Welcome to the Virtual Component of Minor Alterations: Oakville! (MAO)
MAO is an installation at Shell Park comprised of 6 hand painted picnic tables. Each table represents a sustainable lifestyle change I'm making that relates to the park or Oakville in general. I hope to inspire others to adopt these habits and share what actions they're taking to move towards a sustainable future.
On this webpage you can find explanations for each table and sustainable habits submitted by you! Your habits are also shared @MinorAlterations on Instagram. To submit a habit, please fill out a submission form.
As Arthur would say, “having fun isn't hard, when you've got a library card!”
Borrowing Library books is an excellent way to live sustainably, because it means you’re refusing to purchase new books and are sharing existing ones with others. Plus, borrowing books is free!
I love borrowing from the library and still use the Oakville Library card I got at age 7. My recent checkouts have been a selection of embroidery books and a few fantasy adventure novels. Thanks to the Library’s wide selection, I only purchase books If I will be rereading them frequently or if they’re on a highly specific topic: like technical references for printmaking or peer reviewed books about the post WWI German Hyperinflation.
If you’re worried about supporting your favourite authors, worry not! Canada’s Public Lending Right pays creators who have content in library circulation, so checking out books does help support authors.
Produce grown in Ontario doesn’t have to travel nearly as far to get to your plate as produce grown in British Columbia or Florida does. Less travel means less fuel consumption and a healthier planet. Eating local also supports Ontario farmers and the Green Belt, which is at risk for further development.*
Developing green spaces reduces vegetation cover, decimates habitats, AND creates a demand for concrete. As stated by Jonathan Watt in the guardian, concrete “is the most destructive material on earth” and “[if] the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world with up to 2.8bn tonnes.”**
This summer, look for the Foodland Ontario logo at the grocery store or visit one of Oakville’s Farmers’ Markets to keep our Green Belt green.
Sustainably yours, Heather J. A. Thomson
*Ontario Federation of Argiculture & Environmetal Defence. Report: Farmland at Risk. November 2015. https://environmentaldefence.ca/report/report-farmland-at-risk/ **Watts, Jonathan. “Concrete: the most destructive material on earth” theguardian.com. The Guardian, February 25, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth
Surprise! This table’s all about dog poop.
Picking up after my dog Piper is one of the most wasteful aspects of dog ownership for me. BUT picking up is a necessary part of having a dog. Thankfully, there are a couple ways to minimize the impact of poop bags.
Using bags made of recycled materials instead of plastic sandwich bags (what my family and I used with our last dog) is an excellent step! However, many companies make false sustainability claims. Be sure to read about a product before buying it, because earth toned packaging doesn’t mean it’s environmentally friendly.
The five R’s of sustainability can be applied to dog poop bags through reducing and reusing. I use bags several times before throwing them out. This not only reduces my consumption of bags, but my costs as well! I typically use 1-2 bags a day, so I need 2 packages of my chosen brand a year and spend $33.87 on them. Comparatively, if I used 4 bags a day, I would need to purchase 5 packages for $84.69. By using less, I have an extra $50 to spend on treats for Piper, which she greatly appreciates!
Here’s to less bags, more treats and more poop!
Sustainably yours, Heather J. A. Thomson
P.S. Please, please, please always pick up after your dog. It’s incredibly rude not to.
Cool the person, not the space!
This Minor Alteration comes from the David Suzuki Foundation who states “It’s much more efficient to keep people cool instead of trying to cool an entire home. Try cooling down with a cold drink and a personal fan or find a shady spot in a park or forest and spend some time outside.”*
Instead of blasting the AC this summer, join me in having a cold beverage somewhere in the shade (my favourite is homemade iced coffee.)
To be clear: I LOATHE hot weather and detest summertime. But cooling myself instead of my home is a responsible choice. So, I wear loose clothing to beat the heat and save my long walks with Piper the dog for early morning and evening.
Every garbage day, I walk past a lot of things on the curb that aren’t garbage. Things like side tables and mirrors that are in good condition and don’t show any signs of disrepair. Although throwing unwanted things in the garbage is easy, freshening or re-homing them is kinder. It diverts furniture from the landfill and can give someone else a chance to use it.
A new coat of paint or replacing hardware can dramatically change a piece of furniture. Take this picnic table for instance: with a few coats of blue paint it transformed from a ‘parks brown’ object into a bright focal point. Changing an item’s location can also do wonders. I rearranged my “tired” bedroom furniture and moved knickknacks around to create a space that felt more like me. I didn’t buy anything new (apart from a duvet cover) or throw anything away to do so.
But if you’re intent on downsizing, find your unwanted furniture a new home. There are many different online platforms that allow people to search for and sell household items. Since the garbage truck wasn’t going to pay you, consider offering items for a nominal fee. I post most of my things for free because finding them a new home is more important to me than making money. Donation is also an option, but please make your chosen charity wants the items: because items they cannot/do not take are thrown in the garbage.
A small and straightforward way to live more sustainably is to always sort your garbage.
Park garbage cans are meant for any garbage you may create while enjoying the outdoors, but they’re rarely sorted into types of waste. This means everything placed inside will go to a landfill, instead of being recycled or turned into dirt for our gardens.
Please take compostable and recyclable waste home if the location you’re at doesn’t have sorted waste bins. It may require a little more effort from us, but it makes a big difference.
One of my jobs doesn’t have on sight compost, so every time I pack food with peels or cores, I bring a small container to hold them until I get home. Using a container keeps my lunch bag clean and makes following this Minor Alteration easy. I also bring a container if I’m going somewhere there may not be any garbage cans at all, like a hiking trail, just in case I decide to eat a granola bar and need somewhere to put the wrapper.
It should go without saying: littering is bad. Do. Not. Litter.