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Jacqueline Shen: Burnaby Youth Sustainability Network

Youth everywhere are taking a genuine interest in the environment. They are acknowledging the power that they have to make a lasting impact on our world and devising creative solutions to some of the biggest challenges. Jacqueline Shen is one young person making a real impact.

Jacqueline is a founding member and current president of the Burnaby Youth Sustainability Network (BYSN), a network of high school students across Burnaby, British Columbia, dedicated to making their schools more sustainable. The BYSN was founded in 2010 to unite similar groups from all high schools in Burnaby. The passion of many students shone through at their initial meetings and they were able to garner support from the school board and secure an annual operating budget of $2,500.

Jacqueline was in attendance at the first BYSN meeting and saw the potential of growing the network beyond Burnaby. She began working with friends in the neighboring districts of Coquitlam and Surrey and helped to establish the CYSN and SYSN. Today, most districts in metro Vancouver have Youth Sustainability Networks, thanks in part to Jacqueline’s dedication and passion for the environment.

Under Jacqueline’s guidance, BYSN has grown and continues to see success. The BYSN now organizes an annual “Do It Green” youth sustainability conference that has grown to over 500 participants in just three years, and was recently recognized with a City Environmental Award from the City of Burnaby. BYSN has also successfully executed a campaign against bottled water, resulting in the installation of water bottle refill stations in every high school in the region. They have expanded their audience through Generation Green, a program that connects high school and elementary school students for clean ups and other environmental events. They are currently working with students from every high school in Burnaby and a group of community partners to campaign for the installation of school gardens and battery recycling centers.

Outside of the BYSN, Jacqueline continues to engage in positive community change. She’s one of two youth delegates to the City of Burnaby’s Food Scraps Committee, which aims to implement a food scraps recycling program in all Burnaby schools. She also leads the Green Events Program, which is establishing a library of reusable event materials for high schools. Recently, Jacqueline gave a TedX talk on creative ways to reuse everyday objects. Inspired by “The Story of Bottled Water,” Jacqueline believes that most students are not aware of our planet’s waste issue. A school trip to a landfill and research on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and overseas electronic recycling operations made Jacqueline aware of the fact that trash never really goes away, a message she is now driven to share.