For Canadian Environment Week we are taking the time to appreciate the diverse and resilient natural environment that Canadians are fortunate to experience. More importantly, we are celebrating those who protect this natural environment—leaders who protect the wildlife, rivers, lakes, and oceans that we so fundamentally depend on. One of these fearless leaders is our Riverkeeper and Partnership Lead for Swim Drink Fish, Lauren Hornor.
On May 14, among 1,300 guests and volunteers, Lauren was the recipient of the 2019 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Environmental Sustainability and is deserving of this honour for many reasons.
A public interest environmental lawyer, Lauren spent the last decade building successful community-focused environmental organizations in across Western Canada and Miami. She began her legal career representing not-for-profit organizations in Clean Water Act actions against major industrial polluters in New York City and petitioned the US government when it attempted to roll back the Clean Water and Air Act protections while at Waterkeeper Alliance.
After years navigating the legal system, Lauren transitioned from full-time lawyer to full-time Riverkeeper more than ten years ago when she left New York for Vancouver. Moved to devote more time to developing organizations that will restore and protect watersheds for generations to come. Lauren spent the last decade working to uphold the ideal that each and every person has a right to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water.
Lauren has been instrumental in building what is now called the Swim Drink Fish movement, a movement 3 million strong and growing- a movement of people working for swimmable drinkable fishable water.
Growing up as connected to water in Miami, Florida, Lauren became involved and passionate about water protection early on. She launched Fraser Riverkeeper with Carol McDonald, Mark Mattson, the late Doug Chapman in 2007 with the mission of ensuring swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for all British Columbians. Lauren founded the Annual Fraser River Cleanup and spearheaded the Fraser River Illegal Dumping Alliance in order to unite community leaders and take protactive action against illegal dumping on the Fraser River. With Lauren’s passion and support, Fraser Riverkeeper launched the False Creek Water Monitoring Program in 2018, collecting raw data and empowering recreational water users to know and safeguard their waters. Working with environmental leader Krystyn Tully in Toronto, Lauren assisted in the launch of Swim Guide, providing an accessible way for the public to access water quality information from over 9,000 beaches around the world.
In 2010 Lauren founded Miami Waterkeeper in her hometown and, working with water warriors Alexis Segal and Rachel Silverstein, has inspired thousands of youth in Miami and Vancouver to become water guardians and remains the organization’s Chair.
In the words of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., “Lauren is as comfortable up to her knees in mud in a river as she is giving a keynote address at a gala.” With a background as an Environmental Attorney, Lauren has mastered storytelling and connecting people together around one message--ensuring swimmable, drinkable, and fishable water for all. She has used her skills to bring Water Literacy Workshops to schools and community groups across Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, as well as connect philanthropists, business leaders, artists, athletes, and environmental leaders to important issues that impact our relationship with water and its protection. Lauren's commitment to clean water was recognized at the 2016 Waterkeeper Gala in Toronto as one of the Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors.
We are incredibly proud to celebrate Lauren in receiving the honour of Environmental Sustainability, YWCA Women of Distinction. We cannot wait to see what she accomplishes next as one of Canada’s environmental leaders.