Sustainable Cities™

Montreal: Creating sustainable urban communities

In 2003, students from the McGill University of Montreal, Canada, began the Montreal Urban Community Sustainment collective (MUCS). A non-profit student organization, the MUCS was founded on the principles of green design, cooperative living, and education on sustainable livelihoods. The organisation’s mission is to create and promote sustainable urban communities.

Montreal, Flickr Creative Commons

Do two people really need their own stove? Do single people really need their own fridge? What if residences used solar power and harvested rainwater? These kinds of questions kick-started a group of McGill students into creating a new residence - one which is less wasteful, expensive and individualistic. Today, the MUCS group are actively involved in and are frontrunners of redesigning urban areas, creating dining co-ops with weekly meals, as well as the Montreal free school, offering free learning for all members of society.

The initial plans to build the McGill Urban Community Sustainment collective (MUCS) began in November 2002 when a group of McGill students with shared environmental concerns together conceived the idea of creating an ecologically and socially sustainable residence and community centre; one with the objective of housing approximately 200 people. Thus, the MUCS organization came alive as a group of environmentally and socially active McGill students, each wanting to make education for sustainable livelihoods available to more than McGill students.

Since 2002, the MUCS has grown to encompass numerous community organizations, faculty members and an entire community based around the paramount principles of 'green living'. In October, 2006, the MUCS project moved into one of Montreal's urban areas - Notre-Dame-de-Grâce - and established a multi-tenant office and organizing space called the Northcliffe Square. With the day-to-day sharing with four other community groups, the Northcliffe Square and the MUCS Project has quickly transformed into a hub of social activities of potluck film screenings and community canning workshops. MUCS's first partnership of redesigning urban areas took place with residents and community organisations in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace (NDG) area of Montreal in 2004.

Eating together in Montreal, courtesy of MUCS

One of the keys to the successful presence of the MUCS as a community group was the creation of a dining co-op, which was born in July 2007. Thanks to this initiative, anyone can stop by four nights a week to find healthy, delicious food and a warm, welcoming environment in which to share it. At the present time, several working groups are active within the MUCS community.

Design and Development

The MUCS Project approaches the scale and complexity of creating collective and co-operative homes and businesses through an integrated sustainable design process, founded on community participation, applied and experiential academic learning, and the guidance of professionals from many varied disciplines and perspectives. 

The MUCS Design Process is all about learning; learning from the hopes and needs of Montreal students and residents as well as similar initiatives around the world. All of the learning happens through the MUCS Design Process, and is carefully documented and organized.

The Dining Co-op

The MUCS Dining Co-op is a growing group of people, all interested in co-creating an engaging community space in Notre-Dame-de-Grace; a space where people can come together to cook and share meals, as well as benefit from group food buying, which is cheaper and more sustainable. The dining co-op is open to anybody: Individuals, families, couples, elders, singles, students; everybody is welcome without exception. The only requirements for participating are that members must be able to work comfortably in a group setting.

Zero Food Waste Project

The MUCS Zero Food Waste Network rescues surplus foods from local businesses and redistributes the food to local food security organisations. The Zero Food Waste Network focuses on waste reduction, popular education and cooperation, by encouraging communication, cooperation and collective action.

The Montreal Free School

The Montreal Free School is a grassroots initiative, comprised of individuals acting collectively in order to create educational opportunities for both children and adults who are outside of the institutional environment of formal schooling. It is a network in which skills, information and knowledge are shared via classes and workshops without the hierarchy or costs associated with other paths to learning.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014