#SFTop25 finalist 2017 - Brandon Nguyen

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Age: 17
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Brandon Nguyen’s passion for environmental issues stems from, intriguingly, his collection of exotic creatures. Leopard geckos, South American horned frogs, and green anoles are just some of the critters that Brandon has owned throughout his life.

“As I grew up, I started to learn more about the environmental issues that affect and risk the future of these beautiful animals,” Brandon explains. “From there, my passion for advocating and protecting the environment grew.”

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When Brandon was introduced to issues such as climate change and environmental protection in fifth grade, he founded an environment club in his school. With time, he founded an organization called Save the Animals (STA) in support of global wildlife conservation efforts.

Fast-forward to a few years later, when Brandon noticed that there was very little communication or collaboration between school environmental clubs across the city, he hoped to connect and engage students from clubs across the city. Brandon founded the Toronto Coalition of Ecoschools (TCE), bringing his idea of a citywide youth environmental organization to fruition. Through this organization, and in addition to his tenacity and kind, captivating personality, he has inspired hundreds of students to take action in their communities.

The TCE has held educational roundtable discussions on themes such as Technology and Science in Sustainability and Food Security, featuring university professors, industry professionals, and even a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. “I’d love to continue expanding the TCE…during my undergraduate education and continue advocating and fighting for environmental literacy and awareness for students,” he states.

Today, Brandon has adopted a more political and entrepreneurial lens to fighting climate change, placing emphasis on the critical role of youth, educational institutions, and governments in fighting for a more sustainable future. In fact, Brandon even had the opportunity to attend the United Nations Youth Assembly, on behalf of the TCE.

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A colleague recalls, “When chosen to visit the Denmark permanent mission on behalf of Canada, Brandon not only drafted ideas and proposals to politicians, he also took the initiative to provide suggestions and pose questions.” Brandon’s experiences with social and environmental justice brought him to a place where he could confidently provide suggestions for environmental policy to not just other youth, but also to world leaders, creating long-term, real-world solutions. We are seeing Brandon’s passion for environmentalism and policy fusing together to make a lasting impact.

Brandon is also actively engaged with the environmental community in Toronto. He describes, “Whether it be attending municipal town halls or climate strategy development workshops, I strive to ensure that the voices of youth are represented at decision making tables on all levels of government.”

Brandon’s story reminds us that we can find inspiration from anywhere – including a fascination with exotic animals. No matter the hobby, interest, or passion, the common necessity is having a functional, healthy environment – now, and for the future. And it looks like it’s in good hands, according to one of Brandon’s colleagues, who references his unparalleled dedication to environmentalism: “When I think of possibility for the future, I think of Brandon’s incredible work within the world of environmentalism today.”


  • Brandon serves as the executive director of the Toronto Coalition of Ecoschools (TCE), a youth-run, non-profit organization that advocates for the environmental literacy and awareness in schools across Toronto. TCE now has over 50 ambassadors from 30+ schools.

  • Brandon is the Director of Public Relations on the Toronto Youth Cabinet, the official youth advisory board to the city of Toronto.

  • As co-president of the Martingrove Environment Club, Brandon advocates for and promotes sustainable living to hundreds of his peers and teachers.

  • In 2016, Brandon attended the United Nations Youth Assembly as a part of the Canadian delegation, asking riveting questions to international media representatives, environmental NGOs, and policy makers.

  • Brandon was recently accepted into the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he plans to pursue a double degree in Economics and Environmental Studies.