Photo from the Impact Runway event of a young woman walking the runway
Volunteer-model walks the Impact Runway in clothes from the U of O Free Store. Image: Impact Runway/Provided.
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“It makes me proud that our uOttawa community is also passionate about sustainability.”

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the faculties of arts and social sciences teamed up to present the Impact Runway and a sustainability-focused panel with three local entrepreneurs. 

One of the organizers of the event, Celeste Digiovanni, told the Fulcrum the Impact Runway wanted to show U of O students how they can “discredit fast fashion by opting for circular economy thinking around fashion.”

The student volunteers-turned-models walked the runway wearing clothes from the University of Ottawa’s Free Store.

Local drag queens Saltina Shaker and Sunshine Glitterchild hosted the fashion show — and definitely used it for their own fashion inspiration. The show featured looks to fit everyone’s personal style, from slacks to sweatpants and mini skirts to moto jackets. There was even a comfort-first part of the show where the models, like many students, accessorized with a cup of coffee.

Following the show, a panel called “Sustainability Starts with Us” picked the brains of three Ottawa-based entrepreneurs. Jane Porter, Rade Kovacevic, and Kostyantyn Khomutov work in three different fields, but they share a drive to make sustainability a reality in the corporate world. 

All three panellists agreed sustainability is a priority for many consumers these days, but the challenge lies in getting larger corporations’ actions in line with consumers’ desires. They gave their thoughts on matters related to creating their own sustainable start-up, convincing people sustainability matters, and what universities and their students can do to enact climate action.

Kovacevic’s start-up Canopy Growth Corporation was at the forefront of cannabis distribution when Canada first legalized cannabis. He’s now co-CEO of Invert Inc., a company that puts climate action in individual consumers’ hands by offering them solutions to reduce their carbon footprint.

Just like the Impact Runway show, Khomutov thinks that daily decisions are most important when it comes to climate action, and that consumers are most likely to change their behaviours if innovators make it easy for them. Khomutov is the co-founder and CEO of GBatteries, a company that is working on making it possible to charge lithium batteries in the same amount of time it takes to put gas in a car.

For university students, real climate action in the business sphere is steps away, but only with cooperation from schools. Porter, as a co-founder of Bridge Building Group, knows “meaningful conversations and encounters” are crucial to innovation. She said universities should take advantage of their alumni, not by asking for their money, but for their time and mentorship for current students.

The three entrepreneurs agreed they want to improve the relationship between entrepreneurs and students, because, at the end of the day, everyone in the room knew students are the future.