#SFTop25 finalist 2017 - Austin Keen

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Age: 21
Hometown: White Rock, British Columbia

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Austin Keen has always been a passionately curious human. His huge heart and care for others is what has driven him to becoming an exemplary ambassador for sustainable living.

Environmental ethics have been instilled with Austin from a young age, which led him to taking charge and taking action in his community. After seeing the immense amounts of recycling going in the garbage in a nearby business complex, he took it upon himself to pick up and sort the garbage twice a week. After measuring the amount of litter in the complex, he convinced the landlord and store managers to purchase recycling stations.

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One of the most influential moments in Austin’s environmental journey started when he was accepted into the David Suzuki Foundation’s Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound program. This experience gave him the opportunity to grow and reflect on his environmental advocacy work while being welcomed into a community of like-minded and inspiring individuals. It’s here where Austin learned about community building and organizing around a cause, making him even more energized to create progressive change in his community.

Most importantly, the program was run in partnership with the Squamish First Nation, where leaders shared teachings about the traditional importance of Howe Sound stretching back thousands of years. Austin soaked these lessons in, and still remembers traditional recipes and stories years after he initially learned them.

It’s at Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound where Austin was able to accelerate himself into a new way of exemplifying environmental stewardship. He put this newly gained knowledge to work by helping Camp Fircom design, develop and implement a new leadership camp for 24 Indigenous youth from Surrey only seven months after Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound. Austin was there to share his passion and knowledge for the environment, leading educational hikes through out the forest and leading discussions on environmental issues. 

Austin didn’t stop there. He took regular trips back to Camp Fircom where he helped the camp improve its environmental auditing system. Austin and a team of five other volunteers completed an environmental audit for Camp Fircom, resulting in a comprehensive report which included several recommendations on how Camp Fircom could further its goal of enhanced sustainability. The camp has since implemented many of this recommendations and are well on their way to becoming an outstanding example to other camps across the country.

Austin is an exceptional leader, mentor and confidant. He is eager and ready to share his abilities and insights with the next generation of environmental leaders. And we can’t wait to see what he has in store next.

This article was sponsored by Rotary Club of Semiahmoo. Here’s what they have to say about Austin:

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A 2016 SASSY Award for Environmental Leadership, a recent graduate of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) District 5050, and now one of Canada's Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25! We are so proud of what Austin has accomplished and the leadership he has shown in our community! Congratulations Austin! We look forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the future.