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From trash to treasure

  • Julia Fast-Grass (Artsci'20) imagines a forest without trees. (University Communications)
    Julia Fast-Grass (Artsci'20) imagines a forest without trees. (University Communications)
  • Neve Scullino (Artsci'20) brings the smoky skies to life. (University Communications)
    Neve Scullino (Artsci'20) brings the smoky skies to life. (University Communications)
  • Sara Swedberg (Artsci'20) spells out the message of their art - that we must all do our part. (University Communications)
    Sara Swedberg (Artsci'20) spells out the message of their art - that we must all do our part. (University Communications)
  • The team works together to highlight the pollution in their painted ocean. (University Communications)
    The team works together to highlight the pollution in their painted ocean. (University Communications)

It is not an obvious place you pause to look but a dumpster on campus may catch your eye this week. The garbage disposal, belonging to waste hauling company Green for Life, has been painted by a few Queen’s students seeking to remind the community about the importance of reducing the amount of waste they produce.

“We wanted the dumpster to be pretty and something people would enjoy looking at, but that would also cause them to think critically,” says Sarah Swedberg (Artsci’20), one of the artists. “Our goal was that the scenes would look like cheery depictions of life on earth, but that upon second glance show the state of our environment. Although the sad reality can seem ominous, there is hope because a lot of people making change adds up.”

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” is painted in large letters on one side of the dumpster. The other sides show scenes of smoke-filled air, garbage-filled water, and stumps where trees once stood. Ms. Swedberg, Neve Scullino (Artsci’20), and Julia Fast-Grass (Artsci’20) painted the dumpster this past weekend. The three students earned the right to put their artistic skills to this important cause by submitting the winning proposal to a Sustainability Week contest organized by Physical Plant Services.

With the students’ work complete, the beautified dumpster will now be placed in high profile area on campus to engage the community about the importance of environmentalism and their role in contributing to campus sustainability.

“An underlying theme of Waste Reduction Week at Queen’s is the idea that we all have a responsibility to the environment and that, by working together, we can have a more positive impact,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “In keeping with that spirit, this year’s activities include students, staff, our sustainability office, and our waste hauling vendor Green for Life working together towards a goal of a more sustainable campus. I want to thank them all for making this week of reflection and education possible.”

At the same time that the Queen’s community is being challenged, through the art project, with this stark environmental reality, new tools are being unveiled to help put those sustainability ideas into practice.

“Waste diversion is a significant component of the Queen’s Policy on the Environment, and our obligations under the Waste Free Ontario Act,” says Llynwen Osborne, Recycling Coordinator with Physical Plant Services and one of the contest organizers. “We’re excited to use this week, building on what we achieved during September’s Sustainability Week, to help the Queen’s community think about how they can do their part to reduce waste both in their personal lives and here at Queen’s.”

One of the new tools available to help Queen’s employees is a website you can use to help you find supplies that other departments are getting rid of, or post your own unwanted furniture, office supplies, and equipment. Recycle@Queen’s was launched by the Sustainability Office within Physical Plant Services and developed by Stephen Hunt and Paul Hiles of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Since its launch, 71 items have been listed across campus.

“My personal observation is that Queen’s shouldn’t have to buy another filing cabinet ever based on the number that are available internally for free,” says Mr. Hunt, the Director of Information Technology for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “I’m very interested in promoting the re-use of furniture and equipment on campus as it reduces overall costs for the university, reduces the carbon footprint of equipment being shuffled between offices and storage and back again, and reduces the amount of stuff going to landfill. We all want to work together, but too often the information needed isn’t available easily and widely; I hope the Recycle@Queen’s program will change that.”

To learn more about waste reduction and other sustainability initiatives, visit the Sustainability Office website.

  • This dumpster has been painted to remind the Queen's community about the importance of waste reduction and environmental protection. (University Communications)
    This dumpster has been painted to remind the Queen's community about the importance of waste reduction and environmental protection. (University Communications)
  • The front and left side of the dumpster show scenes of polluted skies and water. (University Communications)
    The front and left side of the dumpster show scenes of polluted skies and water. (University Communications)
  • The quote on the side reads, “The greatest threat to our planet is our belief that someone else will save it”. (University Communications)
    The quote on the side reads, “The greatest threat to our planet is our belief that someone else will save it”. (University Communications)
  • From the call to action, the viewer is brought full circle to the scene of a forest which has been clear cut. (University Communications)
    From the call to action, the viewer is brought full circle to the scene of a forest which has been clear cut. (University Communications)