Many in our community know of Megan Lohmann… the mom, the volunteer, the organizer, the Nordic ambassador, the environmentalist. But it is unlikely most know the depth of her passion and the impact she has had on our community and beyond through her dedication and hard work.
Last month, Megan was a finalist for BC Business Women of the Year, and was named Runner Up in the Change Maker Category, an individual who has “driven positive change, whether it’s in BC or beyond.” As I congratulate Megan on this worthy recognition, she smiles and says, “I get to go to a fancy dinner in Vancouver.” With her schedule, I can understand why this is exciting to her.
Megan’s interest in the environment began at a young age. Her family focused a lot on spending time in the outdoors, camping and canoeing in Ontario.
“The small town we lived in was close to a lake. I grew up going to summer camp there where the emphasis was also on the outdoors and the environment. It led to my first job as a camp counsellor,” she says.
From there, Megan moved onto tree planting, and then to working in the Arctic on soil contamination. Being on the ground in these environments made her more in tune with complex issues that result from industry.
“I originally went to the Arctic to clean up contamination from the 60s. Metal, oil, hydrocarbons, PCBs. We would delineate an area, develop a clean-up plan and then do testing. My interest was in global contamination and how it affects vulnerable communities. The more I worked in that area, the community began to share their concerns about climate change. The contaminants were being released into the soil and water because permafrost was melting… it had been held there. Ice flow had changed, food sources are disappearing. That exposure to stories from people most impacted shifted my focus from contamination to a climate change lens.”
Near the completion of her degree in Environmental Science, Megan and her partner Corin moved to Fernie, where he was registered in the MAST program. From here, Megan completed her degree and then went on to complete her Masters in Environmental Management at Royal Roads University.
It was while living in Fernie that Megan began to realize the influence local governments have on the actions and behaviours of citizens, which led her to working with others to create bigger impacts.
“I supported the development of climate plans and energy and emissions plans – it was a niche area at that time in 2004,” she tells me. “I pitched a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan to the City of Fernie, secured funding so it had zero impact on the budget, and it gave me the opportunity to get to know the community. At this time, the BC Government was developing the Climate Action Charter. There were so many opportunities!”
Megan went on to work with Kimberley and Invermere, which led to her meeting other consultants doing similar work and creating more collaborations. This is how she was introduced to the Community Energy Association, which she is now the acting CEO of. In this role, Megan leads a team of 44 people who are mainly located in western Canada.
“It’s such a huge opportunity. My leadership style is one that tries to challenge people to think innovatively and creatively about what we can do. It’s so exciting and I am loving it,” she says.
The core mission of the Community Energy Association is to help local government and Indigenous communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and engage in climate change.
“But the way we do this is more exciting. We develop plans, support networks and elected officials to bring communities together to leverage big projects. We aggregate their energy and money to build something bigger. There is power in collaboration, and it’s what I love. It has resulted in Accelerate Kootenays and the Organics Facilities Project. It never happens quickly. I have been working on the organics project for nine years! It’s hard, but it’s the only way to have a big impact and you have to be comfortable with the long game.”
Megan tells me that she has secured eight million dollars that has been deployed in local communities. “It’s a lot, but we could do so much more. It feels like it’s just the beginning, as people are becoming more comfortable with regional collaboration. It takes boldness, and focusing on the co-benefits,” she adds.
Now, Megan’s focus is on enabling staff to do their day to day work while also thinking bigger and innovatively about how they can further their work. Personally, she is focusing on helping communities to find opportunities for collaboration.
“It is really challenging work, and it’s important to know that every action you do does create an impact of some degree. This field can crush you in an instant, and you have to balance that with, ‘what I am doing is making a difference,’” Megan says.
How does Megan stay positive?
“The only option is to try and that is the example I try to set for my kids. I want them to acknowledge that there will be barriers and challenges, and if it means you have to work harder, find new relationships and partnerships, that is what you have to do. I am fixated on the long game, so I accept that it won’t be easy which makes it easier to stay positive.”
On top of being a mom and a CEO, Megan and Corin run Athabasca Glacier Icewalks. Corin had worked there for eight years as a guide and when the owner was retiring, they jumped at the opportunity.
“Again, it was the opportunity to provide the experience of being on a glacier and learning about climate impacts in real life. It is immersive, standing on a water source feeding communities across Alberta. You walk away with a sense of responsibility,” Megan says.
And how does she unwind?
“We both travel for work, so we focus on intentional family time together… offline in nature. And we also take comfort in knowing everyone is doing what they love and demonstrating that to our girls.”
Congratulations, Megan. And thank you for all you do for our community.
1. When did you first arrive in Elk Valley and what brought you here?
I guess it was the 2004/5 season and it was Corin as he was enrolled in the MAST program.
2. Who did you remember first meeting?
Well, it was Lu Furber actually. I had some camp friends who knew her and we moved in with her on 3rd Ave.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of the Elk Valley?
It was kind of crazy. It was so quiet downtown with so many vacant stores. It felt very seasonal, which was fine, and it felt like an adventure.
4. What keeps you here?
It’s the perfect community to raise kids, the friends I made in those early years are now my Fernie family, and I can do what I love at a level I love here.
5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
I really cherish my camping time, and when we go up to the icefields and are offline. Exploring new wild places in western Canada can completely refresh me over just two days.
6. What time of the year do you love most and why?
I don’t know if I can pick one! I love the cottonwood smell – it is actually something I remember noticing. It smells so good in spring! And I love the anticipation of the first snow.
7. Where do you see or hope to see the Elk Valley in five years.
I hope that we can be proud of the way that we’ve centred the things that make this valley special and also make it thrive. That we can look back and say, we’ve been able to continue to build a community that serves everyone.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
I usually start each day the day before – I do a preview of my calendar to get my mind oriented for what I have to do. And then, coffee.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I’m a sucker for reality TV.
10. Quote to live by: It changes, but right now it’s from Phil Stutz - the people who accept that life is made up of pain, uncertainty, and constant work are better equipped and essentially happier than those who are constantly trying to avoid these things.