Generation Green

Empowering Youth to Save the Planet

They are the next generation of thinkers, teachers, politicians, scientists, activists and environmentalists. People under 25 make up almost half of humankind—three billion people who, for the most part, have little say in political affairs, yet it’s their future that’s at stake.

The health of the planet is precarious, but change is possible, and we must encourage young people to help build a green movement and create a sustainable future. Do you know a child or youth who wants to get involved? Offer your support and pass on these ideas and resources!

Get inspired

Young people have achieved incredible things on behalf of the planet. Twenty years ago, when Severn Cullis-Suzuki was just 12 years old, she made a six-minute speech at the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit that stunned the world and challenged delegates to “make [their] actions reflect their words.” Her message about sustainability still resonates with today’s youth.

Enter Emily Hunter, daughter of Greenpeace’s founding president, Robert Hunter, and an environmental advocacy journalist. Just 26 years old, she’s often on the front lines of important environmental issues, from protesting at the Copenhagen climate summit to putting a spotlight on the Canadian tar sands. Another young eco-hero is Alexandra Cousteau, an explorer, filmmaker and water advocate who’s continuing the work of her grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau and her father, Philippe Cousteau. In addition to being a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Alexandra co-founded her own non-profit organization, Blue Legacy, to take action on water issues.

Of course, you don’t have to come from a family of eco-warriors to make a difference. Take Craig Kielburger, who founded Free the Children at just 12 years old; Alysia Garmulewicz, the B.C. teen who organized the Canadian Youth Climate Change Conference at just 17; and Colin Carter, a Toronto teen who recently released a documentary on climate change, Fight for the Planet. We’re also big fans of Tyler and Alex Mifflin, hosts of tvo’s The Water Brothers, who travel the world to explore our relationship with water. And we’re inspired by Simon Jackson, a B.C. resident who was just 13 when he started a campaign to save the rare Spirit Bear. He founded The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, which has grown over the past decade to become the world’s largest youth-led environmental organization, with a network of more than six million people in 70 countries.

These Canadians prove that a passionate young person can take a stand and create change. Don’t assume that just because you’re young, no one will listen to your concerns. Start by writing a letter to your city’s newspaper or local politicians, blogging about the environment, or forming a green club at your school.

Join the movement

Working with others for a common cause can make an even bigger impact, as this African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Good: Stop drinking bottled water. Even better: Transition an entire school or campus away from bottled water. Good: Buy local and organic food. Even better: Launch a community or campus garden.

Friends of the Earth, Environmental Defence and the David Suzuki Foundation are just some of the organizations that can inspire youth to take action. Or join one of these 10 fantastic Canadian eco-youth organizations and make change collectively:

  1. Environmental Youth Alliance
  2. Sierra Youth Coalition
  3. Spirit Bear Youth Coalition
  4. Canadian Youth Climate Coalition
  5. Roots & Shoots – The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada
  6. We Day – Free the Children
  7. Evergreen
  8. EcoKids – Earth Day Canada
  9. Check Your Head
  10. Teens Turning Green

Make online connections

Today’s youth are more plugged in and wired up than ever. The Internet is a fantastic tool for finding like-minded young people and bringing about change. Social networking allows activists from every corner of a country to unite online and grow the green movement. There are hundreds of youth-driven eco-themed groups on Facebook alone.

For every environmental issue, there is an online community that gives youth a voice. Footprint Friends and Inconvenient Youth encourage kids and teens to share ideas about climate change. Roots & Shoots offers a place for youth to connect and share inspiration, and Taking IT Global is an online community for young people interested in global issues and creating positive change. Blogs, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and petition sites such as Avaaz are all great platforms for spreading your green message. The world is listening!

Create a green economy

We need new leaders to help drive the transition to a green economy. One place for youth to start is by getting a green education. Eco Canada has an extensive directory of environmental education programs across Canada, including accredited programs. IMPACT! offers the Co-operators Youth Program for Sustainability Leadership. This one-of-a-kind program provides sustainability training for university and college students to be effective agents of change.

Students can also maketheir schools greener with support from the SEEDS Green Schools Canada program—over a million eco-projects involving 6,000-plus schools have already been completed! Or the Ontario EcoSchools program, which helps students become environmentally responsible citizens and reduce the ecological footprint of their schools. EcoKids also has fantastic resources for kids, teachers, parents and policy makers to improve schools and increase environmental education.

Youth searching for their dream eco-job will not want to miss our upcoming Green Jobs Forum, held September 17 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (Bonus—admission is FREE!) Fifty speakers representing eight environmental sectors will share insights about a wide range of green jobs. The forum is also the perfect chance to network with green-collar professionals; apply for jobs, internships and volunteer positions; and get expert feedback on your resumé and cover letter. Find out more about this much-anticipated event and pre-register for the chance to win a meeting with a green CEO.

ECO Canada, GoodWork Canada and Young Environmental Professionals (YEP) of Canada are also dedicated to creating and showcasing opportunities for young and emerging environmental and sustainability professionals. Find out more about ECO Canada’s National Environmental Youth Corp (NEYC) and International Environmental Youth Corp (IEYC) internship programs.

Today’s youth—remarkable in both the challenges they face and the promise they show—can support a sustainable future in so many ways. Every action helps, whether it’s spreading the word about amazing eco-achievements, donating to or volunteering with a favourite non-profit organization, or starting a new eco-group. A movement is growing – if not this generation, then who? If not now, when?

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