School of the Future – Montreal’s Valhalla Sustainability Learning Centre

Thank you Mark Angelo Coppola for taking the time to do this interview.  Montreal is very lucky to have a group of people so dedicated to sustainability and education.

Let’s jump in! 

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became a Philanthropreneur?

My background as a philanthropreneur really began when I realized that my career as an entrepreneur was having way more impact than what I was learning in school.

In late 2010, I decided since I was graduating from university, I would not let schooling get in the way of my educating myself. Therefore, I decided to watch a documentary a week for an entire year.screenshot_20161024-115310_1

52 documentaries later and I had learnt so much about the issues being faced on our planet from a wide variety of topics, but there was one common issue that kept coming up… very little of these documentaries truly focused on solutions to the many issues. There was so much about the problems in our world, yet very little about what people could do to change their own impact on these issues.

What was the solution? Sustainability to me seemed to be the answer. And, well I knew it started with my companies and I; those that I work with and create. If I change my mindset to be more focused on long-term decision-making and sustainability, then perhaps I can inspire others to do the same; to be empowered and rewarded in all ways.

  1. Creating an off grid school, “Valhalla’s Learning Center”  that has a sustainability focus is really needed.  Can you tell us about the overall concept of your school? How did the concept come about?  Where will it be located, and why?

The school will be located on the South shore of Montreal, Canada. It is about 20 minutes away from the downtown core, but also bordering suburbia. It is quite near the suburban sprawl on what is known as the Valhalla Montreal Farm – a 66 acre GMO Corn and Soya field we have reclaimed and began turning into a permaculture / organic farm.

The concept of the school is simple. I don’t think learning theory in a textbook, or sitting still while looking at a chalkboard is the only necessary step towards education. We need more people to get their hands dirty and actually put into practice the various solutions and ideas we have. Let’s see the theories come to life via real world action.screenshot_20161024-115524_1

I always thought that doing simulated projects, or fake business plans seemed so useless when there were TONS of entrepreneurs and people who could use ‘real world help.’

I also firmly believe and live by the notion that mentorship is by far the most effective way to learn any skill, or build a career. Where as, schools are organized in a way where they are meant to be cost effective, not education effective. Thus, they fail our youth time and time again.

I say this as someone who graduated through the entire system with good grades throughout. And, the truth is I learnt next to nothing about how the real world works in school. I know the world needs a private school for both adults and our youth to be able to learn tangible and actionable skills.

This world clearly needs more useful skills, and instead of waiting for the government or others to build it and pointing fingers, I figured I was as good as anyone to build a school ourselves.

  1. Curious, once your school is built, how many students will you physically be able to have attending classes?  Will you be offering online courses too??
Valhalla Sustainability Centre Conceptual Design

So we already offer online courses available 24/7 all around the world. Therefore, we have expanded our capacity to impact people drastically, but ideally our school will have numerous month and season long mentorships that will train roughly 30 students in full, each and every year. As well as, hundreds of people through our shorter events and weekly trainings we will be offering.

  1. True, a lot of environmental professionals believe human consumerism is a major problem for our natural world, and life in the future…  Yet, we are also the solution to saving our world, “as mentioned in your cool whiteboard video.”  Can you explain more about how we are capable of balancing our own existence with the natural world over time?

Well, I think the ability to match our own lifestyles to that of a more sustainable footprint begins with us looking at each and every daily decision along with the consumption patterns we have created. There is no better place to start than in our own lives and our homes.screenshot_20161024-115329_1

  1. Long term thinking is crucial to foreseeing future issues.  Forecasting forward is necessary, especially when it comes to community development. What actions can we take today at home that will help our world and future generations?

I think the simple truth is that we just need to consume A LOT less and realize that our impact is global; each of our decisions needs to better match how we interact with our world. I think our home designs address a lot of that, yet there is much more to do in this regard and I won’t claim to have all the answers either.

  1. You have done a ton of work on the Valhalla Project so far.  What help do you need still in actualizing your school?

The number one thing we need is more people to participate, and help it come to live. This can be achieved by donations, involvement, or enrolment into our online academy and school. The truth is, we just need a bit more infrastructure and people to help it take form… Financing is always a tougher issue when you want to build a project without debt.screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-12-02-23-pm

  1. Hypothetically, if you could develop a community that is sustainability- focused, what would it entail?  How would people live, what would they consume…

I don’t think its hypothetical – we are well on the path to developing that community. My answer is that for the most part, the idea is that the community can provide ALL of its own needs. Such as, food, shelter, water, and all directly from the land it stewards.screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-12-03-25-pm

I believe that multiple families, about a community of 150-250 members could easily sustain themselves off of the work and resources within the community itself. As long as, we realized it’s a system that should continuously find support within the tribe, and there by we would need to find ways within the community to solve issues…screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-12-04-00-pm

This being said, there will always be technologies and ideas we “import” from the world. For instance, I don’t plan on becoming a smart phone developer team, or building air conditioning units either. Therefore, I think more than anything communities in general should specialize a bit and truly find a better balance by providing value to its neighbors and the world at large that balances out the equation.

Generally, the goal is to consume responsibly, and to realize that we should have a mentality that at least restores and regenerates as much as we take. And, that way of thinking starts with what I would consider to be not so radical shifts and awareness to begin with!


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*All images have been taken from The Valhalla Movements Facebook, or Website, thank you for the use of the images.


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