Visual artist Leslie Leong’s work uses and is inspired by a wide variety of materials that may no longer be considered “useful” for their original purpose. These include computer parts, old maps, copper pipes and bits of Gold Rush-era glass, all turned into pieces of jewellery.
Leslie was originally inspired to create art from things that would otherwise be considered “waste” shortly after moving to Whitehorse in 2009. Her husband was trying to get rid of an old computer, and when he was unsuccessful in doing so, she and her son decided that they should take the opportunity to see what was inside it. She found the contents of it beautiful, particularly the pieces of motherboard with gold contact pieces, and decided to make herself a necklace with pieces of it, for which she received many compliments. She started making jewellery to sell in 2010, and continues to expand in terms of both the original materials and final products. Indeed, at the beginning of our conversation she showed me one of her more recent projects: earrings made from old guitar strings.
Her work is driven by her motivation to reduce the need for new materials by increasing the lifespan of products and materials that are already available. “We have so much stuff in the world; we don’t need new stuff, we should just use what we have now,” she says, adding, “I hate that planned obsolescence thing…I want to un-planned-obsolescence things!” Her workroom is filled with items that already have a planned re-use, and others that she has picked up but isn’t quite sure yet what she’s going to do with them. “I’ve got all sorts of things that I just need to find a use for, but I like them!” she says, pointing out for example a number of old mirrors lying against one wall. Those she might attach to old silver trays, giving them new life with a different, old-timey style.
In addition to making jewellery, Leslie has also been introducing young people to the potentials of material re-purposing. She has done art programs in schools, and this summer has been an instructor at a camp put on by Arts Underground to make art from recycled materials. She’s interested in spreading the idea that many materials don’t need to go straight to the recycling or garbage bin when they’ve been used once. “I don’t think people realize how useful the materials are that we have right in front of us,” she says, before rummaging through her workspace to show me one more item that she’s found a new life for.
More examples of Leslie’s work can be found at leslieleong.com.
Kate White and the City of Whitehorse Mini-Carts Program
In the spring of 2014, the City of Whitehorse put out a call for participants in their “mini-cart” waste reduction pilot program. Kate White, MLA for Takhini-Kopper King saw the ad and put her hand up to take steps towards minimizing her waste.
The City of Whitehorse launched the small cart trial as these carts are easier to move, easier to store and help shift behaviour with regards to waste management by emphasizing the smaller capacity for landfill and the larger capacity for compost.
Kate’s full-sized black curbside garbage cart was replaced with one that has about half the volume of the original, which she continues to use to this day. Kate still has a full-sized compost cart, and recycles everything she possibly can. This means that even after two weeks, her garbage is still not full; and the contents of the garbage is mostly dog poop, which cannot be composted at the City’s facility.
If you are interested in getting your large cart swapped out for a mini-cart, please contact the City of Whitehorse at 668-8312.
Mike has been the driving force behind the Mile 9 Dump in Lorne Mountain for the last twenty (20) years. He has helped to make it a community facility that hosts events and facilitates education!
According to Mike, at Lorne Mountain they currently divert 50% of their waste, and have been doing so for close to a decade. That is something to be proud of! They set up measurement systems, actual weights when they could get them and conservative estimates when they couldn’t. They actually went into dumpsters in the wintertime and weighed/measured how much stuff in them was recyclable. It turned out that 80% of the materials were recyclable! They left it all out of the dumpsters to show people what could be done differently. They then wondered what could happen with a little education…
They got ten (10) families and helped them learn about recycling as well as helped them set up easy in-home waste management systems. The families weighed their compost, recycling and garbage over a four (4) month period and the average was 75% diversion with 4 families over 90%.Not bad – but that was residential garbage…
They then moved on to see how much could be diverted from Industrial/Commercial settings. They had Aroma Borealis, Lorne Mountain Community Association (LMCA) and Golden Horn School involved in trying to see how much they could divert. They went into the classrooms and talked to kids, set up recycling stations in each class and got them competing against each other and the teachers. Aroma Borealis was able to divert 95% of it’s waste over a six (6) month period (and still does several years later), LMCA did over 90% and Goldenhorn School was over 70%.
Our latest project is to increase our community diversion rate to 75%. We plan on accomplishing this through intensive 1-on-1 education as well as ramping up diversion programs such as our electronic waste program. We are tearing down electronics and appliances that aren’t recyclable into their base components and recycling them. Almost everything is made of paper, plastic, metal or wood so if we break things down to that level then we can recycle the materials and divert it from the landfill.
Darren lives outside of town and goes to the Deep Creek dump each week to drop off their one tiny bag of garbage and some wood/tin scraps from projects. More often than not he comes home with much more than he left there. In the above photo, he and his partner Lara are modelling the brand new shirts they found (still in the packaging!). Below is a photo of what they brought home from a single trip…
His work bench was created entirely from salvaged wood, complete with a salvaged vice that was modified to fit the bench. Darren also creates various pieces for sale such as funky birdhouses and beautiful toolboxes made from repurposed materials.
Here’s Darren discussing his low-impact lifestyle.