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These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.

Lauren Castelino brings diversity to green jobs.

As the co-executive director at Regenesis and the founder of one of its initiatives, the Green Career Centre, this 22-year-old has helped thousands of youth — many of whom are women, newcomers, Black, Indigenous or people of colour — find employment in the emerging clean economy.

In 2022, Starfish Canada named her one of the Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25.

Lauren with a group of women changemakers from across Turtle Island at the Gender & Climate Action Summit in New York. Photo courtesy ChangemakerxChange

Tell us about your project.

Regenesis empowers university students to address environmental and social concerns through advocacy and local service. We have chapters in six Ontario universities and are expanding into British Columbia and Quebec. This summer, we will employ at least 40 youth to support and grow our programs including farmers’ markets and free stores on campuses, advocating for cycling, and engaging in habitat restoration.

I founded the Green Career Centre to help prepare underrepresented youth for green careers. We host green career fairs and workshops, conduct innovative participatory and community-centred research, and develop useful and impactful resources.

More than 60,000 youth have used our wage subsidy tool to help find funding to cover their internship or full-time role. This acts as a strong incentive for employers to diversify their workforce.

As the co-executive director at Regenesis and the founder of one of its initiatives, the Green Career Centre, this 22-year-old has helped thousands of youth — many of whom are women, newcomers, Black, Indigenous, people of colour — find employment.

Employers use our Green Equity Guide to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. We also post green job opportunities daily to 1,300-plus underrepresented youth in our Youth Green Jobs Network.

For our research, we often gather a group together so they can share their own experiences and feel more empowered as a result of learning they are not alone. We learn about the obstacles they face while they benefit from a sense of belonging and an understanding of the systemic nature of the barriers rather than seeing it as a problem unique to them.

What is an example of a barrier?

A student might feel drawn to work on climate change or environmental solutions but if there is no one in their field of interest with whom they can identify with, they might remain unaware of their potential contribution. Similarly, it is more likely that an employer will design opportunities attractive to underrepresented youth if their workplace is already diverse.

Lauren giving the opening remarks at the Green Career Centre's first annual Green Career Fair in Toronto. Photo by Vanessa Ip

How do you know you are helping?

I heard a fairly typical example recently. A young newcomer woman used our resources to find funding and community to support her green career. She got accepted to the United Nations Association of Canada’s Building Young Entrepreneurs program to enhance her skills and grow her network. She is now working at what she describes as her “dream company.”

How did you get into this work?

As a teen, I watched a lot of documentaries. The ones that focused on solutions like regenerative agriculture, sustainable fashion and minimalist lifestyles inspired me to help make change. I started my first business at 15 making sustainable skin care products.

At university, I presented a brief based on my own research to federal policymakers outlining barriers underrepresented youth face in securing green jobs. I was delighted when changes were made in line with my recommendations and felt empowered to build out the Green Career Centre.

Lauren in nature. Photo by Paula Dicu

What makes your work hard?

It saddens me when the work of young women of colour is stolen or they do not get the pay or recognition they deserve.

Underrepresented youth need fair compensation and lack a network. In the sustainability sector, access to opportunities is dominated by older white cis-het men with intergenerational wealth.

We have all the resources we need to tackle climate change and inequality. Systems of colonialism, capitalism, racism, sexism, ageism and patriarchy prevent the changes we need, but everyone will lose if we cannot make change happen.

What gives you hope?

Meeting other inspiring young climate justice activists who are making a difference. It’s truly incredible to see our scaled impact when we work together.

What do you see if we get this right?

A diverse, highly skilled workforce prepared for the energy transition. Every job becomes a green job.

A throwback photo of Lauren and her family. Photo courtesy Lauren Castelino

Tell us about your background.

My parents and grandparents immigrated to Canada and worked hard to make a good life for my sister and I despite the obstacles that they faced being coloured and immigrants. My maternal grandfather started his own business. My entrepreneurial spirit comes from him.

Have you got any advice for other young people?

Work hard and be kind. We need more young people passionate about driving towards a climate-resilient, just and equitable world. Being kind is seriously underrated. Be a good person and it will get you where you need to be.

What would you like to say to older readers?

Have faith in young people and their efforts to make a better world. Attend their events, make them introductions/connections, share their message across social media and give them your time and money. We offer lots of ways for you to make a difference at Regenesis and the Green Career Centre.