Beyond Green Summit EcoMentors A\J Photo: Earth Day Canada

Earth Day Canada’s Beyond Green Environment Summit is less than a month away, and A\J is excitedly prepping our two workshops on Environmental Blogging and Responsible Living. But beyond our own workshops, we’re looking forward to all of the other offerings throughout the weekend. We touched base with Jon-Erik Lappano and Irene Lam, both coordinators with Earth Day Canada, to find out more about this exciting event from speaker highlights to logistics.

A\J: What makes Beyond Green different from other youth conferences (ie. PowerShift)?
JL: Beyond Green stands out from other youth conferences because it focuses on fostering environmental education across disciplines and between sectors; we don’t mandate a specific environmental issue or cause, but rather welcome all perspectives and movements to the table for open discussion and rich dialogue.
Beyond Green takes the point of view that everyone, no matter their background must engage with the world around them. How they engage is up to them. Beyond Green is seeking to provide diverse platforms to get involved.

IL: I think one of the things that makes Beyond Green different from other youth conferences is that it not only brings together a wide range of youth who are enthusiastic about different environmental issues, but it also aims to attract those who aren’t as interested in environment-specific issues thanks to its interdisciplinary focus. It’s also great that there will be a day of action dedicated to action workshops. Conferences are very uplifting and motivating, but people often struggle to translate what they have learned into action.

A\J: What keynotes, panels, workshops or other events are you most excited to attend?
JL: I’m looking forward to all of it! The Friday night kick-off promises to motivate us to really dive into the issues. Emily Hunter is an inspiring young Canadian, really mobilizing for environmental and social change through her filmmaking, like her upcoming film Activism 2.0. Tom Rand is an engaging and inspiring speaker, who has come up with a pretty comprehensive plan to get off fossil fuel and make the shift towards a renewable energy future. He’s going to urge us to “wake up” and start changing the game. And – the night will be hosted by TVO’s Water Brothers – eco-adventurers on a mission to raise awareness about water issues across the globe!

Saturday we have over 100 workshops, panels and break-out sessions that will build the toolkit of the young environmentalist, equipping them with the knowledge and resources they need to take action.

Saturday night, we are so thrilled to welcome Majora Carter, a TED speaker and urban revitalization expert, who has built thriving green economies across North America from the ground up. Tzeporah Berman is one of Canada’s leading champions of environmental advocacy, having masterminded campaigns and movements that have truly shifted policy in this country. And Ben Powless is one of Canada’s most passionate youth leaders of the Idle No More movement, focused on climate justice and resource extraction in Indigenous territories, particularly the tar sands in Canada.

On Sunday, I’m really excited to see what plans of action emerge. We are really trying to facilitate the development of strategies and tools that delegates can take with them going forward. We don’t want the discussion to stop here. Sunday is all about empowering participants with plans and platforms to go out into their community and start making an impact, to take control of our future.

IL: I’m really excited about the whole event! There are so many fantastic workshops that I think I will have a hard time choosing which ones to attend. I’m especially looking forward to action-oriented and First Nations-related workshops, and seeing the keynotes by Majora Carter and Tzeporah Berman.

A\J: How will the conference go beyond green, as the name implies?
JL: We want to break environmental thinking out of the “green silo,” where it is so commonly isolated. The idea of this summit is to engage people across disciplines, and to facilitate dialogue across boundaries. We have placed workshops into different subject areas or themes, and there is intentionally a lot of overlap to attract people from different disciplines to the same conversation. This summit is not only about the environment. It is about how the environment intersects with every other issue, whether it’s health, technology, business, human rights, spirituality, or media and the arts. The environment permeates all of it.

IL: I think participants leaving the Summit will be more inclined and prepared to act on issues that they care about.
The action workshops on Sunday will provide them with valuable and relevant tools that they can take back to their schools and communities. Organizations that are a part of the event have all done really amazing work in their respective areas. Through their workshops, they will be able to prepare young attendees to explore their passions and expand on the work that has already been done. The variety of organizations involved alone provides many options and opportunities that participants can partake in and pursue.

A\J: Will the conference be focused on taking action in the GTA, or will there be cross-Canada break-out sessions and resources?
JL: We will primarily focus on Ontario regional break-outs, based on the locations of youth delegates. The actions we want to promote and encourage are community-based, and dependent on the passions and causes brought to the forefront by Beyond Green participants. There are some groups and individuals attending from across Canada, so we will definitely see some resources and break-outs that address things on a National scale.

A\J: 14-30 is a fairly wide age range - how will the summit accommodate the differences between high school students, university students, community organizers and working professionals? 
JL: Workshops and panels are broken down by “level of prior knowledge” rather than an age-specific categorization. We want to encourage dialogue between generations and age groups. Delegates can choose the workshops and panels they want to attend based on the level of difficulty.

A\J: What accessibility accommodations will be made for people who might need services such as ASL interpretation, wheelchair accessibility or childcare? 
JL: We will look into this on U of T locations – the buildings are wheelchair accessible. Childcare and ASL is not currently being offered.

A\J: Conferences can be very inspiring, but sometimes it can be frustrating to go home and continue to be surrounded by people who aren't as passionate about environmental issues, and momentum can easily be lost. Will Earth Day Canada be taking any action to keep attendees motivated and engaged after the conference?
We will be creating a platform going forward to keep delegates connected with one another and tuned into the work they are doing. There is a Beyond Green mobile app where users can create profiles and keep each other up to date through social media.

Jon-Erik Lappano is the program manager of Earth Day Canada’s EcoMentors program. Lappano is leading the organizing team for the Beyond Green Environment Summit. He has a Master’s of Education from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, with a focus on Environmental Education and Community Development.

Irene Lam is Earth Day Canada’s new EcoMentors Program Intern, who is assisting with the development and coordination of the Beyond Green Environment Summit. She is a recent graduate of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. Lam has had experience working in environmental education and program development through her co-op placements with Free The Children and Me to We, Environment Canada and the Toronto Urban Studies Centre.

The Beyond Green Environment Summit runs from Friday, October 25 to Sunday, October 27 at the University of Toronto. Learn more and check out the schedule at the Beyond Green website

Check out A\J’s workshops on Sunday!

  • Environmental Journalism for the Web, 10:00 am – Get some blogging tips from A\J's web team & start a post that might get published on the A\J site.
  • Responsible Living, 2:00 pm – Learn how to make the shift to more ecologically and socially responsible living with A\J's Emily Slofstra.

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