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How to Make Issues of Sustainability Resonate with Youth in Your Community

EWB UBC’s Isabella Pinto leapt at the opportunity to speak at the Vancouver School Board Conference earlier this fall. Since 2013, the Vancouver School Board has organized a Sustainability Conference with the hopes of inspiring high school students to impact positive change in their communities through meaningful discussions. No stranger to sustainability, Isabella is the founder of The Urbanas, a hand-made footwear brand based in Guatemala and the co-venture lead for Smoke-Free Homes, an EWB UBC portfolio project.

At the conference, dreams about pursuing higher education and selecting a degree pathway weighed heavy on the minds of the high school audience. Isabella recognized how important it was to engage the students with a less formal and more personal tone. She expanded the topic of sustainability beyond the environment and honed in on a conversation about mental health and well-being urging the students to choose a degree that they would actually enjoy completing. By helping the students think outside the box of sustainability, Isabella planted a seed about making a difference regardless of what degree one is pursuing. Evidently, her words left an impact on the students, as she was recently approached by a girl whose younger brother had attended the conference and could not stop speaking about EWB UBC and the projects they showcased.

Two of EWB UBC’s ventures, Engi-You and Smoke-Free Homes, have found ways to creatively place a focus on sustainability. Engi-You is focused on mental wellness and youth empowerment, and has connected mental health to being able to implement sustainable practices at the community level. Concurrently, Smoke-Free Homes is a project that aims to provide access to clean cooking stoves in Guatemala. The project tackles one of EWB’s Impact Framework areas, sustainable infrastructure and communities, by taking in user feedback to improve the design of the stove and provide a safer and cleaner alternative for cooking. The project also overlaps with the energy, climate and environment Impact area by addressing environmental degradation from traditional cooking practices and providing access to energy in communities where electricity is not always as reliable.

As an Environmental Science student, these topics are incredibly important to Isabella: she believes that the development of sustainable communities of all sizes should be supported. Whether inspiring high-school youth to make a difference or empowering families in Guatemala to contribute to the design of a sustainable project, Isabella encourages everyone to think outside the box and not be afraid that their idea isn’t radical enough. She had advice for other chapters hoping to connect with youth in their local communities: reach out to schools and youth groups in your community for speaking or collaboration opportunities and never underestimate the impact you could have on someone’s life - schools almost never say no to EWB chapters who are hoping to come in and educate their students!

It was incredibly inspiring to hear about all the great projects going on at EWB UBC and the dedication they’ve put in to build sustainable communities across the board. We’re keen to see how well EWB UBC’s projects will pan out!

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