Reuse, (Re)Art, Recycle

How fine arts students can contribute to a circular waste system

With sustainability and climate action becoming an increasingly omnipresent factor in everyday life, the ways in which we must change our habits in an effort to become more environmentally conscious are becoming more apparent.

We’re taking the steps to reduce plastic waste and taking to the streets to protest for climate change, so why do we stop where our individual practices are concerned? For those invested in climate action, making art can feel restrictive. There is no doubt that creating is wasteful: paper, paints, brushes and canvases are discarded freely when they no longer serve a purpose.

While certain student groups, such as Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR), are making an effort to implement sustainable practices, not everyone in the Greater Montreal community can access these resources. We asked the Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) if they had any comments or upcoming plans regarding sustainability and they refused to comment on the matter.

Currently, CUCCR diverts waste from within Concordia, and offers it to students free of cost. These materials include everything from wood to office supplies, and have helped avert approximately 14 tonnes of materials from waste. 

CUCCR coordinator, Arrien Weeks, is researching how Concordia’s Fine Arts departments is teaching sustainability for his Masters in Art Education, and a team of CUCCR’s artists-in-residence are working on developing a sustainable-painting workshop, as well as several other sustainable-oriented skillshares, in the near future. Paint poses a particularly interesting conversation because of it’s very materiality. Oil paint can be toxic and acrylic paint becomes plastic when it dries, making proper at-home disposal impossible.

Recently, art supply store DeSerres introduced a new recycling program in partnership with TerraCycle that could solve this problem. TerraCycle is a volunteer-based recycling program, with a focus on collecting hard-to-recycle items, such as razors. Instead of discarding waste, they reuse and upcycle it to create a circular waste system rather than a linear one.

The program, titled “(Re)Art,” was created in an effort to instill sustainable practices into the art-making process and allow artists to create freely. Described as a “social responsibility program,” the DeSerres (Re)Art motto is “give back. recycle. recreate.”

Student artists looking to recycle their materials can do so by visiting a participating DeSerres store, to place their items in the “(re)art recycling box.” Accepted items include paint containers, paint brushes, markers and pencils. Locations in the downtown Montreal area include Alexis Nihon and Ste. Catherine E.

The CUCCR Used Material Depot is located at the GN building, at 1200 Guy St., and The Shed is located at the Hall building, at 1455 de Maisonneuve. For information regarding their hours, events and workshops visit

Further information about the (Re)Art program and participating DeSerres locations can be found at

More information about TerraCycle can be found at

And finally, for more information about Montreal’s sustainable resources, consult this map, created by past CUCCR intern, Caroline Alince.


Photo by Britanny Clarke.

Student Life

Dreaming of a green Christmas?

It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means: snow is falling, decorations are going up, and Michael Bublé has suddenly entered society’s radar again.

Crack open your wallets, ladies and gents, ‘cause it’s time to go Christmas shopping.

Last week, I made the mistake of stepping into a Winners on a Sunday afternoon. The place was jam-packed with ravenous Christmas shoppers, their carts overflowing with clothes, toys, home decor, technology, sports equipment, you name it. Simply put, it was an absolute hellscape – the shelves nearly picked clean, it felt like the apocalypse was just around the corner.

The whole experience got me thinking about the sheer amount of waste Christmas gifts produce each year. From polyester pajamas to plastic playthings, many popular presents are non-biodegradable, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, most of these items will end up in our landfills and oceans rather than our recycling facilities. Although there’s only so much the individual consumer can do, the more we are conscious of what we buy and where it goes, the more we can reduce our impact this holiday season. So without further ado, here is a list of sustainable gift ideas to try this year:



Houseplants have become insanely popular in the last decade or so. Although I personally manage to kill everything I touch, a lot of my friends are big time plant parents and are always happy to add to their collection. Also, I hate that I just said ‘plant parents.’

If you can, try to buy your plants at a local shop rather than online or at a big box retailer. Besides being a more sustainable option (usually), I find that these smaller stores have a more unique selection, and staff tend to be very knowledgeable about what species make good gifts.

Thrifted and/or Vintage Items

Not only is thrift shopping a greener option, it’s affordable too. While gifting something that is already used might seem a bit weird at first, you can find a ton of quality, beautiful items at your average charity shop—I’ve even found clothing with the tags still on. If you don’t want to spend your afternoon sifting through items in person, websites like ThredUp and Ready to Wear Again make it easy to narrow your search by size, style or brand.

If you wanna kick your thrifting up a notch, try shopping for vintage items. While this route can be a little more expensive, shopping vintage can turn up some pretty special finds, and the extra thought and care will be much appreciated. is a great online resource for vintage clothing, and Montreal is packed with all kinds of vintage shops like the Mile End’s Citizen Vintage and Local 23.


One Christmas when I was a kid, my great-uncle sponsored a polar bear in my name with the World Wildlife Fund. It was a great gift because a) I was sad about the polar bears dying, and b) it came with a cute little polar bear stuffie. This present was both low-waste AND beneficial to an environmental cause, which is pretty cool.

If your loved one has a cause that they are passionate about and you have a bit of cash to spare, consider making a donation on their behalf. Obviously, this type of thing isn’t for everyone, but if you think it will be well-received, go for it!

Items for long-term use

It’s no secret that much of what we purchase can become unusable or obsolete over time. Oftentimes, items wear out more quickly because they’re poorly made or because something newer and shinier has entered the market. While it’s normal and completely okay to replace things that are broken or utterly outdated, an investment in higher quality items that will stand the test of time is well worth it, and much less wasteful. This type of product can range from ultra-durable coffee mugs and winter boots to timeless furnishings and clothes.

Of course, this type of gift is only sustainable if the person receiving it actually has a need for it. When it comes to buying items that are meant to last for years to come, make sure you know a thing or two about the person you’re buying it for!

One last tip before I go: as you complete your December shopping, consider switching up the way you wrap your Christmas presents. Most gift-wrap is non-recyclable because of its glossy finish, so make sure you look for wrapping paper that is recyclable and/or biodegradable. Better yet, try using some old newspapers instead—topped off with a bit of ribbon or twine, I think this actually looks pretty cute. Plus it’s free, which makes it even cuter.

Happy holidays everyone!


Graphic by Salomé Blain


“Don’t Buy That” gives used items a second life

With the average Quebecer spending approximately $458 over the holidays, as shown through a survey reported by Global News, you can count on people’s wallets being stressed.

Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) and the Art Hive hosted a workshop titled “Don’t buy that!” on Dec. 4. Teaming up with Sustainability Ambassadors, the workshop offered alternative gift-giving ideas by creating their own holiday presents and decorations.

Arrien Weeks, a coordinator for the CUCCR, explained that wrapping, purchasing and even making gifts can create lots of waste. “we just came together to try and change that,” Weeks said.

The event, hosted downtown at the Hive, included four different stations. Each was curated to a specific need: a card-making station, ornament crafting, knitting help, and their popular beeswax wraps workshop. It also included vegan baked goods made by Devonly Bakes, a student-run catering service.

Materials used at the workshop were all reused or recycled. “I’m hoping it can make people rethink how they approach gift making, gift-giving, and just trying to reduce people’s consumption at the end of the day,” Weeks said.

The Wednesday evening crowd consisted of a mix of Concordia students, alumni and other event-goers who had never even been to the campus before. Abigail Lalonde, an avid knitter who volunteered for the event said, “The skills that we share with each other are useful. It supports a really good state of mind, which is self-sufficiency. I hope that people can come and learn something. That they can feel included. That they can share with someone.”

Kate Evoy, a student at Concordia, brought her friend Lexi Benware along to the event. The pair was eager to try different arts and crafts. When asked about the workshops’ value, Evoy said “Obviously the sustainability is a huge part of it. Mixed with a community atmosphere, I think that’s such a good way to introduce people to sustainability and the effects of consumerism and all that.”

Events like this one help build a culture around sustainability efforts,” said Benware. “It’s not just one person doing it – people are coming together and making it more normal and natural for people to do.”

The two friends believe that presenting alternatives to the materialistic holiday we all love can educate people on the negative effects of consumerism. Evoy said instead of the typical dooms-day rhetoric she’s used to, she was warmly welcomed.

“It’s more like, come to partake in this, and it’s fun, and we’re doing good things,” she said.

Ivan Chamberland, a Concordia alumna, was inspired by the ingenuity of beeswax wraps. In today’s throw-away society, Chamberland finds herself excited to learn new ways of consuming alternatives to disposable items.


Photo by Laurence B.D.


Student Life

Minimize waste to maximize impact understanding

The Dish Project challenges Concordia students and faculty to live waste-free for five days

From March 11 to 15, several Concordia organizations are encouraging students to partake in the Zero Waste Challenge 2019. Part of the event series Sustain’alive, the Dish Project, Concordia University Center for Creative Reuse (CUCCR), and Zero Waste Concordia organized this challenge to encourage Concordia students, faculty and staff to try living “zero waste” for five days.

“The objective of the challenge is to really start a conversation about waste and unsustainable waste management on and off campus, and to create a strong community around the zero waste movement at Concordia,” said Maya Provencal, the external coordinator of The Dish Project. Participants are challenged to refrain from creating any landfill waste, and instead use products that are recyclable, reusable, or able to be repurposed.

Adopting a completely zero waste lifestyle may sound difficult at first, which is precisely why the Zero Waste Challenge was created. Since it is a community effort, participants are encouraged to share tips and tricks for living a more sustainable lifestyle. This way, the challenge won’t seem as intimidating. “It can be really scary to try and move away from that dependency, especially alone, so The Dish Project started the Zero Waste Challenge in an attempt to make this a community affair rather than an individual one,” said Provencal.

Those wishing to partake in the challenge can sign up through email and receive tips from The Dish Project. Participants are also encouraged to tailor the challenge to meet their own lifestyle if they feel they cannot commit to living completely zero waste. For example, changing one aspect of their daily routine, such as packing a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic one, is an excellent start. Taking small steps towards being more eco-conscious contributes to larger change.

Taking steps to create a waste-conscious community both on and off campus is pertinent since sustainability is an issue that affects everyone, albeit disproportionately. Many think it is simply an environmental issue, yet it is also a social and economic issue.

Provencal explained that our current extraction-based economic system wastes valuable resources, contributes to landfills and other waste management sites, and that this system affects marginalized communities at an extremely disproportionate level. “We want students to understand that by reducing their waste production, they are rejecting this destructing system and creating a better world,” said Provencal.  

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


There’s a fine line between art and trash

Introducing three final artists from the first annual VAVxCUCCR residency

In celebration of the Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR)’s first year of operation, the centre will host their first annual residency in collaboration with the VAV Gallery. Together, the VAV and CUCCR have selected seven undergraduate fine arts student-artists who will exhibit their work on March 22. The artists have been tasked with creating zero-waste artworks using CUCCR’s material.


Gabrielle Mulholland is a Toronto native and began her studies in illustration at OCAD University. She left OCAD to move to Montreal in 2014, and is now in her last year of print media at Concordia. This summer, Mulholland will be opening her own printmaking studio in the Plateau. Inspired by CUCCR’s focus on creative reuse, Mulholland began to consider the original saying, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and how the emphasis was originally placed on reducing and recycling, not reusing.

Gabrielle Mulholland’s installation, x 11, consists of a papier-mâché screen print sculpture, a “snow pile” of found materials and an 8.5 x 11 inch tapestry. Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Mulholland.

The artist’s experience of constantly being in the city forms the basis of her current work, which aims to challenge the idea that art and design create waste. Mulholland is particularly interested in producing work from garbage found on Montreal’s snowy, frozen streets. For the residency, she has created an installation called x 11. It consists of a papier-mâché screen print sculpture, a “snow pile” of found materials and an 8.5 x 11 inch tapestry. The exact composition of her piece will be revealed at the exhibition.

The tapestry was created from material sourced at a Renaissance thrift store and hand-dyed using a salt resist. “In the imagery on the tapestry, you can slightly see the original illustration student in me who was obsessed with human communication and symbols,” the artist said.

Mulholland is thrilled to be part of the first annual VAVxCUCCR residency. She said she hopes the exhibition will inspire artists and students alike to be more involved in creative reuse.


Laura Douglas has a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in environmental studies from McGill University, and is currently in her third year of studio arts at Concordia.

She works in a variety of mediums, including paint, textile and installation. Most, if not all, of Douglas’ work grapples with themes related to the environment. Her recent project was exhibited as part of the Art Matters Festival at Mainline Gallery’s Tender Teeth exhibit. She hand made a biodegradable quilt using organic fibres and placed seeds in the fibres that will grow upon long-term contact with soil. Her work will also be featured in Bright Lights / Blurred Vision, opening March 19 at 6 p.m. at La Récréation – Jeux de société et activités culturelles (404 Ontario St. E).

Laura Douglas built small hanging planters and larger self-watering planters out of recycled containers. Photo courtesy of Laura Douglas.

For the residency, Douglas created an installation of small hanging planters and large self-watering planters, using soil from public spaces and reused containers of varied sizes from CUCCR. She painted these containers to suit her desired aesthetic.

Douglas is particularly interested in the fact that cities are often built on the most fertile soil, yet lack large areas dedicated to gardening. As an artist and environmental activist, Douglas wants to use her work as a means of teaching others about how easy urban gardening can be. Self-watering planters can be made with two containers and mesh or burlap. The bottom of one container must be removed and replaced by the mesh or burlap, allowing water from a second container to be absorbed when needed.


Mikaela Kautzky is currently in her second year majoring in studio art and minoring in diversity and the contemporary world. She said she believes art is a valuable personal, social and cultural tool, but it lacks consideration in how it impacts the environment. Like Mulholland, Kautzky aims to deconstruct the wasteful nature of art-making.

In addition to waste, Kautzky’s work shines a spotlight on social and environmental degradation. She strives to lead a completely zero-waste lifestyle, meaning she only consumes unpackaged food items and commits to purchasing biodegradable products. Kautzky uses art as a tool to commit to no-garbage living.

“For one whole school year, I challenged myself to do a painting of every piece of trash I threw out, and I learned a lot about the issue through this creative research,” Kautzky revealed. “Now, going forward, I try to create with the least environmental harm as possible by using reused materials and less toxic paints in my art practice.”

“Rest In Peace Phil Folderino” is an ode to manual means of storing data. Mikaela Kautzky urges viewers to think about the impact art-making has on the environment. Photo courtesy of Mikaela Kautzky.

Kautzky volunteered with CUCCR during the fall semester, and she is quite familiar with the abundance of file folders kept in the depot. Her project for the residency, “Rest In Peace Phil Folderino” is an ode to manual means of storing data and questions whether or not online storage is truly the greener alternative. “It is ultimately just out of mind, out of sight,” Kautzky said.

The artist also dabbles in photography and fashion in Less_n, a larger project that demands a dialogue on contemporary consumption. Kautzky will be selling upcycled, second-hand shirts at September Surf Cafe and Pop-Up Shop on March 24 at 4123 St-Denis St. Details will be released on Instagram @mik00k and @less_n.

The Concordian has profiled the artists-in-residence each week leading up to CUCCR’s birthday event on March 22. Past issues have featured Bianca Arroyo-Kreimes, Gabrielle Desrosiers, Roxane Fiore and Saba Heravi.


Help save the environment and your wallet

One of Concordia’s newest initiatives makes art production more affordable for students

Concordia’s newest, underground fine arts initiative (it is literally located in the basement) deserves some recognition. The CUCCR, nicknamed “sucker” by its creators and members, is both environmentally friendly and financially accessible to students.

It works by collecting excess supplies and used art materials from places around campus (studio classrooms, the Visual Arts building storage rooms, and the Grey Nuns residence) and making them readily available to the Concordia community and members of the public in one location. According to the initiative’s depot coordinator, Arrien Weeks, CUCCR’s members are people of all ages, spanning from ages “four to eighty.” Membership is required to utilize the centre, but both it and the use of the materials are completely free.

The centre is located in the Hall building and can be tricky to find. However, starting on the ground floor of the building, there are signs and stickers that help lead the way.

The CUCCR space was also built entirely from waste materials found on campus. The wooden signs, shelving, tables and organizers were repurposed to create a warm, welcoming and store-like room where materials are categorized and displayed in an organized way. The types of materials can vary depending on what is collected and donated, but what is currently available varies from wooden boards to rubber bands and even miniature sand buckets. Used canvases are also a “hot seller,” said Weeks.

Additionally, the centre also accepts material donations to be re-used by fellow Concordians. However, be sure to check CUCCR’s website before bringing something in, as the organization doesn’t accept certain materials such as used textbooks, oil paints and articles of clothing.

According to Weeks, since the centre’s opening in March, they have had an influx of memberships but hope to increase membership even more over the school year. Recently, they’ve gained more exposure through studio arts class presentations and trips to the centre. In the future, Weeks said, CUCCR hopes to expand their initiative to a larger and more accessible space on a ground floor, “to increase our visibility even more, but also to have more space to collect more materials.”

CUCCR’s main goal is to largely reduce Concordia’s waste. According to Weeks, “up to today, CUCCR has collected over four tonnes of Concordia’s waste, and members have checked out over two tonnes of that waste.” In the years to come, Weeks said, they hope to exponentially increase both of these numbers—which are recorded through the centre’s checkout system.

“We have pretty much everything, so just come by and take a look,” Weeks added.

CUCCR is open Tuesday to Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and is located at H013-7 in the Hall building. For more information on materials available, becoming a member, donating and more, check out CUCCR’s website.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari

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