On March 24, 2018, WWF hosted the first Designing Change for a Living Planet 2018 Hackathon at their Toronto headquarters, bringing together diverse student teams from 12 campuses across Ontario. The University of Waterloo team included students from Environment, Resources and Sustainability (ERS), Health Studies and Mathematical Physics.
Students were tasked with developing the next disruptive innovation to steer us toward a sustainable future and presenting their proposal to a panel of experts to win $1,200. Students were able to network with their peers and industry professionals to gain inspiration and share ideas before breaking off for 2.5 hours to develop their proposal. One UW team member, Shankari Sreetharan (4B ERS), commented, "It was cool to see interdisciplinary perspectives on the things [other students] wanted to see changed for the benefit of the environment and sustainability".
The UW team used the concept of life cycle analysis as the focal point for their innovation. They proposed a life cycle label – similar to nutrition facts on food products – to inform consumers about the environmental footprint of products. The label would include indicators such as carbon inputs/outputs, water use, and land use to illustrate the environmental impact across a number of categories. In this way, the student team hopes to provide consumers with better tools to make better decisions in a manner that fundamentally shifts the way we purchase products.
Reflecting on the event, Isha Mistry (4B ERS), commented, "I learned that there are more people interested in sustainability than we may think. We need more similar platforms to make that connection".