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Homegrown Green Team

Katy Chandler and VJ Bernales at the Green+Leaders Recognition Event in 2023

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Within a bustling hub of residential and commercial developments in Burnaby, one of the fastest growing areas in Metro Vancouver, a new PHSA Green Team is just getting started. Led by two passionate advocates, Katy Chandler and Val Jan “VJ” Bernales, the team coalesces hope among staff at 1795 Willingdon Ave to adopt more sustainable practices. As the Green Team’s founders, Katy and VJ’s dedication to change goes beyond professional endeavors; it’s a personal mission deeply rooted in their values of service and sustainability.

For Katy, the connection between a healthy planet and human well-being is the driving force behind their mission. “Because it’s proven that the healthier our planet is, the healthier humankind will be,” she says. Katy’s upbringing in a sustainability-conscious family and her experience with health-care waste in the U.K. early on in her career fueled her desire for personal action.

VJ also looks at sustainability as an extension of his upbringing. “My parents and many role models instilled in me values of community, camaraderie, and care for people and the environment.” He hopes others will take part in sustainability in their own ways at work or at home.

The seed for the 1795 Willingdon Green Team was first planted in June 2023, when Katy became a Green+Leader. Looking to gauge the interest for a Green Team amongst her colleagues, she worked with the Green+Leaders Program Lead to get a list of all Green+Leaders at her workplace and sent them an email. “The email I sent out started a chain reaction that VJ very kindly picked up and turned into a meeting series for this group of colleagues to connect and get to work.”

The team is actively recruiting new members at the site and encourages anyone interested to get in touch.

Katy notes, “It’s been difficult to find the time on the side of my regular day job to get this team up and running.” However, she underscores the beauty of this being a team effort. Leadership, organization, and the vital task of formalizing the team are part of everyone’s roles. They believe in shared responsibilities, ensuring the team’s success and effective communication.

We hope to set the foundations of a team and mission that will last after us,” VJ explains. “What I hope long-term is to have more informed individuals who make conscious decisions to live more mindfully and sustainably both at work and outside of work.”

Katy and VJ also have sponsorship from Mark Goudsblom, Executive Director of Planetary Health at PHSA. In his support for this Green Team, Mark draws inspiration from the six Coast Salish teachings bestowed upon PHSA by Knowledge Keeper Shane Point, Sulksun. These teachings provide a foundation that guide PHSA’s approach, and are encapsulated in Mark’s words: “Every single individual has a role to play in saving our Earth (however small it might seem), in preserving its life-giving systems and all life that depends on it, plant, animal, and human – we are all connected: nuts a maht – we are one. Every action we take to reduce our human impact every day gives back life and time to future generations. Collectively we can be Eyhh slaxin – good medicine – every day.”