Meet OCAD Reuse

Image of OCAD Reuse Gallery Event, January 2020

Leaders from student group OCAD Reuse recently introduced themselves and shared their goals and activities with Brent Everett James, Campus Life Coordinator.

Brent: Thank you for taking the time to tell us about OCAD Reuse. Please introduce yourselves.

Rachel: Hey! I’m Rachel, I’m in my third year at OCAD U, studying Environmental Design with an Interior Design Specialization. I first got involved in OCAD reuse when I was working as a student monitor for Office of Diversity, Equity & Sustainability Initiatives (ODESI) last year and at that time it was a student initiative and we were working with faculty to rethink and create a new reuse depot on campus. I’m so excited to see where it’s headed now that it is as a student group and we have more creative minds on board!

Janai: I’m Janai and I’m in my fourth year of Environmental Design. I grew up quite involved in the outdoors, but have been professionally connected to the world of environmental stewardship and sustainable waste management for many years now. Throughout my experience, I have enjoyed showing others the beauty of the environment and building their appreciation towards it in order to foster more sustainable behaviours. I see caring for our environment as more than a necessity, but a chance to be curious, playful, innovative, creative and connected; I’m glad to be a part of OCAD Reuse, where we get to do just that!

Headshot photos of Rachel Morris and Janai Redman

OCAD Reuse student leaders (l-r) Rachel Morris and Janai Redman

Brent: Tell us about the group.

Janai: OCAD Reuse is a new student group as of this year, but we originally started out as a collaborative of students and staff from various departments. We have built OCAD Reuse from the foundation of the Materials Trading Post and existing Reuse Depot system. Our group is really about establishing a culture of re-use at OCAD U. We encourage students to reduce their waste by integrating circular design processes into their daily practice. One way to do this is through the reuse of materials. Any way we can increase awareness and advocate for more reuse in art and design the better!

Rachel: We currently have 14 members in the group, in a variety of programs covering Environmental Design, Industrial Design, Advertising, Sculpture/Installation, Digital Futures, and we have a few Grad students in the SFI program. It’s so exciting to see how much it’s grown and spread out since it started with three students in Environmental Design and Industrial Design. We were really excited to see interest across programs!

Brent: How often do you meet or holds events?

Rachel: We meet bi-weekly, usually on weekends, for about an hour. We’ve held one event since we’ve officially become a student group, but I’d say we’re aiming for at least one or two events per term, at least while things are virtual.

Brent: OCAD Reuse is fairly active and organized. What are some of your most successful events, programs or activities since the pandemic hit? What about these events made them work so well?

Janai: Our biggest achievement is likely just the fact that we totally rebranded and actually became a student group. We have been wanting to expand for a little while, so to be able to accomplish this during the pandemic, while being completely away from campus, in different parts of the world, is wonderful. But as for events, we did a Halloween/ Fall Make-A-Thon which caught the interest of some great students. They created lovely pieces related to Halloween, fall or other holidays surrounding that time of year. I believe this event was successful because its digital aspect meant people could participate on their own schedule and didn’t need to be in specific place at a particular time. It was also nice to be able to share the work with such a large audience and over a number of days so people had a greater opportunity to participate.

Info graphic from OCAD Reuse with text Why Reuse? 2nd highest priority on waste hierarchy, it is easy to reuse the many items we already have, and sparks creativity and innovation.

Brent: What tips can you offer other group leaders on how to keep a student group active and engaging?

Rachel: When we meet on Teams, we use video which helps establish face-to-face connections with our members, which I’ve found really helpful since a lot of us haven’t met one another yet in person. So, it just feels more personal. But, as a student group that started off online during the pandemic, we can’t compare to how our engagement would have been like in person versus now. I think our bi-weekly online meets have been good at keeping us engaged since they’re not so frequent; so we’re not competing with school, but frequent enough that you feel involved and have a commitment. Also, since the nature of our group is to spread information and awareness for reuse, using Instagram and hosting the Make-A-Thon helped us gain some attention across the virtual campus. We had really good response which was definitely encouraging to see!

Brent: What challenges might your group be experiencing now?

Rachel: I’d say the main struggle is having everyone attend the meetings; we usually only see half, if not less, at meetings, but we’ve tried to alternate our days so more people can attend. Contacting members can also sometimes be a struggle since not everyone is active on Teams or via email but we can typically reach them on Instagram. I’ve also heard from members that they were unsure of the amount of time they can commit to this group, which we totally understand— we’re students too! Regardless of their activity levels, their participation, no matter how big or small, has been so amazing to see.

Brent: What do you have coming up in the next few months?

Janai: I am so glad you asked! A couple of our team members are creating a piece for OCAD LIVE surrounding ideas of reuse and sustainable art and design practices, which is super exciting. The first couple episodes have likely aired since our interview, so hopefully you all get a chance to check it out.

Throughout November and December we are looking at ways to talk about packaging during the holiday season. We hope to plant a seed with our audience that there are ways to reduce their packaging waste during this time of year and curb the habit of excess that we so often see.

In the new year, we are looking forward to hosting a digital art and design showcase to highlight student or staff work that incorporates reuse of materials or other forms of sustainable practices. So keep an eye out for more news on that!

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