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Vanessa Timmer

Executive director, One Earth, Age 38
Harvard University, television, University of British Columbia, Vanessa Timmer

While most teenagers were watching television or hanging out at the mall, Vanessa Timmer was helping establish large-scale environmental initiatives.

When she was 15 years old, Timmer and 13 others founded the Environmental Youth Alliance – a project that brought 600 students from across B.C. and Canada together to meet one another and discuss the environment and “positive futures.”

“There were so many people thinking about the environment but feeling disconnected,” said Timmer. “We wanted to bring everyone together, take action on issues and get inspired.”

And inspire it did. After completing her master’s degree at Oxford University, Timmer went on to receive a PhD in resource management and environmental studies at the University of British Columbia. She is also an associate with Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

After graduation, Timmer once again set her sights on establishing a green initiative. In 2006, she co-founded One Earth, a non-profit research and advocacy organization – a “think- and do-tank” – that focuses on sustainable consumption and production patterns. Timmer wants us to use and waste fewer materials in our day-to-day lives.

It’s a big mandate, including everything from policymaking to rethinking design and manufacturing to influencing choices such as purchasing habits.

Her work spans from the local level to the whole of North America, including as part of a newly launched Cities for People program with the McConnell Family Foundation.

Vanessa and her sister Dagmar also co-host an award-winning television show, The Sustainable Region – a behind-the-scenes look at environmental, economic and social stories in the region, with hundreds of archived videos available on the Metro Vancouver website.

As One Earth continues to grow, Timmer sees the body as a catalyst or a “dot connector” that supports myriad groups in sustainable pursuits. She works with governments, academics, businesses, non-profits and individuals. By connecting with each, she believes a more sustainable future will be achieved.

“I want to see an absolute reduction in material and energy use,” she said.

“I want to see actual changes in supply chains. I believe we can see that in the next five years.”