A group of art and design activists, the cleverly named grOCAD includes OCAD University students, faculty and administrators. The student union-funded group hosts workshops and lectures to promote and support community building around issues of urban sustainability. Member Tom Doughty, a fourth-year Industrial Design student, says, “We’re a community of people who take grassroots action to make OCAD U more sustainable. We work with what’s around us to make things better.”
What grOCAD members work with most often are plants. “The idea is that our environment can only be improved by creating a greater interface with plant life. Plants can be food and help to purify the air, but we can also learn from plants about how to be responsible by taking care of them and, through that, how to take care of each other as well,” says Doughty.
Since 2012, grOCAD members have organized various workshops on hanging gardens, aquaponics and window farms. Their inaugural workshop was part of OCAD U’s first urban ecologists conference and they have also participated in shows at Onsite gallery. Many of their endeavours address the question: How can we work with nature in increasingly dense urban environments?
“One of grOCAD’s cool initiatives is the Learning Zone Sustainability Program,” says Doughty. “It’s a materials trading post where students can donate and pick up new or used art supplies.” He acknowledges the “incredible support” of Marta Chudolinska, OCAD U’s Learning Zone librarian.
Upcoming projects for grOCAD include another hanging garden workshop with students in the new Life Studies minor. Some of these gardens have been used to make natural dyes. Students grow and then dry the plants, boil them down and make their own dyes, without additives. Textile arts students are particularly interested in this technique in order to reduce the carbon footprint of their work.
All workshops are open to the public. For more information, check out their Facebook page, tumblr site or visit the Learning Centre in person. Doughty says grOCAD is always looking for enthusiastic people who are passionate about urban sustainability.