YENYR and the Ecohacks

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NO, this is NOT an Icelandic alternative rock group! YENRY is the acronym for the Youth Environmental Network of York Region, and Ecohacks was their most recent conference held at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.

I had the honour to be asked to be their keynote speaker, but best of all, to tour the classrooms where the Ecohackers were hard at work prior to the keynote. The participants were all highly intelligent young high school students taking on the challenge of designing apps that would help our black mirror society become more environmentally literate.

Here are just a few examples: an app on your phone so you could take a picture of a product and it would give you its entire ecological footprint. Or another that could analyze the air quality of your specific GPS location and produce a time lapse video of your air quality history. Or another that let you know how far your produce had to travel to your store so you could make better “shop local” choices. Or, how about one that would alert you if you left an appliance on – like the proverbial halfway to Florida, “Dear, did you unplug the iron?” Yes, no more turning the car around thanks to Ecohacks!

Of course, being a bit of a rabble rouser, I would walk into each pod of hard working, app designing students and ask, “So, is this the room where you’re designing the dating app?”  It always got a laugh, until one group looked up and said, “That’s a good idea!”

“No, no,” I tried to explain, “I was joking.”

“Yes, yes,” they replied, “Still, a good idea!”

Their idea was to put together an app that would identify all the members of SEN in the GTA – if you wanted to get together for a brainstorming session to make the world more sustainable, you just had to go to the SEN “dating app” and find a group of like-minded, intelligent, respectful students near you and invite them over. Parents would love it!

“Hey, those SEN kids are coming over tonight. Again.”

“That’s fine, dear, Maybe we can go out to the movies then. You know those kids take such good care of the house when we’re away. I wonder if they’ll design an app for my next recipe ingredients – I do want to make sure they are sustainable and ecologically wise.”

So, from a joke about a dating app for environmentally literate students getting together to an app about sustainable development, we’ve come a long way baby. Gro Harlem Brundtland would be proud.

“The children of today are wiser than the children of light,” as my wise old Dad used to say about any gem that I verbalized, I never knew who the “children of light were, but I think I met some of them today at SENYR Ecohacks.

Now, I just need an app to help me find my glasses .. and my keys! “Honey, where are my … ? However, the app that won the day was “Littervision” winning The People’s Choice and Best Hack Award. They had the program that allowed users to take pictures of trash and identify the materials. Also, “Locomotion” won “Best Pitch” – they created the website that allowed people to easily buy local foods.

And all this from the mouths of babes, albeit very bright, very engaged babes The wisdom of the Elders is not a chronological reference point. And although I was their “Elder” keynote speaker, they had to guide me in and out of the building. A senior’s moment, and I trusted their guidance absolutely.

Our future will be safe in their hands if we just let them guide us there.


Skid Crease, Caledon


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