This story is a part of our RBC Future Launch Community Challenge (RBC FLCC) series, showcasing how youth are giving back and inspiring change by leading projects to address their communities’ needs.

If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that unpredictable factors can change our lives in a moment. In addition to the global pandemic, climate change is another source of that unpredictability, exemplified by downpours, melting ice, wildfires. Ever looming is the threat of more natural disasters that will impact people across the world. 

Northern communities in Canada are particularly at-risk. That’s why youth in the region are mobilizing to fight climate change for future generations. 

For youth-led project Eco-Iqaluit, that means implementing sustainable, affordable, long-term solutions like solar panels and reducing the use of fossil fuels in Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut. 

This volunteer community group is led by Nicole Amagoalik. Amagoalik is a junior program coordinator at Ilitaqsiniq, the Nunavut Literacy Council (NLC) whose mission is to support Nunavut’s residents in their efforts to facilitate a better quality of life through lifelong learning.

Supported by the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge, Community Foundations of Canada, RBC, and the NLC, youth leader Amagoalik hopes to teach Iqaluit residents how to harness the power of solar energy to adapt to our changing world.

“I’m hopeful that, one day, the issues youth face in my community will disappear and that our quality of life will improve,” said Amagoalik. “That’s why I wanted to deliver a program where youth can learn about how being eco-friendly can make a positive impact on a person’s quality of life. It costs less in the long run, and the youth can use their knowledge to teach their own families.”

How solar panels can impact food security and wellness

When COVID-19 caused cities and communities across Canada to implement measures for the health and safety of their residents, it not only delayed the launch of Eco-Iqaluit but it also further highlighted some of the struggles that Amagoalik says youth in Iqaluit face. 

“Throughout this pandemic, I’ve learned there is a lack of available resources,” said Amagoalik. Further explaining that food security, housing shortages and access to medical attention have always been a struggle, but that the impact of these issues is even more visible now. “Due to the cost of food, 70% of homes in Nunavut are food insecure,” she added. “For the youth less fortunate, it has been even harder to be able to afford food.”

Amagoalik hopes that implementing more eco-friendly initiatives in residents’ daily lives will not only help the environment but will also have a ripple effect on the community’s health and wellness. With Iqaluit households saving on energy costs by using solar panels rather than fossil fuels, they will have the ability to allocate the money to food and necessities. 

As for the critical and complex issues of affordable housing and health expenses, Amagoalik believes Eco-Iqaluit can inspire positive change on a broader scale. “I hope that our government can recognize the benefits of being more eco-friendly, which in return would save them more money to focus on those bigger issues of housing and health,” she says.

How did Eco-Iqaluit adapt to the challenges of the pandemic?

Access to essential resources, such as a computer, played an important role in how Amagoalik was able to prepare for the launch of Eco-Iqaluit and their trip to the cabin where they are installing the solar panels. 

“We were able to buy the solar panels online and hire local experts to teach youth how to install the panels, and the importance of going off the grid,” says Amagoalik, but the project did face challenges in adjusting to the changes brought on by COVID-19. She explains, initially, that there was a lack of communication when everyone was working from home. Now that people can stay distanced at the office safely, it’s easier to plan as a team and figure out the program’s logistics.

Ripples creating waves of change

Eco-Iqaluit will be launching on September 28, 2020, starting with the installation of two solar panels in one location. The excitement is already building around the community. 

“They’re excited to learn about how to install solar panels! The community sees this as a great initiative to start becoming eco-friendly,” Amagoalik says. 

When it comes to the impact, Amagoalik says she hopes Eco-Iqaluit causes a ripple effect in the community’s understanding of how eco-friendly approaches can benefit the environment, and the residents themselves, in the long run.  

“My hope for the future is for solar panels to be the norm, and an affordable option, so that our future children can live in a time where climate change is not as big of an issue as it is today.”

To keep up with the Eco-Iqaluit project and watch these ripples of change unfold, like and follow the Nunavut Literacy Council Facebook page

The RBC FLCC is a collaboration between Community Foundations of Canada and community foundations from coast to coast to coast. The #RBCFLChallenge youth-led projects are supported by RBC Foundation’s contribution of $2.2 million.