The ECOLE Project, based out of the ECOLE House at 3559 University Street, is a student housing cooperative and “physical hub for the McGill and Montreal sustainability communities.” It is currently home to eight ECOLE Facilitators –McGill students who organize ECOLE’s events and initiatives. Having reduced operations during the pandemic, ECOLE is now working to rekindle its presence on campus. This year, ECOLE members are focusing primarily on outreach and network-building, through space-booking and working with other McGill organizations to host events in the ECOLE House.
“We really want to put the social in social sustainability,” said Lake Liu, an ECOLE Facilitator. “We try to make this a space for people who are interested in sustainability, people who even have this inkling of desire to learn more about sustainability. If we can just get one person who might not previously be involved in a single activity interested to learn more, I think we’ve served our purpose.”
Common areas of the ECOLE House are available for booking, free of charge, by “any student or community group with a social or material sustainability mandate.” Available spaces include the living room, a meeting room, and a dining room/kitchen.
“For us it’s a little bit more intimate because this is an actual living space,” said Liu. “We’re inviting people from all these different clubs to come in, and we get to meet them, and we open doors for people when they come in. […] We help them and they help us and that’s something that’s been really special.”
For their events, ECOLE does not exclusively collaborate with clubs that have a primary focus on sustainability; they have previously worked with the McGill Student’s Culinary Society, Student Nights Against Procrastination, and more.
“We’re just trying to have a lot of different clubs collaborate, make partnerships with different clubs or outside of the sustainability sphere. And that way, if you don’t have a history of sustainable activism or if you don’t really have a lot of lived experience within the ecological sort of focus, we want to invite you. We want to just open our doors,” said Liu.
According to Liu, ECOLE’s goal in doing this is to increase interest in sustainability. They focus especially on accessibility, with the aim that students of marginalized identities or those without a background in student activism can participate equally in sustainability spaces. “I think there’s also this conversation of privilege that needs to be had within sustainability on campus and in the larger world,” said Liu. “A lot of our events are targeted towards addressing these inequalities and promoting sort of more accessible forms of sustainability. It doesn’t have to necessarily be participating in activism; it could just be an everyday sort of living, just a little bit more sustainable sort of thing.”
As an example, Liu described the Kimchi making workshop hosted by ECOLE in collaboration with the Culinary Society: “While it’s not really something that I guess a lot of people would associate with sustainability, I think just teaching this sort of style of cooking and preserving vegetables [means that] in the future, if people end up with more vegetables than they can eat, they can do this sort of technique and make their own campaign. That intrinsically makes sustainability a sort of daily thing.”
“I met so many more people on campus this year at ECOLE events,” said Claire Xu, an ECOLE Facilitator. “It’s been really amazing to see so many diverse perspectives in one spot at once, and we’re just all enjoying each other’s company at potlucks or workshops or any events that are being held at ECOLE.”
She described a therapy dog session hosted by ECOLE in November: “It was just really wholesome watching people who hadn’t met each other form new friendships, hearing conversations. Everybody’s different and had something to say, and had something to add to that gathering, and that was just a lot of fun to be a part of.”
“My favourite part about being a facilitator is just the community,” said Liu. “As a student who’s not from Quebec, who doesn’t have family here, this has been like a home away from home. When I come back home, there’s always somebody to talk to, somebody to study with, somebody to eat a meal with. And that to me is just really sweet and heartwarming.”
“We have a lot of really exciting things happening and we’re really trying to grow as an organization,” said Liu, mentioning their upcoming referendum (March 13–17) and facilitator hiring for the next academic year. The ECOLE Project is active on Instagram and posts updates about their events and other sustainability and student life events happening on campus. They also have a website, an email list, and a Facebook.