Renewable energy, ocean-saving robots and converting plastic waste: Here, three Canadian women on the careers they’ve built around helping to mitigate the climate crisis.
Julie Angus, Founder, Open Ocean Robotics, Victoria
“Much of my career has been spent exploring the ocean in small boats. One of my adventures was rowing across the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal to Costa Rica, and I started thinking about how we can better understand our oceans in a sustainable way. Open Ocean Robotics produces boats that have a bunch of environmental sensors and cameras to collect data and send it back in real time. They’re solar-powered, so there’s no greenhouse gas emissions, no risk of oil spills, no noise pollution. Our boats have been used in illegal-fishing enforcement; 30 percent of fish are caught illegally. We’re also helping with marine mammal detection. There are a number of endangered marine mammal species—like killer whales on the West Coast, and North Atlantic right whales on the East Coast—and it’s really important to ensure that no ships hit them or loud noises from construction impact their well-being.”
Delia Warren, Mechanical engineer, transitioning from oil and gas to renewable energy, Boston
“Newfoundland, where I’m from, is super windy, and harnessing natural resources to generate energy seemed like a no-brainer. But all the jobs were in oil and gas. In 2016, the oil sector took a big hit, and I knew I was going to get laid off. I said to myself, ‘I’m never going to work in oil and gas again.’ I went back to school for my MBA and focused on sustainability and renewable energy. I followed my husband, who works as a software developer, to Boston—it’s one of the hubs of offshore wind energy in North America, and there are a lot of projects in the pipeline. There’s no shame in working in oil and gas—it’s a good job—but we need to decarbonize, and people in the industry need to find new, valuable long-term jobs. I was just offered a position in the offshore wind industry. My goal is to become an expert in the technology and bring it home to Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Luna Yu, CEO and co-founder, Genecis Bioindustries, Toronto
“We divert organic food waste from landfills and convert it into plastics that are fully biodegradable. The plastic breaks down in compost in about six weeks, and when it goes into nature, small microbes in soil and marine environments eat it up as food. PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) compostable plastic can replace most of the products made out of polypropylene and polyethylene, which are two of the most used plastic resins out there. It can be made into flexible plastic, like packaging, or harder plastic, like forks and cups. If you want to quantify it, for every tonne of organic waste that is converted to PHA plastics, we can offset roughly 0.8 tonnes of carbon emissions. We work mostly with private companies—food waste management and food service companies—but in the future, we would love to work with municipalities. They collect hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food waste—we don’t have that capacity yet.”