On March 19, 2016, the Office de consultation publique de Montréal’s (OPCM) VertMTL hackathon gave creativity and entrepreneurship free reign as part of the city’s bid to reduce its carbon footprint. From measuring the environmental, social and economic impact of existing urban agriculture initiatives to long-term investments in education, by way of various transportation solutions, participants presented an impressive array of products and services, all carbon neutral life hacks that could significantly help the City reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

At about 10 a.m., the Concordia University Webster building atrium swarmed with a noisy mix of people of all ages. Scientists and storytellers, analysts and graphic artists, academics and salespeople balanced paper plates filled with muffins and fruit while exchanging expertly choreographed Montreal kisses, shaking hands, hugging or fist bumping. In the buzz of quips and conversations, laptops were unpacked, phones checked, systems connected, and claims on workspace staked. Notwithstanding the cold weather that had reaffirmed its hold on the city the night before, the promise of Spring hung in the air. Soon, budding ideas would unfold, grow and morph into something different, something new-and-improved, something no one could have created on his or her own.

In the usual order: Carolina Cruz, yours truly, Walter Stemberga and Matthew Chapman.
In the usual order, the chapOrange onsite team: Carolina Cruz, yours truly, Walter Stemberga and Matthew Chapman.

I spent the next 12 hours with Matthew Chapman, Coordinator and driving force behind Coalition Climat Montreal, make-it-happen Project Manager and Business Analyst Walter Stemberga, and Carolina Cruz, Algorithm & Metrics Research Coordinator at Myko, developing a framework for a communications agency dedicated to promoting Montreal’s carbon neutral start-ups. Energy remained high as we worked to meet deadlines for posting details online and rehearsing our pitch.

On March 20th, Carolina and Matthew presented our brainchild, chapOrange, to members of the consultation on fossil fuel dependence commission. In the audience were representatives of several City of Montreal Departments, the Ordre des architectes du Québec, the Société des alcools du Québec, Communauto, the École d’urbanisme et d’architecture d’aménagement de l’Université de Montréal, the Quartier de l’innovation and the Coop Carbone.

Fellow presenters included

The fate of the projects developed and fine-tuned during the event remains to be seen, but they all were invited to take part in the Smart Zero Carbon Cities Challenge, a contest held by the MIT Climate CoLab, which could see one of them collect a $10,000 prize.

For more information on the projects and organizations mentioned here, please click on the links provided. Contact information for each project is provided there as well.

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