Sustainival: A Success Story

One day in September, 2012, my daughter witnessed something that helped her to form the future trajectory of her life.

When we have kids, we never know what might have the most profound influence on them; and I certainly never expected a carnival would affect my daughter’s entire career path, but then again it wasn’t just any carnival. It was Sustainival, the world’s first green carnival, on their inaugural visit to Fort McMurray.

That year the creative minds behind Sustainival offered local media like me the chance to see the magic and witness the biodiesel being used to fuel the rides be made on site. This biodiesel, made from used cooking oil, meant that the very oil used to fry the mini-donuts one day could be fuelling the Tilt-a-Whirl the next, and it was a bit of a mind-boggling introduction to innovative and creative sustainability.

And while it impressed me, it had even more impact on my daughter.

A few days after she witnessed the cooking oil conversion and spoke with Joey Hundert of Sustainival, she asked me if I thought renewable resources were being used in space exploration.

I, of course, had no idea.

A few months after that, she advised that after years of moaning she had no idea what to do with the rest of her life, she had decided: she was going to pursue mechanical engineering, followed by aerospace engineering with an eventual goal to work on developing sustainable technology for aerospace exploration.

Aside from being somewhat stunned by this suddenly very detailed career path, I found myself completely humbled as I knew what started this train of thought for her.

You see, when she went to Sustainival it was like watching a tiny baby bird begin to find their wings. They flutter them gently at first, stretching them out to see how far they go, and slowly and gradually they begin to gain strength and courage until one day they glide from the nest, only sky above them and the ground far below.

On that day the concept of sustainability and innovation went beyond a dry subject my daughter had heard taught in a classroom and discussed on television; she saw how innovation, creativity and a desire to simply do something differently could actually change history, like developing the world’s first green carnival.

My daughter graduated from high school this spring. She has worked hard throughout her academic career, and has racked up the impressive grades to prove it. She applied to several universities and was accepted to all, and from one received a very generous scholarship. And so this fall she will enter mechanical engineering, right on target for her future plans of a career filled with innovation, sustainability and creativity.

And it all began at a little carnival called Sustainival in 2012, where she found inspiration and encouragement to not only dream, but do.

So if you visit Sustainival, I want you to remember something. We never know what will impact our children; I certainly never predicted a visit to a carnival, even a green one, would determine the future my daughter chose.

And yet it did. I am so grateful to Sustainival and all the people behind it, because while my daughter has always had wings, it was they who showed her how to fly.

Sam Wells, Sustainival 2012

I am so delighted to share that since 2012, Sustainival has experienced great success, and has returned to Fort McMurray every year. And while I consider them to be a tremendous Albertan success story, they helped to create another success story: a young woman who found her future while eating mini-donuts and riding the Tilt-a-Whirl. I will always feel not only deep gratitude to them, but pride in their continued success just as I find deep pride in hers.

Sustainival is in Fort McMurray this year from June 15-18 – you can find more information here: Sustainival in Fort McMurray

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