How Today’s Youth are Fishing for a Sustainable Future

Eco-consciousness has been a hot topic since even before I knew how to walk. In the early 2000’s, eco-consciousness came in periodically and would occupy the front page every few months. And then it would retreat to the second page, and so forth, until something else disastrous happened. This time around, in 2019, natural disasters are coming at a rate that is fast and furious: abnormal weather patterns ravage different parts of the globe as large scale natural disasters keep occurring. We started with the suffocating heat wave in Australia, as record breaking temperatures occur day after day; then came the April flood in Iran that claimed up to 40 lives. Most recently, as we all hoped the record-high heat in Australia would stay as is, the country is once again singeing with unprecedentedly high temperatures. It’s clear that the climate crisis is urgent with serious glocal consequences, the concerned youth of today are looking for solutions.

In mid-November, we rounded up about 30 of the GTA’s environmentally committed business students and gave them a challenge: pitching solutions to today’s hot environmental problems.

Among these passionate teenagers looking to make a change in the world, we also invited professionals to have a glimpse into the business of being environmentally conscious. We started off with an anecdote from the founder of Now Creative Group, and one of our gold sponsors, where he spoke about his journey to follow his dreams in the marketing industry.

Later, we welcomed our keynote speaker Nicole Doray, a senior researcher with the Academy of Sustainable Innovation. Nicole gave a detailed recount of her work as a York University graduate, and environmentalist and shared some important lessons with us regarding her career as a “generalized specialist”.

“I’ve worked for very small NGOs in very remote corners of this world. I’ve worked with small businesses in my community to develop low-cost sustainability strategies and with large corporations as they explore multinational investment opportunities. I’ve put on a suit and marched around business schools and board rooms. I’ve painted my face and marched in protests and organized some activist action myself. I’m what I like to call a specialized generalist, in having done a bit of everything while maintaining that specialized focus in environmental sustainability and social justice.”

-Nicole Doray

Her secret ingredient to complete the daunting task of taking on all these roles? Resiliency. From one anecdote to the next, her tenacious work ethic persists to be a common theme. Since she was a high-schooler, she has tried a make a change wherever she could: volunteering for numerous charities (the Red Cross, Save the Children, etc.), and starting an Eco-Club in order to promote awareness, and make a positive impact regarding environmental issues. Later she went on to work with Seeds for Change, a non-profit organization focused on addressing various social justice issues through environmentally sustainable means. As a self-identified ‘intrapreneur’, working with various established corporations and businesses, advocating for environmentally friendly, low-emissions business practices, Ms. Doray has worked tirelessly reframing corporate perceptions of value surrounding environmental sustainability, and promoting sustainable business planning. In this context, she has had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, many of Canada’s leading corporate executives and business leaders, having along the way learned invaluable lessons about the importance of tenacity, tact, and resilience, which she shared with us at the conference.

Couldn’t make it to our event, but want to listen to the speakers? Check them out on our Facebook Live.

Also, we were gracious to have mentors to help the participants conjure up solutions to pressing environmental problems that included climate change, fast fashion, plastic waste, and food systems. Their participation was absolutely essential in ensuring the success of our event, and to them we would like to offer our most sincere thanks.

A Big Thank You to the Mentors

Estrella Lo - founder of Edi Skincare

Peter Sos - Green Barista, Home Baking Co.

Akeem Gardner - CEO and Founder of Atlas 365 Inc

Da Chen - Founder and Executive Director of the Pristine Blue

Celine Shi - IMBA Student at the Schulich School of Business

The Panel: Thank You for Sharing Your Thoughts

Cassie Barker - Women’s Healthy Environment Network

Scott Morrison - Co-Founder of Dream Zero

Jenna Phillips - Co-Director of Youth Action on Climate Change

Erin Andrews - Founder of Hera & Co.

And the winner of the Green Business Conference was…

In the subcategory of Fast Fashion, the challenge was to find a way to promote and create sustainable alternatives to fast fashion: the trend of companies mass producing poor quality garments go from the runway to the consumer as quickly as possible. This results in environmental and ethical consequences as the clothes are quickly discarded into landfills, and the workers are often overworked to produce products at a high volume in a short amount of time. Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world.

One group tackled the problem by taking inspiration from the Alaskan Natives who used fish based leather, and Lucy Hughs, a student who created plastic using fish scales. They aimed to replace materials traditionally made by unsustainable materials with fish by-products as it could be sourced locally, causes little environmental harm to produce, and can completely biodegrade in two months. The ultimate goal was to use the by-product to mitigate the environmental damages done by Fast Fashion by bringing fish based clothing to 5% of homes within the next 15 years. The team showed careful planning as they also recognized that there would be a stigma to come with wearing fish-based clothing, and pitched that they would overcome it by marketing the products to environmentally-conscious individuals in the GTA. By introducing a business model that focused on sourcing affordable cheap and local ingredients, their pitch was the highly feasible and realistic. Finally, Fish-Fash won first place for their engaging presentation of a logical and realistic green business solution. In addition to winning a gift basket with goodies from our sponsors, team Fish-Fash received 10 hours of pro bono business coaching from Erin Andrews, founder of Hera & Co., to develop their venture.

Curious about Fish-Fash? Check-out their pitch here.

At last, it was a success! There was certainly hope for a better tomorrow to see the amount of attention put towards reversing the dire challenge of climate change.

Check-out the recap video of our event here.

Our event would not have been able to come to fruition without the help of our generous sponsors. Special thanks to TakingItGlobal, Basil Box, Tonica Kombucha, 5n2 Kitchens, Corporate Knights, Elate Cosmetics, Soho Innovation Lab and Now Creative for their gold sponsorship.

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