Mentee Stories: Emily Lowan

As a recent high school graduate, Emily Lowan developed a passion for the circular economy. Her work comes full circle to implement a high school program that closes the loop of plastic pollution.

As a Climate Guides mentee, Emily taking climate action by tackling plastic. In addition to preventing the suffering of marine life or littered beaches, Emily will also be engaging other youth to collect ocean plastics and give new life to the fossil-fuel based material. The plastic gathered by students will be transformed into filaments for 3D printing. Students will then be able to use the material to design 3D-printed structures and products to either benefit their school or community, or be sold in a community fundraiser. “My overarching goal with this project is to shift the future generation's view of plastic and waste, by providing a system that gives it value,” says Emily.

 Photos: Emily Lowan

Photos: Emily Lowan

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This is not the first time Emily found potential in wasted materials. This year, Emily started a Coffee Ground Renewal Program, as the Co-Director of Community Earth Project. This non-profit was previously dormant when Emily and her friend revitalized it in June 2017. She truly breathes new life into all her work.

Circling back to circular economy, her team of student volunteers is turning waste into a marketable resource. The coffee grounds produced by six local cafes are delivered to three farms to make nitrogen-rich compost. “Many of these farms then grow produce in their soil which is sold back to the coffee shops and restaurants the coffee grounds came from,” shares Emily. Her team delivers the coffee grounds to elementary school gardens and hosts workshops about food waste and climate change.

 Emily Lowan, on the right, with her mentor Kyle Empringham.  Photo: Ivan Belko Photography

Emily Lowan, on the right, with her mentor Kyle Empringham. 
Photo: Ivan Belko Photography

When asked about mentorship, Emily shared her hopes to work with an established professional in her area of interest. She described that her mentor, Kyle Empringham, has helped her gain new approaches, outreach techniques and opportunities for her project and as a young climate leader. Kyle is the Co-Founder of The Starfish Canada, an organization that recognizes young environmentalists. While Kyle was not a judge, this year Emily was included on The Starfish’s annual list of Top 25 Under 25 Environmentalists in Canada.

People may find it hard to believe that the moment that catalyzed her environmentalism was only two years ago. In 2016, she joined the Institute for Global Solutions where she toured parliament, learned about climate policy and understood her impact on the planet. Since then, she has trained as a Climate Reality Leader with Al Gore, delivering climate change awareness presentations in classrooms and to city councillors alike.  “Climate action, political action and community involvement all go hand in hand,” says Emily. “Each [requires] unity, understanding and empathy for your surroundings.”

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Emily is Climate Guides’ youngest mentee, but she is certainly wise beyond her 17 years. She described that her mission is to empower youth to take climate action by providing both a deeper understanding of their influence and the tools that are available to make a impact. Naturally, Emily says, “The power of young people is a largely untapped resource, one that can be a catalyst for positive change.”

Caroline Merner