At the cutting edge of sustainable development

3 minutes

Chloe Machillot

United by a long-term growth objective, businesses in downtown Montreal are innovating to develop a district that’s as environmentally, socially, and economically dynamic as it is resilient. This concern for sustainable development has become essential to most of their activities, putting the area on the cutting edge of best practices for future generations.

Just a walk through downtown is enough to see that resilience is guiding many projects. Recycling of ad banners, promoting active transportation, making the city greener… every small initiative plays a part in the City’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

We’re past sharing intentions and are already involved in establishing alternative models,” notes Josée Duplessis, director general of Maison du Développement durable. “Sustainable development is in an acceleration stage known as an ecological transition.”

Cyclical greening of the downtown core

Over 1,000 hanging planters and 48 live, rooted tree bins were installed on Sainte-Catherine Street last summer. The species planted were selected to promote biodiversity. Moreover, at the end of the season, the flowers were collected and composted at surrounding farms, which use the compost as fertilizer for their fields. As for the trees, they were recovered by horticultural company EZPotCulture, which replanted them in their fields and will care for them until next year. Using the same process, the same company will also provide beautiful potted evergreen trees to decorate the downtown core this winter.

The real estate sector gets involved

The construction of green, resilient buildings has also become commonplace for most investors in the downtown core. More and more innovative buildings are obtaining LEED certification, an international standard that assesses the design, construction, and operation of sustainable buildings. The Manulife tower, for example, has been granted a LEED Gold certification. A short distance away, the Deloitte tower is aiming for LEED Platinum, the highest certification granted. The future HEC campus, which is slated to open its doors, near Square Victoria metro, next spring, is also a leader in this trend. The campus’s innovative features (green roofs, geothermal wells, landscaping that promotes biodiversity, integration of active transportation, etc.) have earned it a LEED Gold certification.

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Retailers join the movement

There are more and more leaders in sustainable development, and they’re inspiring others. Montreal is on the cutting edge in this sense,” affirms Cristina D’Arienzo, director of operations at Montréal Centre-Ville.

She points to a “domino effect” amongst retailers. “Many restaurant-ownersare trying to reduce how much waste they produce by offering compostable take-out containers. In addition to doing something for the planet, they’re showing other retailers that it is possible, and that’s inspiring them to do the same thing,” she explains. Consumers are also becoming sensitized to the issue. Many decide to frequent businesses based on their environmental practices.

The work continues downtown

I think that the idea of sustainable development goes far beyond green practices. It’s about a global rethinking,” adds Loretta Cianci, director of campus development at HEC Montréal. “The campus project, for example, was designed using participative thinking methods. Even neighbouring residents got involved! This is cutting edge—our practices aren’t just in the interest of being more economical or environmentally friendly, they also consider the well-being of the community.”

There are still many challenges left in the name of sustainable development in the downtown core. “Many practices are easier to institute in new buildings. But now we need to get to work on existing buildings,” emphasizes Duplessis. “Through the already very active mobilization and dialogue happening between institutions and the business and cultural communities; we’ll keep pushing things further, together.”