July 20, 2010
Yan Yu discovered his passion for sustainability issues while visiting his relatives in rural China nearly three years ago.
"I felt miserable for having so much while others in my own family had so little. I felt like I needed to do something to help reduce such injustice," he says.
The fourth-year biology student concentrated on improving sustainability close to home. As a result, Mr. Yu recently received the Top 20 under 20 Award from Youth in Motion for his innovation and achievement.
In his second year, he started Queen's Students against Wasting Food (QSAWF), a group dedicated to reducing dining hall food waste.
As an intern at the Main Campus Residents' Council, he lobbied to establish a sustainability coordinator position. In that role, Mr. Yu created the MCRC Green Team. Those students work to decrease food waste, run a campus cleanup crew, grow vegetables in windowsill gardens and coordinate the first residence worm-composting system in Canada.
Mr. Yu, 19, will serve as a deputy sustainability coordinator with the Queen's Alma Mater Society during the 2010-11 school year.
Mr. Yu believes the award celebrates more than his accomplishments.
"Recognizing ‘green leaders' in society is one of the main indicators that a cultural shift is occurring, that green is no longer a fad practiced by the minority," he says.
Queen's sustainability manager Aaron Ball praises Mr. Yu's commitment to making Queen's more environmentally friendly.
"Yan is a student who best exemplifies the culture of sustainability that is being created on campus, demonstrating a passion for environmental stewardship and taking every opportunity to engage his student peers and all those around him in like-minded action," he says.
Mr. Yu sees sustainability as a life-long commitment. When he begins his medical education at the University of Calgary in the Fall of 2011, Mr. Yu will work to make the health care system more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
"I still have so much to learn, and I have no doubts there will be roadblocks and opposing views, but I will always keep an open mind," he says.