Green Tech Hackathon Guide: Everything You Need to Know

As energy use and climate change face numerous challenges, people have started turning to green tech hackathons to aid in the battle for a more sustainable future. Green Tech Hackathons have produced apps that help farmers manage their crops and supply chains track their energy use. 

What Is a Green Tech Hackathon?

Green-tech hackathons are themed hackathon events that focus on finding the best solution for problems centered on sustainability, energy use, climate change, environmental monitoring, decentralization of climate data, and anything technology focused on how we interact with the environment. 


Notable green tech hackathons include projects like:

  • Optimizing a solar car’s performance
  • Accessing camera data to alert for climate change
  • Tracking energy use forecasting
  • Deforestation tracking
  • Grazing livestock identification
  • Tracking methane super-emitters
  • Identifying power plants and impactful energy technology using satellite imagery

Topics for green tech hackathons are only as limited as your imagination. Participation can sometimes be encouraged by selecting a challenge aligned with what is trending in renewable resources or sustainable development. 

Benefits of Hosting a Green Tech Hackathon

The benefits of hosting a green tech hackathon are endless and unique to the challenge. 

1. Generate Interest in a Specific Area or Cause

Generating interest in a specific cause is a massive benefit of hosting a green tech hackathon. For organizations that work with the environment, hosting a hackathon can be similar to campaigning for topic awareness. Awareness of a topic can make all the difference in funding and public support. 

2. Build Community and Foster Teamwork 

Themed hackathons can bring together people who want to work with green tech. A community that cannot recognize each other cannot work together, and a hackathon can create mentorships and friendships that last beyond your challenge.

3. Empower the Next Generation of Problem Solvers

Green-tech hackathons open to the general public and of all ages may produce impressive results and empower the next generation of problem solvers. Encouragement and recognition from leading professionals can make a difference in a young person’s trajectory, especially if the prize for their greenhack participation is a scholarship.

4. Train People on New Technologies

If people are familiar with the topics but not the technology, hackathons can be a great way of getting people comfortable with tech without pressure. Designing a challenge that pairs experienced professionals with people new to the technology can open a door and connect other viewpoints to solve problems, which is how we get the best solution.

5. Recruit New Talent

Some talented professionals may never have experienced your particular challenge and maybe would like the opportunity to test the waters before making a career change. Hackathons allow the space for people to experience the reality of that challenge without committing to it long-term, and that may reveal skilled new talent from unexpected places.

6. Generate Buy-In from Influential Community Members

The fastest way to get someone on your team is to open the door and invite them in to have an up-close and personal look at your operation. Turn the tide on an environmental concern by getting influential people interested in an exciting hackathon challenge (or maybe just amazing prizes). Getting people talking about your particular problem is part of finding solutions to solve it.

7. Develop Disruptive Services

A typical green tech hackathon challenge is to develop disruptive technology, like decentralized weather apps. Disruptive innovation is positive when it makes open-source and free programs for everyone to use with only proprietary technology. It can change the way a society functions both personally and professionally.

8. Chase Bounties While Helping the Environment

If your hackathon events aim to chase bounties from other organizations and split the reward, you could be earning money while helping the environment. It all depends on what your goals are.

9. Have a Positive Impact on the World

The most important benefit is how your event may positively impact the world. 

How to Hack Green Tech: A Full 6-Step Guide To Running a Green Tech Hackathon

If you are interested in throwing your green tech hackathon, you can go big or keep it simple. Attendees can be limited to people you know or open to strangers - it depends on what type of event you want to have. 

Step 1. Choose Your Objective(s)

Hackathons without an objective have no problem to solve. Taking a few moments to define the goals for your green tech hackathon can set focus on the rest of your work. Be able to:

  • Define the target audience
  • Outline the hackathon purpose or goal
  • Establish the theme (Example: Technological Solutions to Track Climate Change)

Not every project makes a good hackathon event, so make sure you understand your intended audience and understand the event’s purpose. 

Step 2. Define the Challenge(s)

With a target audience defined and your objectives determined, you can specify the challenge itself. 

Choose which Problem to Solve

Are you tracking climate change, a startup looking for a way to compare long-term energy costs of differing computer models, or an individual looking to build recycling apps with your local community? Each one has a different problem to solve but still is a great candidate for a green tech hackathon; defining yours is required for moving forward. 

Define the Parameters of the Project

Guidelines help participants understand the project and how you expect them to contribute. Make sure you define:

  • The minimum skills needed to participate
  • The system, software, or language to be used
  • Team sizes or limitations
  • Time limit
  • How to enter and participate
  • Project submission method
  • Criteria for judging
  • Training available 

Mentors and Guides

Mentorship can turn guides into peers and collaborators during a green tech hackathon. Empowering others can make a difference for a sustainable future. At the very least, make sure a representative is established for participants to contact for questions. 

Step 3. Event Planning

With your goals and challenge defined, you can move on to the details of the event. 

Select the Format

The first detail should be whether the event will be a webinar or in person. Depending on the challenge, a virtual hackathon may prove beneficial because it allows all people to participate regardless of their location or medical restrictions. 

Set an Attendance Maximum

It is critical to know your limits for how many people you can accommodate in your event. Most event planners understand that fewer people will show than sign up unless it is a mandatory event. 

Outline the Terms and Conditions

Having straightforward and transparent terms and conditions for the hackathon makes for a better participant experience. If people understand the rules before getting involved, they can produce a better product and participate in more minor issues. 

List Out Required Materials

If attendees and participants need a specific list of materials before the hackathon, put those in a simple list on your site to spell it out. Lists of required materials give your participants time to prepare and add any software they may need to complete the challenge before the clock runs. 

Select Speakers and Presentations

Hackathons do not require elaborate presentations, but planning for some form of the opening ceremony and closing remarks will give you a small sense of formality to your event. Adding a keynote speaker who specializes in the subject matter can attract attendees.

Set a Schedule

With the goals, presentations, and speakers squared, you can schedule and confirm the event’s details. Be sure to include:

  • Dates and times of the event
  • Registration cutoff dates
  • Breaks
  • Keynote speakers and special presentations

Get Organized

Getting organized for your hackathon doesn’t mean you have to get color-coded about your work, but it does require being smart about where you put your data and communications. 

  • Assign tasks to people with due dates (even if the dates are to keep things moving)
  • Use a single contact email created for the event
  • Establish a document management system
  • Choose a registration management method
  • Establish mailing lists for communications

Something as simple as defining a place where files go or defining one email address for all contacts can streamline the process and keep information from ending up in multiple locations. 

Secure Key People and Support

The odds are that you will have to involve other people in your hackathon planning in some format. There are specific groups of people to pursue, depending on your scheduled plans:

  • Keynote Speakers
  • Sponsors and Partners
  • Judges
  • Mentors and Challenge Support
  • Volunteers

Awards and Swag

Awards can be given out in various ways and are encouraged to recognize participation and efforts. Prizes can also incentivize major influencers to join your hackathon, even internally. Free stuff can encourage a lot of people to join in. 

If you are giving out awards, prizes, or swag, make sure it is a gender-neutral, one-size-fits-all award. What is the point in getting a shirt you can’t wear or a product you can’t use?

Gather Training Materials and Resources

It is always good to keep a running list of resources and training materials related to your topic. One location for your help is great for event planners to understand what you are doing, participants during the challenge, and references used after the event if someone wants to expand on their prototype. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Organizing Green Tech Hackathons

Even experienced event planners can make mistakes when organizing a hackathon, so review these common mistakes to reduce the probability of making one. 

Mistake 1: The challenge is confusing, and the parameters are unclear. 

Wrong instructions can make a grown person break down, and attendees fail to complete their proof-of-work. 

Fix: Spell out the details for the challenge and post judging criteria online before the event. 

When everyone works from the same information, the participants are more likely to produce a product that meets the goals. 

Mistake 2: Assuming people will find your event because you have a website. 

Websites are a landing page for information - it is unlikely that people will find your particular hackathon in a sea of search results.

Fix: Promote and market your event in advance. 

Send emails, send reminders, send calendar invitations, or scream it on your street corner; you have to let people know about your event for them to show up. 

4 Inspiring Green Tech Hackathon Ideas

If you are excited about a green tech hackathon but are unsure of what idea to use for your greenhack, we have some options to get you started:

Idea 1: Use Green Tech to Monitor Carbon Emissions or Energy Consumption

Energy use and carbon emissions are significant contributors to climate change, and finding ways to locate the most prominent problems is the quickest way to address them. 

Idea 2: Preserve and Protect Biodiversity with Green Technology

Climate change and people's habits create a loss in biodiversity, and developing technology that tracks and identifies problems for threatened species can help save and protect what might be lost. 

Idea 3: Identification of Sustainable Products with Green Technology

Consumers should be able to review what is in their products, and having green technology that helps identify products from sustainable sources can improve our relationship with the environment. 

Idea 4. Water Purification and Sustainable Use 

Giving people the opportunity to look into their water resources and use them concerning how that compares with neighbors or what is needed can create an awareness that directly affects actions. 

Looking For a Good Hackathon Platform to Organize Your Green Hacking Event? Try Hackathon.com

With endless possibilities and lots of details to cover, green tech hackathons can begin to feel overwhelming if you don’t keep organized. Hackathons should be fun for everyone. Utilizing a professional organization with a platform designed to support hackathons is a way to make it fun for everyone, even the planning committee. Let Hackathon.com help make your event enjoyable. 

Final Points

People are looking for ways to use their skills for good causes, and green tech hackathons give participants to do just that. The talent is willing to help; it is just about focusing each hackathon into manageable ideas with a greenhack goal of helping the environment.