Where are they now? An SLLP Alumni Feature: Colin O’Neil

Where are they now? An SLLP Alumni Feature: Colin O’Neil

Blog post by: Richelle Giberson

I can honestly say that the SLLP has inspired me in all aspects of my life, big and small.” – Colin O’Neil, 2013 SLLP Alumn

Colin O’Neil at Crotch Lake, near his home in Ontario.

We recently caught up with Colin O’Neil, an alumn from the 2013 Sustainable Living Leadership Program (SLLP). When he participated in the SLLP, Colin was 23 and living in New Westminster. He had a strong interest in urban sustainability, which drove his SLLP community project idea. You can see Colin’s SLLP Alumni profile here and read about his hugely successful SLLP community project titled the Sustainable Spaces Dialogue here.

Now 28 and living on a 3-acre homestead in the Ottawa River Watershed (in Perth, Ontario), Colin has completed his Master’s Degree in Geology with York University and is currently working at the Little Stream Bakery and an organic farm called Waratah Downs Farm. The bakery promotes local healthy, organic food and primarily bakes bread for grocery stores in the area, all of which is made from organic flour ground on-site and baked in a wood-fired oven.

The SLLP was a totally inspiring and life-changing experience and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it has had a role in everything that I have done since.”

Colin and his sister at the top of Mount Frosty in Manning Park, BC.

When asked if the SLLP had a lasting impact on his life, Colin said, “I can honestly say that the SLLP has inspired me in all aspects of my life, big and small.” The SLLP helped Colin build upon his interest in urban sustainability issues through his SLLP community project Sustainable Spaces Dialogue and led him to a number of sustainability issues around the Lower Mainland. It inspired him to combine his interest in canoeing, hiking, and backpacking with his interest in sustainability, conservation, and local history. It was through this that Colin began to shape his research on larger scale conservation movements and, ultimately, formed a research project on the Peel Watershed in Yukon Territory, which was the subject of his master’s degree. You can read Colin’s thesis Protecting the Peel: Environmental conservation in the age of First Nations self-government, An examination of conservation in Yukon’s Peel Watershed here.

From the jobs he has had since completing the SLLP (MEC, Kootenay Country Co-op in Nelson, teaching assistant, organic bakery), to his research and community involvement, to the little things that make up his every day, Colin says, “The SLLP was a totally inspiring and life-changing experience and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it has had a role in everything that I have done since.”

If you would like to learn more about Colin, he wrote a blog post for us in February, Reflecting on the SLLP as the river that has carried me downstream in addition to viewing his SLLP Alumni Profile.

Colin and a friend on Mount Robson during one of their annual week-long Rockies backpacking trips.