Net Zero Vermont

Community connections for sustainable change

Net Zero Vermont, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established to help Vermont communities create and put into action a shared vision for a sustainable future. Sustainable Montpelier 2030 was the organization's first community design competition project.


The Challenge

How can we entice architects and planners to develop alternative visions of sustainability for the state's capitol city? Then how will we break through government mistrust, the deluge of information, and demands for the public's attention to engage citizens in evaluating and voting for alternative visions for a sustainable future?


A sustainable design competition with a significant cash prize, a winner to be selected by local citizens, inclusive outreach and voting — all supported by a collaboration of nonprofits, local businesses, and government officials — will be different, fun, engaging, and attract media attention.

Net Zero Vermont public relations


  • Engage partners from each sector to reach their stakeholders with the necessary materials and tools
  • Develop multimedia informational materials for distribution through multiple channels
  • Enable viewing and voting at places and times that are accessible and appealing for a diverse range of citizens
  • Develop a model for public engagement on sustainable visions for the future that can be replicated in other communities

Net Zero Vermont Montpelier competition brochure

How We Helped

Highlights of our public outreach support for Net Zero Vermont’s Sustainable Montpelier 2030 Design Competition included announcing the competition, attracting hundreds of citizens to engage and vote at two public design exhibitions, and a Statehouse news conference to proclaim the competition winner. Subsequent research included a roundtable focus group with developers to identify barriers and motivators to net zero energy community development.

Lesson Learned

When people from diverse backgrounds and situations become deeply engaged in a  new-to-them subject, and they are then asked for their opinion, we need to allow lots of time to listen deeply.

Net Zero Vermont attendees
Net Zero Vermont competition space

Pop-up Gallery & Event

See, talk, vote for your choice for the Sustainable Future of Montpelier in real life
Montpelier event Governor and Mayor

State House News Conferences

Government, businesses, and nonprofits announce the competition
Net Zero Vermont competition finalists

Online Exhibit & Ballots

See, watch, vote for your choice for the Sustainable Future of Montpelier online


  • First round of design competition viewing & voting engaged 650 citizens in person and online to select 5 finalists
  • Second round of viewing & voting engaged 840 citizens in person and online to select design competition winner
  • Multiple towns and potential business partners contact Net Zero Vermont after design competition visibility

Net Zero Vermont Montpelier competition illustration
I did not have time to look at everything, but I was attracted to the plans that emphasized green space, that looked at ecology, especially of the river, a cultural center of some kind. I was not attracted to those plans that made Montpelier look and feel like just another big city, with huge looming buildings that are not going to match what we already have. Many interesting and creative efforts.
Participant at Gallery Pop-Up Event