Marie-Soleil L'Allier

Study program:
PhD Environmental Science
Current affiliation:
Université du Québec à Montréal

Marie-Soleil L’Allier (environmental science, Université du Québec à Montréal) is studying how self-organization and self-management practices such as local currencies and community gardens could inspire new ideas for leading the world onto a more sustainable path.


Initiatives based on the “commons”: a new contribution to the ecological transition

The current literature on theories of transition seems to underestimate the contribution of social innovations. And yet, the past several years have seen a resurgence of initiatives that apply new, sustainable social practices. From local currencies to community gardens, tool lending, or and shared databases, social innovations are proliferating and have great potential to transform social/technical systems. While these initiatives take different forms, they share an important element: instead of a logic of government or of private business, they embrace the logic of the “commons.” Representing a third path—an alternative to government and to the market—the commons and commoning are based on self-organization and the self-management of collective resources, as well as on shared access and shared use rather than on private property. The objective of Ms. L’Allier’s research is to advance knowledge by developing theories about the commoning experience and the role of the commons in the literature on transition.

Marie-Soleil L’Allier is studying for her doctorate in environmental science at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She is researching how initiatives based on the commons contribute to the ecological transition.

In 2014, after Marie-Soleil had earned her master’s degree with a thesis on a new generation of businesses (Transition-oriented enterprise), she and three university colleagues founded LOCO, the first zero-waste grocery chain in Quebec. At LOCO, Marie-Soleil put the findings from her master’s thesis into practice and helped to make LOCO an agent for social innovation in Quebec’s food industry. In less than two years, LOCO helped to raise awareness of the zero-waste movement in Quebec, not only among the store’s customers and its immediate community, but also among the store’s supplies and other businesses that had had accepted the zero-waste challenge. Described by the Quebec consumer magazine Protégez-vous as the most important event in Quebec’s retail sector in 2016, LOCO’s opening enabled Marie-Soleil to spread the word in the Quebec media (RDI, Radio-Canada, TVA, V Télé, Le Devoir, La Presse, Métro, Médium-Large) not only about the zero-waste lifestyle, but also about the role of sustainable entrepreneurship in the ecological transformation of society.

Marie-Soleil has presented some 30 papers in Quebec and participated in panel discussions (World Social Forum, the Journée des entrepreneurs (Entrepreneurs’ Day), scientific conferences) to inform scientists and non-scientists about the processes by which transitions at the societal level are achieved. She has also presented on the role of innovative entrepreneurs in these transitions. Her keen awareness of social and environmental problems and her commitment to do something about them have led Marie-Soleil to serve on the boards of various bodies, including municipal neighbourhood councils, an artists’ cooperative,
and an association to promote fair trade. She has also established a volunteership committee, organized volunteer activities in disadvantaged schools, engaged in fundraising and food-collection campaigns, chaired the environmental action group Équiterre Montréal, and mobilized citizens around environmental and social issues. She has been described as “a genuine example of a committed activist who has no shortage of ideas for helping to effect change toward a way of life that is more respectful of the environment.”

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