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How Do You Make a City Greener?

By Luce Engérant and Kristi Heiman

· Other bloggers,General

Actually, how do you make your city greener? Not just think about it, but act on it? How do you get together with volunteers and incite other people to make the city greener with you? These are all questions that our eclectic and welcoming team (always open to new volunteers and new ideas) at MtlGreen ponders and acts on! Let’s find out the answers by going through our theory of change and vision for the next two years.

First, who and what is MtlGreen?

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MtlGreen is a community group, whose mission is to support local environmental and social initiatives in Montreal. Through action-oriented workshops, events and campaigns, MtlGreen creates sustainable skills and networks to empower changemakers and make the city greener. Our two core principles are interactiveness and opportunism, read on for how we put these to play!

Before explaining what we do, let’s start with where we came from. MtlGreen was born out of the 2015-2016 Montreal public consultation on “How to reduce the city’s dependence on fossil fuels”. As part of the public consultation process, many interactive activities were organized, to get Montrealers to engage & share their ideas. This brought together a small team of environmentally-passionate young people, and gave them a knack for organizing interactive activities around climate change... Can you tell where this is going? After the consultation report was submitted to the city, our core team wanted to keep going, which is where MtlGreen was born.

Now the team has grown and grown, and our interactive workshops have proliferated, yet we are still as open to new contributors and radical new ideas as ever. Everything we ever do is also all publically trackable here and here - much in the spirit of the Office de Consultation Publique de Montréal (OCPM) who are excellent librarians and record keepers of citizen ideas collected during public consultations. You can join us too. Our recruiting (and commitment) motto is: “You decide your level of involvement”. See below for a note on how we organize.

Out of the Public Consultation, we didn’t just get a team, but also got our priorities straight. The report identified the 3 biggest areas that contribute to Montreal’s GHG emissions: transportation, consumption habits, and energy efficiency in buildings! This is what we focus on.

Our Theory of Change

At MtlGreen, as mentioned in our mission, we aim to help sustainability-centred initiatives in cities grow and thrive. The idea behind this statement is to recognize that there is already a lot happening in Montreal to make the city greener. From one person, deciding to shop for local fruits & vegetables, to one start-up opening to promote car-sharing, to a university student club that wants to reduce food waste on campus, to the city of Montreal’s planning for better public transportation & recycling. At different scales, many people are interested and already taking action for a more sustainable tomorrow, and greener cities.

At MtlGreen, we recognize this, and one of our key principles is to be opportunistic. As passionate young people with the drive, energy, and money to help… our modus operandi is to think: How we can help these already existing initiatives, this emerging citizen-interest in the environment, and foster more climate action at the municipal level, to empower sustainable change?

This has led us to organize many different interactive events (interactiveness is another one of our core-principles. We want to get people hands-on with climate action, not just being talked at). Here is a snapshot:

  • A start-up weekend in January 2018 on eco-social impact. Why? In this 70+ hour event, we brought Montrealers who were thinking about starting their own social or environmental group, and gave them the petri-dish experience to try it. Bringin different changemakers together. One of the participating teams actually started on their idea. Check out Boco Boco. Another bonus? We got to partner with the Forum des Compétences Canado-Marocaines (FCCM) team on this one, making new friends & social-minded contacts.
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  • Green CrowdSolves. These half-day ideation workshops bring together local green entrepreneurs (or social enterprise founders) and interested Montrealers. We help the entrepreneurs identify & present a challenge they are currently facing, which the community helps find solutions to. In 2017-2018 we held several of these workshops, around the themes of Transportation, Sustainable Food Habits, and Waste Reduction. Here’s to 8 happy entrepreneurs and 50+ engaged Montrealers! 
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  • International collabs. Part of going green locally involves seeing how others are doing it internationally, we think. This year, we also organized several international collabs - to draw that international knowledge to Montreal! For example, this year we had a booth at ICLEI’s annual summit (hosted in Montreal). The summit draws together many international experts in sustainability & cities, so we took the opportunity to pick their brains, create a mind-map, and extract new ideas for what we could be doing in Montreal. More on that in an article, soon on the way.      Another international collab example? When we partnered with Data Driven Yale and the Samuel Center for Social Connectedness to organize the soft-launch of their Urban Environment and Social Index, in Montreal. The index covers over 30 cities and leverages geospatial data to gain insights into how climate change, pollution and socioeconomic status are linked in cities around the world. Participants got to play with the index, and give their feedback to the team!

How we work & where we are going

At MtlGreen we work in person, online, and in partnership. Although most of the team meets once per week in person, we prioritize virtual projects and remote work. This makes the experience of working with MtlGreen feel pretty cool, accessible, unique, and quite professional. Working in partnership, we are on the lookout for new opportunities, to take climate action and create interactive events with new actors!

Drop by our meeting. Join us to be part of the change, or tell us how we can partner with you! We plan to continue to do more of what we are doing, getting more people onboard, and moving the needle.

Do you want to tackle climate change in Canada? Check out the National Climate League, running from August 15th to October 31st, or join or start a local group at

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(Left to right) Luce is a management consultant based in Montreal, and Kristi L. Heiman is an environmental activist hailing from Boston. Both are MtlGreen volunteers.

Contact Luce at and Kristi at