empowering systems change

not your typical hackathon... fact, knowing how to code is not a requirement! Sustainability hacks is an opportunity to collaborate cross-functionally with your peers from different faculties, senior high school students, and alumni to develop solutions to challenges faced by sustainability-driven organizations in our community. Whether you choose to build a web app, write a project proposal, or develop a marketing plan, there will be mentors and workshops helping clear blockers and guide the direction of your project.

Woman brainstorming ideas on chart paper

but it's on the weekend 😕

Sustainability Hacks is a two-day event set to take place on the weekend of March 14th to 15th. We understand that’s a big ask, but hear us out. You will be fed, free of charge. You will network with like-minded students, alumni, researchers, and industry professionals. You will learn about design thinking, SDGs, and how to apply your skills to sustainability-related problems. You will work on a team to build something you will be proud of. You will have the opportunity to present what you build to our panel of judges, leaving a tangible impact on how their organizations tackle the problems they face. Oh yeah, there might be prizes for the winners too—but you’ll have to register to find out more!

Still not convinced? Have more questions? Scroll down to our FAQs section or feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected]. Otherwise, click the button above to register now, as an individual or a team!

Participants discussing ideas at a roundtable
Participants discussing ideas at a roundtable


  1. saturday, march 14
  2. ───────────────────────
  3. sunday, march 15

9:00 am



Check-in table located in the foyer. Light refreshments will be served.

9:30 am

opening ceremony

Representatives from Plastic Oceans and CityHive speak about their organizations and introduce participants to their challenge prompts.

10:15 am

design thinking workshop

Workshop on design thinking facilitated by Kshamta Hunter from the UBC Sustainability Initiative.

11:15 am

start hacking

Teams head to their breakout rooms and begin the ideation process. Mentors circulate to help clear blockers.

12:30 pm

lunch and networking

Teams are called down for lunch (please note down food allergies and dietary restrictions when registering). Mentors and organization representatives will have booths set up for "speed dating" networking sessions.

1:30 pm

circular economy workshop

Workshop on circular economies and sustainable thinking facilitated by Nikki Mertens from ChopValue.

3:30 pm

UN SDGs workshop

Workshop on the UN Sustainable Development Goals by Carmen Kim and Kshamta Hunter.

6:00 pm

end of day 1

Dinner won't be provided. Participants can choose to go home, or get dinner on their own and continue working on their projects.

9:00 pm

venue closes

Building is closed for the night and participants are required to head home. Teams may choose to continue working on their projects on their own time and in their own space if they wish. Otherwise, get a good night's sleep and get ready for day 2!

9:00 am



Check-in table located in the foyer. Light refreshments will be served. Participants resume hacking.

12:30 pm


Teams are called down for lunch. Mentors will have booths set up for "speed networking" sessions.

1:30 pm

plastic remediation workshop

Workshop on plastic waste and remediation by Rachel Stewart-Dziama and Sophia Cornelißen from Plastic Oceans.

4:30 pm

project submissions

Last call for for project submissions. Presentations and demos to the judges and your fellow hackers will be limited to 3 - 5 minutes depending on the number of teams present.

5:45 pm

event recap

UBC Sustainability Ambassadors recap Sustainability Hacks while the judges gather to debrief and choose winners.

6:00 pm

closing ceremony

Winners are announced and presented with their prizes.

who are you hacking for?

Plastic Oceans logo


Plastic Ocean Foundation Canada was established in 2016 as a non-profit organization and Registered Canadian Charity. It is part of a global organization with offices in the US (global headquarters), Chile, Mexico, and a new office in Europe.

The purpose of the organization is to raise awareness about plastic pollution. This is accomplished through the creation of awareness initiatives developed around film and other content targeting school children, policy awareness, and consumer behavior. While plastic has become pervasive in our environment and homes, there are changes each of us can make to improve the situation. Together, we can create a healthier ocean for a healthier you.


Annually, over 300 million tons of plastic is produced. More than 90% of that plastic is not recycled! Distressingly, much of that plastic is ending up in our oceans, with at least eight million tons of plastic being dumped into the ocean each year. While plastic has become pervasive in our environment and homes, there are changes each of us can make to improve the situation. Together, we can create a healthier ocean for a healthier you.

Plastic Ocean's mission is to inform, inspire, and incite action to solve plastic pollution by changing consumer behaviour, challenging corporate and public policy, and fostering new solutions.

CityHive logo


CityHive is on a mission to transform the way that young people are engaged in shaping their cities and in civic processes. CityHive breaks down barriers by providing opportunities like civic education programs and innovation labs for youth to directly shape their cities, and helps organizations and institutions engage youth more meaningfully.


CityHive envisions cities where youth are actively involved in civic planning, shaping, and decision-making. A youth-engaged city is a resilient, sustainable, and livable city—not only for young people, but for all current and future generations.

AMS Sustainability logo


AMS is the student body of UBC, representing over 50,000 students. With our LEEDS Platinum Certified Building, countless sustainability initiatives, we strive to make UBC a better community. The Alma Mater Society promotes high-quality student learning. Advocating for student interests, as well as those of the University of British Columbia and post-secondary education as a whole.


AMS Sustainability is a branch under the AMS that makes sure that we improve the social, economic, and environmental initiatives for students on campus.

meet the judges

Adrian Midwood, executive director at Plastic Oceans Canada

Adrian Midwood  —  Executive Director, Plastic Oceans Canada

Originally from the Greater Vancouver Area, Adrian went travelling at a young age and didn’t stop until he came home and took on his role at Plastic Oceans. He is a 200-ton ocean rated Captain, professional-level SCUBA diver and small NGO and Business owner from his time in the south pacific islands. For the past 7 years, Adrian has worked directly on waste plastic remediation programs such as: developing government programs for Fiji and Tonga on education and waste collection, and running a social enterprise valuing waste plastics to prevent them from entering our ocean. He has collaborated with most international NGOs and foreign embassies based in the South Pacific on frameworks for waste plastic remediation and is a 2-time TEDx contributor.

Sophia Yang, programs coordinator at CityHive

Sophia Yang  —  Envirolab Program Coordinator, CityHive

Sophia is a creative thinker and climate communications specialist who's worked for a wide variety of environmental organizations and attended the UN Climate Change conference in both 2018 and 2019 with the BC Council for International Cooperation and YOUNGO. Sophia enjoys climate policy, renewable energy and ethical fashion. Sophia has also won the Starfish Canada's Top 25 Under 25 twice in 2017 and 2018 for her work in international energy dialogues. She can often be found journaling in a cafe drinking an oat milk latte and thrifting.

Ian Lin, Sustainability projects coordinator at AMS Sustainability

Ian Lin  —  Sustainability Projects Coordinator, AMS Sustainability

Driven by social impact and innovation, Ian comes from a non-traditional background pursuing tech while studying Political Science at UBC. Currently, Ian works as a Sustainability Projects Coordinator at the Alma Mater Society of UBC and volunteers at the CUS Sustainability as the Conference Co-Chair. Ian enjoys working on different projects related to tech and non-profits. In 2019, Ian participated in Microsoft's Discover AI Challenge and placed Top 3 Canada-wide. Besides working on projects with friends, you can find Ian watching tech videos and exploring new coffee shops.

meet the speakers

Nikki Mertens, office manager at ChopValue

Nikki Mertens  —  Office manager & order fulfillment specialist, ChopValue

Nikki’s involvement in sustainability began during her undergraduate degree as an SFU Fair Trade Ambassador. While on a trip to Ecuador visiting with fair trade producers, her desire to make positive impacts in our local and global communities sparked. After graduating with a joint degree in business and environmental studies, she stumbled upon the perfect job at ChopValue—a company that sells products made from recycled chopsticks.

Kshamta Hunter  —  Sustainability Student Engagement Manager, UBC Sustainability Initiative

As a Manager of Sustainability Student Engagement with the UBC Sustainability Initiative, Kshamta Hunter manages several engagement programs and provides advising to support UBC’s sustainability leadership and development goals. After completing a B.Ed. and teaching for a few year, she pursued and finished her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Pedagogy. Her Master’s work focused on investigating students’ perspectives and attitude shift as a result of engaging in a sustainability-oriented course. With over eight years of experience in sustainability leadership and engagement, Kshamta is currently pursuing PhD in education, investigating social innovation for sustainability.

Carmen Kim, UBC student and youth climate activist

Carmen Kim  —  UBC student and youth climate activist

Carmen is a third year student studying Global Health and Nutrition at the University of British Columbia. Her passions lie in equity and justice and empowering marginalized communities from a grass roots level. Climate action has been a huge part of her interests and motivations throughout life, and in her career, Carmen hopes to combine health efforts in marginalized communities with provision of opportunities and incentive for sustainability activism to be undertaken by these community members. Her focus on climate action has been broadened to encompass the social and economic aspects through her coursework and participation in sustainability leadership programs on campus.

Rachel Stewart-Dziama, community engagement officer at Plastic Oceans Canada

Rachel Stewart-Dziama  —  Community Engagement Officer, Plastic Oceans Canada

Growing up in Ucluelet, British Columbia, and spending much of her summers in Nova Scotia, Rachel fell in love with wild places and oceans on two coasts. With four seasons as an interpreter with Parks Canada, she has an understanding of ecology and how the delicate balance of natural systems can inspire people to help create positive change. Rachel is presently wrapping up her Bachelor of Science in geography and anthropology at the University of Victoria. With camera in tow, Rachel is often hiking or kayaking. She also enjoys travel and has just returned from a field school in Tanzania.

Sophia Cornelißen  —  Intern for interdisciplinary not-for-profit works, Plastic Oceans Canada

Sophia is a Masters student from Hamburg, Germany. She studies full time Interdisciplinary Non-profit and Public Studies at the University of Hamburg. Her specialization is the Non-profit Sector, especially environmental topics. Always passionate about the ocean she grew up nearby, she landed with Plastic Oceans Canada in January 2020. She will contribute the next couple of months toward helping the organization and spreading awareness about our worldwide plastic problem.

interested in mentoring?

Are you interested in helping our participants develop their solutions to sustainability-driven challenges? As a mentor, you'll be leveraging your experience and knowledge in sustainability to guide students through the ideation process. You'll also have the opportunity to share the work you do with our student participants, as well as network with other mentors and NPO representatives. Click below to sign up and learn more!


general 🤔

It's a two-day event taking place on the weekend of March 14-15 where you work on teams of 3-5 to "hack" a solution to a challenge prompt posed by one of our partnered NPOs. The challenge prompt, which you will receive on the day of the event, will contain more information about suggested projects that you can pursue (eg. marketing plan, project proposal, web app). The majority of the two days will be spent defining the problem at hand, brainstorming solutions, and then prototyping your chosen solution in the form of some deliverable. At the end of day 2, your team will present your project to our panel of judges (representatives from the NPOs), and they will select the winners. Throughout the two days, we will also have several workshops and networking sessions that you can attend to take a break from hacking and learn something new that might be applicable to the problem you're trying to solve!

Sustainability Hacks will take place at the UBC Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS).

The event is completely free! Just show up on the days of the event and we'll take care of everything else.

No! Think about Sustainability Hacks as an innovation lab. Your goal is to create a solution to the challenge prompt issued by one of our partner organizations in the NPOs section above. The solution itself can take many form factors, and there will be suggested projects (i.e. marketing plan, project proposal, web app, etc.) and mentors coming around to help you in case you're stuck for ideas!

Nope! We welcome you with open arms, whether you go to a different post-secondary institution, are still in high school (must currently be in grade 10+), or have already graduated. If you’re unsure, just shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Yes, for the winning teams. You're going to have to register for the event to find out what the prizes are, though.

Unfortunately, no. To make the event as fair as possible, development of your solution must take place during the two days of the event (you're welcome to go home after day 1 and continue working on it overnight, although we recommend getting a good night's sleep). We'll be revealing the challenge prompts on the day of the event, so it's not possible to start early on a project anyway.

logistics 🖱️

You can have between 3-5 people on a team. Only one person needs to fill out the registration form for the entire team.

You can sign up as an individual! We will match you up with others who have signed up as individuals, and will give you the opportunity on day 1 of the event to get acquainted with each other before your newly formed team starts hacking.

A laptop, charger, pencil case, and a water bottle (let us know in the registration form if you don't have any of these items so that we can make accommodations for you). We will provide you with sticky notes, markers, chart paper, and/or whiteboards to help you and your team brainstorm. We will also be providing breakfast and lunch for everyone on both days, so don't worry about food unless you're really particular about what you eat (let us know your dietary restrictions when you register, though). Also note that this is not an overnight event, so no sleeping bags are necessary!

After you've registered, we'll add you to a Slack workspace at the beginning of March. This will be our primary platform for communication, so stay tuned there. However, we'll still send any really important updates via email, so don't worry about missing out on any important announcements.


UBC AMS logo
UBC Sustainability Initiative logo
UBC SEC logo