Students Usher in a Greener Future

BY AMY REDING

Kali Taylor, executive director and president of the non-profit Student Energy, is not all talk about transforming our world, she is taking the first steps to see that happen.

“She’s committed to this whole idea of transitioning the world to a sustainable energy future,” says Grant Trump, founding President and CEO of ECO Canada.

Trump introduces Taylor, keynote speaker for the Green Careers Summit, as a 2010 graduate from the U of C’s energy management program, winner of the Premier citizenship award and the National millennium leadership scholarship, amongst other achievements.

“Student energy started as a dream. We’re now in 50 countries all over the world, and expanding rapidly. It’s about to become my full time job,” says Taylor in her speech directed at environmentally-minded high school students.

Student Energy is a global not for profit working to educate, encourage, and unite like-minded students to transition the world to a sustainable energy future.

Taylor and her fellow students found it intimidating to speak up at conferences with industry veterans, and birthed the idea of a purely student conference.

“We had no credibility, we had no money, we had pretty much nothing except this vision of what we wanted to accomplish.”

The first conference was in 2009, with one following in Vancouver this year, and plans are underway for the same to occur in 2013 in Norway.

Student energy is about riding the middle line, finding a balance between energy and the environment. This means having an “iron curtain” between the program and the sponsorship. Sponsorship which includes large, resource-extracting companies in the Calgary downtown core.

“We’re an energy organization, environment is a really big part of that, but we’re not a Green Peace,” says Taylor.

Taylor encourages students to travel and experience other people’s lives, so that they can begin to understand the “challenges we face as a global community.”

In one trip to India, Taylor watched as literally thousands of large trucks sat idling for hours waiting to drop off their loads at the nickel mines.

“In the developing world, education is power. And there needs to be a lot of it, and cheap.”

Some communities in India are resisting solar panels to charge lanterns, believing that if the government sees them using solar energy, they’ll never receive grid electrification therefore never receive TV, explains Taylor.

“We can change our light bulbs all we want, but we have some much bigger fundamental shifts that need to happen in people’s perception in order for change to occur.”

Taylor’s passion to see change has not gone unnoticed; in 2011 she was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25.

“It wasn’t something that I just woke up one day and thought ‘I’m really interested in sustainability,’ says Taylor. “It really was a genesis.”

Grant Trump jokes that Taylor has gotten him and his company, ECO Canada, involved in a lot of her initiatives.

ECO Canada runs Canada’s largest youth internship program, placing several hundred people a year in full time employment.

“If you’re willing to make a commitment to the environment sector, by completing post-secondary education, well make a commitment to you, to help you get a job,” he explains.

ECO Canada hosted Green Careers Summit on October 12 at the Red and White Club, encouraging young minds to think about the future and sustainability.

“If you go about finding a career in the right way, and getting on a path that makes sense for you, it really can be a reflection of who you are,” says Taylor.