Image: Kaleidoscope (2020) by Dan Lewis.
Tips for integrating sustainability into your art practice and everyday life
Today, members of the OCAD University community are invited to drop into a Clothing Swap at the Office of Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Initiatives (ODESI), in their new location in Room 316 at 100 McCaul St.
In celebration of Earth Day, arrive with your clean, washed and unwanted clothing from 1 to 4 p.m. and leave with some new (to you!) duds.
For Charlotte Durnford-Dionne, the event’s organizer and the Student Representative on OCAD U’s Sustainability Committee, clothing swaps can gear the conversation towards the environmental impact of fast fashion (the rapid production of cheap clothing to respond to consumer trends, manufactured under poor labour conditions, resulting in millions of tonnes of textile waste each year across the globe).
The swap is taking place in conjunction with Fashion Revolution Week, which commemorates the 2013 Dhaka garment factory collapse (also known as the Rana Plaza Collapse) in Bangladesh's capital city. An eight-storey building within the Plaza, which houses several clothing factories, crumbled, after an evacuation order was ignored the previous day. The tragedy resulted in the death of 230 people, who were producing clothing for western retailers and global fashion brands, including Joe Fresh.
“When we’re talking about sustainability, we recognize that human and environmental exploitation go hand-in-hand,” notes Victoria Ho, ODESI’s Sustainability Coordinator. Fashion Revolution Week reimagines a fashion system that is just and equitable for people and the planet.
The Clothing Swap is organized under the purview of OCAD U's Sustainability Committee, which creates opportunities for students, faculty and staff to initiate changes at the institutional level, while unifying efforts to amplify calls for systemic climate efforts across departments at the University.
“Climate action at OCAD U can be about rethinking what we teach, what materials we use in student projects, where we source our drinking water, how we build our campus, what we grow at Butterfield Park and how we, as an art and design University, we take up our role in society to imagine and promote more sustainable futures,” explains Ho.
Thinking about the enormity of climate change can be overwhelming, whether it is on the individual, institutional or global level. To anchor their work, the Sustainability Committee developed the first-ever OCAD U Sustainability Policy in 2018. The group is currently co-chaired by Faculty of Design assistant professor Michael Lee Poy and Faculty of Art professor b.h. Yael.
When asked how she navigates questions surrounding the future of the planet, Durnford-Dionne replied, “I definitely shy away from putting the onus of climate change on individuals. Everyone knows best for themselves how they could be more sustainable."
“Personally, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my media diet. I recently conducted a mini social media audit on my Instagram and noticed how many brands I followed. I decided to unfollow many of them and followed sustainability advocates instead,” she continued.
If you’re looking to diversify your own media roster you can check out Durnford-Dionne's weekly series on OCAD U LiVE, Second Life Studio, where she fixes, repairs and reuses materials already in her home to promote sustainable creative processes by upcycling materials for projects. In her latest episode you will learn how to repair your knitted clothing using a darning technique.
Students can also join OCAD Reuse, a group established by staff and students that’s co-organized by fourth-year Environmental Design student, Nour Abdulhussain. The club’s mandate is to reduce waste on campus by integrating circular design processes by reusing materials and raising awareness and accessibility to the tools needed to do so. Students are invited to message the group on Instagram to get involved. Check out their social media to see projects by OCAD U students that focus on the environment and use sustainable techniques.
There are also many opportunities to take part in climate action and institutional change through ODESI. Students can get involved in sustainability curriculum strategy, materials reuse efforts, community awareness-raising and paid opportunities by contacting Victoria Ho.