Our plastic sea

Sculpture during quaratine

The Quarantined Museum is a space of virtual exhibition curated by the Musée d’art de Joliette (MAJ) team. Each month that have a theme that artists can respond to. February was plastic. My sculpture created from recycled household plastic entitled Our Plastic Sea was chosen to be in the virtual exhibit.

Visit whole exhibit called Theme 21 Plastic . I’m in the company of some really cool artists.

Our plastic sea/ Notre mer en plastique
Our plastic sea/ Notre mer en plastique
Close ups of each elements of Our Plastic Sea/ February 2021

When to ignore

1950 woman at the ironing board

Ever have one of those days
when you notice ever bit of grime,
every dog hair floating around,
every dust bunny,
every mark on the wall,
every sticky door in the kitchen,
every cob web hanging where it shouldn’t be?
every possible germ-infested surface?
Suddenly you are living in the
filthiest house in the world
and are crushed with the
thought of cleaning all this up.
Go blind instead,
Ignore that stains,
blow away the dog hair,
feel invincible against germs.
Clean up tomorrow when vision has dulled and sense of humour has returned.

Basement Sculptures

When I found myself ranting on Facebook again, down in the basement, I decided to do some miniature sculptures instead.

Metal spider web
The hug
My thoughts on mathematics

Embrace the new decade

At the beginning of 2010, I was ending a horrible 15 month stretch at Reader’s Digest. It’s on my list of top ten terrible jobs. I started my new decade unfairly blacklisted and broke from the experience. I basically gave up writing full time and ended my corporate life because I decided to never work for a shitty multinational ever again. So far, so good. It took me a few years to recover but in 2012, I decided to return to school and study something I loved. I started 2014 back at high school studying art with people much younger and more talented to me.  Then I moved onto getting my BFA. Sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes lonely, sometimes fun, sometimes hard work – it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. Re-inventing yourself is a good way to stay connected to the wonderful things in life. As I enter this new decade, I’m still learning and looking forward to the new adventures coming. Don’t be afraid of what’s coming. It’s all good – even the shit parts.  Embrace your journey. Happy New Year.

Women Wood Steel

If you are in the Montreal area, please come and check out the sculpture exhibit I curated with fellow artist Anne Devautour. Women Wood Steel showcases sculptures done by a group of international female artists currently working in Montreal. It runs from Aug 27 until Sep 5, daily from 10 until 5 pm at Westmount Park United Church.

Watch a clip from City TV

Check out our Facebook Event for more info. Here are some photos from the exhibit.

Rabbit by Aisha Sushko

Remains of my marriage bed by Shelagh McNally

Fox by Hea R Kim

360 view of the exhibit

Summer fantasies

The world burns, the great extinction is underway, and we indulge in our fantasies of progress while allowing more environmental destruction. Our politicians brag about accomplishments while we pretend it is business as usual. The real leader is that 16 year old girl crossing the ocean to bring her message to North America. She is correct. We are not acting like adults. Instead we steal our children’s future, resting comfortable in our little air-conditioned bubbles watching Netflix. Let’s keep congratulating ourselves on the great job. Let’s keep listening to all those promises. Let’s keep pretending it’s all going to be okay. After all, it’s only our children who will suffer. I’m sure we will come up with a good story to tell them about how we failed them.

Conserving our most abundant resource


The Leader-Post (Regina)
Sat Oct 30 2010
Page: G15
Section: Weekender
Byline: Shelagh McNally
Source: For Postmedia News

Although water is plentiful in Canada today, studies suggest there may not be enough to go around for the generations to come. Available water in southern Canada has been on a steady decline since 1971, according to research by Statistics Canada. The impact of climate change, poor management of stormwater run-off and antiquated sewage plants are contributing factors.

So is our rate of water consumption. The average Canadian uses 350 litres of water daily, compared with the average European (200 litres) and African (50 litres). Part of the problem is the belief that Canada has an unlimited supply of water.

“It’s a convenient myth that has allowed water-heavy industries to develop in Canada. There is a false notion that we will always have clean water. But our watersheds are being destroyed at a rapid rate and we still don’t have a national water strategy,” says Meera Karunananthan, national water campaigner, Council of Canadians. “No one is minding the store when it comes to water protection.”

While policy-makers and government agencies debate what needs to be done, innovative researchers and companies are creating products to help us use water more effectively — even profitably.

Only 10 per cent of daily water use is for cooking and drinking; much of the rest goes down the drain. Montreal-based Brac Systems has developed a way to recycle some of this “greywater” — specifically, the run-off from bathtubs and showers, laundry rooms and kitchens in single-family homes and multi-dwelling units. The Brac setup directs greywater through a filtering system before sending it either to toilets or an outdoor tap for watering the garden. The company also makes rainwater collection systems with built-in purifying filters.

“There has been a lot of interest in greywater recycling, particularly in regions with water shortages,” says Vincent Vegas, Brac Systems’ communications manager.

Serious attention is also being paid to environmental waste water. According to a report by Environment Canada, stormwater is a major source of pollution that carries about 200 identified chemicals, grit, debris and disease-causing pathogens into waterways.

“The increased use of hardscaping (impervious pavements) in our major urban areas allows the direct run-off of oil and other contaminants into the stormwater system, preventing the recharging of groundwater levels and natural purification of the run-off water,” says Richard McGrath, director of codes and standards, Cement Association of Canada.

The CAC is promoting the use of pervious concrete — cement mixed with larger stones and using no fine aggregate such as sand. Its porous, honeycomb structure means stormwater runs straight through to the soil where it can make its way into the groundwater and become purified along the way. Municipalities are starting to use pervious concrete for sidewalks, driveways, parking areas and roads with light traffic in an effort to reduce stormwater run-off.

Waste is also associated with the country’s water treatment plants. Many of these are increasingly outdated and inadequate: according to Ecojustice, municipal waste water treatment facilities are the top 14 water polluters in Canada. The environmental organization says in 2008 more than 85 per cent of all reported water pollution discharges were from treatment facilities.

Green-tech researchers are using microbiology to try to revolutionize sewage treatment. The goal is to make treatment plants both sustainable and profitable by turning them into energy sources.

Most conventional sewage plants use micro-organisms to clean waste water. But these bugs require a lot of energy. One type of bacteria eats the organic waste, converting it to methane. But it leaves behind ammonium and phosphates, which must be removed before releasing the water. So another bacteria is used that eats the ammonium and converts it to nitrate. But this bug needs a steady supply of oxygen. Another bug, which needs methanol, then eats the nitrate and converts it to nitrogen gas. Treatment plants use huge amounts of electricity to keep the various bacteria supplied with the gas they require to thrive.

Gijs Kuenen and a team of researchers at Delft University in the Netherlands has developed a more efficient system using anammox bacteria. These bugs don’t need oxygen and they munch through ammonium, converting it directly into nitrogen gas. Their only waste product is methane gas, which can be harvested as fuel. A waste water treatment plant using the technology is now being built in Rotterdam.

One new treatment plan was the result of a marriage at Stanford University between environmental engineering and rocket science. Craig Criddle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Brian Cantwell, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, joined forces to try to create a green sewage plant.

“It was really not a matter of having a new technology. Rather, it was a matter of a change of perspective and some serendipity. Researchers in propulsion and researchers in waste water rarely cross paths,” says Cantwell.

The Stanford experiment reduced the level of oxygen, encouraging a different type of bacteria to flourish — one that produces nitrous oxide and leaves more carbon material to be converted into methane. More energy is produced and less is used. “In a typical treatment plant, aeration is responsible for about half of the operating expenses,” says Cantwell. “So pumping less oxygen could save a lot of money.”

Production of nitrous oxide is usually not encouraged: it’s a greenhouse gas approximately 300 times more potent than carbon emissions. To get rid of the gas Cantwell brought out one of his space thrusters, which are fuelled by nitrous oxide. This is a surprisingly clean gas that when burned converts to just oxygen and nitrogen.

While these are exciting breakthroughs, Karunananthan cautions about placing too much emphasis on technological solutions. “Communities often lose control of their water when we rely solely on high-tech, cleanup solutions. The best way is to protect our water at source.”

Edition: Final
Story Type: News
Length: 950 words
Idnumber: 201010300124

Builders responsible for much of waste sent to landfills


Builders responsible for much of waste sent to landfills; Failure to promote recycling nationally slows any greening of construction industry

The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
Tue Oct 26 2010
Page: B6
Section: What’s Happening?
Byline: Shelagh McNally
Source: For Postmedia News

The Canadian construction industry took a giant leap forward in environmentally responsible practices with the first application here in 2003 of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building rating system, which rates building projects on their sustainability.

When Built Green Canada was created in 2006, home builders and renovators took the opportunity to go green as well.

Construction firms such as Windmill Developments and TAS DesignBuild began building green office and condominium complexes, commercial complexes and planned communities across Canada. To date more than 15,000 homes have registered with Built Green Canada.

“The biggest inroads in the last few years have been awareness. Green across the board is becoming the trend. There is still a lot more to do but the shift has been good,” says Mazyar Mortazavi, principal at TAS DesignBuild.

But while new homes and buildings are becoming more sustainable, the construction industry appears to have stalled in reducing its waste. Environment Canada estimates that the construction, renovation and demolition (CRD) sector is responsible for up to 33 per cent of solid waste — 11 million tonnes of CRD waste is being sent to landfills annually.

“Recycling is still antiquated in Canada. We are years behind Europe and the (United) States. LEED initiatives need to be pushed forward,” says Dave Fusek, vice-president, business development, Quantum Murray.

“We need buy-in from both the seller and the purchaser but the companies handling the recycling also have more work to do,” he says.

Large commercial sites have been more successful at recycling simply because they have the luxury of space to set up individual separation bins. Fusek estimates 60 per cent to 80 per cent of demolition scrap metal and rubble is now being diverted from landfills. “A few years ago it was only 40 per cent,” he says.

It’s a different story for residential construction. A 2006 study by the Recycling Council of Ontario found that 95 per cent of CRD waste was from residential demolition and renovation, and non-residential demolition. Most of this waste — including wood, gypsum drywall, corrugated cardboard, metal, and some plastics — is recyclable.

But with few waste haulers and recycling centres available to home builders and renovators, these recyclable materials often end up in landfills. The Construction Recycling Initiative (CRI) estimates 33,600 tonnes of drywall is shipped to landfills annually from the National Capital Region alone.

“One of the biggest challenges is that there is often no place to send the material except to a landfill. There are not many recycling centres for construction material, particularly in the more rural areas, and its often more costly to recycle than send it to landfill,” says David Bengert, president, Built Green Canada.

“Sometimes it’s easier for a builder to simply pay the higher dumping fees and pass that cost onto the consumer,” Bengert says. “Industry will is there but we are lacking the infrastructure for a recycling program.”

The United States has experienced some success through material exchange and recycling networks. The Construction Waste Management Database created by the National Institute of Building Sciences offers an online national listing of companies that haul, collect and process recyclable CRD debris.

Canada has no national database and provincial startups have met with mixed success. The Calgary Materials Exchange and British Columbia Industrial Materials Exchange are operating, but other sites, such as the Nova Scotia Materials Exchange, have shut down due to lack of traffic.

“More incentives are the key to get more people involved. Residential recycling is lagging behind simply because corporations have both the money and incentives to go green,” Fusek says. “Environmental legacy is a hot topic in the commercial sector right now.”

Without government legislation, many sources say, recycling programs are not going to become more widespread.

“We need more government legislation to help fund the development of a recycling infrastructure. We need to encourage builders to recycle by giving them the facilities and make recycling a standard procedure,” Bengert says.

• Colour Photo: Postmedia News / A construction worker transfers broken drywall material from a Landmark Homes job site to a recycling bin in Edmonton

Edition: Final
Story Type: News
Length: 647 words
Idnumber: 201010260054