis-Philip Bolduc Group 2: Carl Botha to Ahmed El Ganzouri Group 3: Corey Ellis to Sherena Hussain Group 4: Saeed Kaddoura to Nivedita Madhav Pande Group 5: Hardik Pandya to Victoria Smaniotto Group 6: Ana Gonzalez Guerrero to Ryan Zizzo

And tune back in next week – when we’ll introduce you to some more of this year’s amazing Clean50 nominees as a great start to 2021!

Ana Gonzalez Guerrero (29) – Youth Climate Lab – Ottawa, ON

Ana and co-founder Dominique (see below) created the Youth Climate Lab to support and strengthen the next generation of climate leaders and change the status quo for youth from inaction to action. Now recognized as a federal non-profit, YCL cultivates a culture of learning and growth for their 8 full-time staff and project partners and raises funding for youth climate action in Canada and around the world. Under their leadership, YCL has created 21 projects engaging youth in 77 countries, supported nearly 50 youth-led climate ventures, and sparked nearly 100 youth-led policy ideas to advance ambitious climate change initiatives. Ana leads operations and finance at YCL.

Dominique Souris (27) – Youth Climate Lab – Ottawa, ON

Dominique and Ana (see above) founded the Youth Climate Lab in 2017 to enable youth to catalyze climate action in their communities. With more than 21 projects in 77 countries, YCL works in partnership with the Canadian and Seychelles governments, Indigenous organizations and governments such as 4Rs Youth Movement and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, youth-led and youth-focused organizations such as Student Energy and Students on Ice Foundation, and international organizations such as Global Green Growth Institute and the World Bank to catalyze capacity and new ideas in ways that complement the work being done by the social impact sector in Canada and around the globe. Dominique leads partnerships, fundraising, project design and communication at YCL.

Eryn Stewart (28) – Indigenous Clean Energy – Ottawa, ON

As the Director of the first Canadian non-profit focused on amplifying Indigenous leadership in the clean energy sector, Eryn is creating a more robust and active Indigenous clean energy ecosystem. Over the past two years, her organization, Indigenous Clean Energy, has doubled, supporting more than 100 Indigenous clean energy champions through capacity building and project development efforts. Indigenous Clean Energy is also the primary capacity builder for NRCan’s Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative, working with 15 remote Indigenous communities on energy planning and project development to transition off diesel-powered energy.

Alexandra Tavasoli (30) – Solistra – Toronto, ON

Alex co-founded and leads Solistra, a cleantech start-up using solar-activated nanomaterials to convert CO2 and methane into green fuels. Using this technology to replace 75% of the energy needed for conversion with solar energy, Solistra’s tech can decrease the emissions of fossil fuels by 70-80% when using waste gasses. Alex also sits on the Editorial Board of SWE Magazine, a quarterly publication with over 40,000 readers, where she evangelizes her staunch advocacy for female leadership in the cleantech sector – she herself was a finalist in Canada’s Women in Cleantech competition.

Katharine Thomas (26) – Ecology North – Yellowknife, NWT

Katherine is teaching northern youth how to take on climate change through workshops, lessons, and guides. Over the past two years, she has taught over 900 students – many from communities with only 40-700 people – in workshops about water stewardship, species at risk, pollution, and other environmental topics and coordinated opportunities for leadership by northern youth in many events and projects. Katherine’s most proud of her work on the Northern Adaptation Guides – resources to help northerners adapt community infrastructure to the changing climate.

Janice Tran (33) – Kanin Energy – Calgary, AB

Janice is a master of facilitating GHG reductions in traditionally hard to abate sectors, including organic waste and heavy industry. During her time as Director of Generate Capital, she built up the largest investment portfolio of organic waste to energy assets in North America, presently $250 million USD and growing rapidly. Using her experience unlocking financing in the organic waste sector, Janice co-founded Kanin Energy to advance the waste-heat-to-power industry, a source of renewable energy in heavy industry that often goes overlooked. Kanin Energy’s first project will come online by the end of 2020.

Crystal Vella (32) – Walker Industries – Niagara Falls, ON

An expert in carbon quantification and management, Crystal is the mastermind behind Walker Industries’ 3-year carbon neutrality plan and provided key support in their resource recovery project. She provided research on best practices in heavy industry to lower GHG emissions and identified opportunities that aligned with operations to purchase renewable energy and carbon offsets. Crystal also provided support for the resource recovery project – the largest in Canada – through policy and data analysis, working independently to gather and synthesize information essential to key decision making.

Amit Virmani (32) – Naveco Power Inc. – Fredericton, NB

Amit, co-founder and CEO of Naveco Power, is making New Brunswick more sustainable one project at a time. Naveco’s biggest project to date was the development of New Brunswick’s first locally-owned wind farm, which will create over 100 new jobs in the province and provide clean energy to communities in the area. Amit and his team also undertook an office building retrofit to upgrade the building’s energy-consuming and energy-saving systems – a project made even greater by the investment opportunities provided by Amit and his team to local investors, with total tax savings of 85%.

Paige Whitehead (28) – Nyoka Design Labs – Courtenay, BC

Recognizing the effects of the waste left behind by music festivals, Paige invented an earth-friendly glowstick powered by bioluminescence and founded Nyoka Design Labs to bring her technology to life. With this, Paige and her team are poised to eliminate the 500 million waste glowsticks that enter our system annually, replacing single-use plastic with an alternative that is not only biodegradable but actually improves the soil where they’re composted. The Nyoka team also gives out missions on their website, asking people to spend a few minutes a day making the world a kinder, more humane place.

Paul Yang (31) – Tim Hortons – Toronto, ON

Paul is making a Canadian staple more sustainable through product innovation: developing and launching more sustainable alternatives to lids, cups and takeout bags. The new hot beverage lid he developed is made from polypropylene – a material that is 100% recyclable and accepted by 95% of recycling programs across Canada. Paul also developed a new strawless lid, removing 120 million straws from the system, a new takeout bag that uses 100% recycled content, including 60% post-consumer fibre, and a new 30% post-consumer recycled content takeout cup.

Alice Yu (36) – The City of Calgary – Calgary, AB

As a catalyst for clean energy and climate mitigation, Alice leads an energy efficiency portfolio worth $45 million with over 80 projects, which achieved 4600 kilotons of GHG emissions avoided. She was able to successfully leverage $4 million to support initiatives in achieving cost-effective emissions reduction, including leading the installation of 3 enclosed combustor pilot projects to prevent fugitive methane emissions for natural gas providers, resulting in 90% facility emission reductions. Alice is also working to expand access to EV charging infrastructure in Calgary, adding 20 charging stations in 2019.

Ryan Zizzo (35) – Mantle314 – Toronto, ON

Co-founder of Mantle314, Ryan is one of North America’s leading experts in embodied carbon in buildings. In 2019, he led two projects for the National Research Council of Canada on the integration of life-cycle assessment and low embodied carbon requirements in government procurement of concrete, introducing the issue to government officials and policymakers. Ryan also supports climate resilience at a local level, helping the YMCA of Toronto reduce its carbon footprint and energy spending, as well as develop a Climate Resiliency Strategy that involves turning their buildings into emergency reception centres in the case of major outages or climate emergencies.

Our thanks to Unilever Canada for supporting our efforts as the champion of our Emerging Leaders Award!

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