Category Archives: art


According to Wikkipedia, “Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.” I think this is a much better option than recycling (which you have probably heard me rant about before). When Kyle and I started the no garbage project, we tried to make every piece of garbage into something else. Later we decided it had to be made into something useful or beautiful or both, or it was just garbage made into garbage. I didn’t know about the term “upcycling” then, but that’s exactly what I wanted to do. There’s a great book (that I haven’t finished yet) called Cradle to Cradle that talks a lot about this on a bigger level.
Basically I am doing this post so I could share my newest favorite craft with you (and I will do so in a moment) but I thought I needed more and I started researching a bit about upcylcing and I found this site.
So now onto the real reason for this post: Sweater Pants for Toddlers. Aurora needed stretchy warm pants for winter. Jeans are cute but pretty useless for a toddler. One of Aurora’s first full sentences was” Help. I can’t do it in my blue jeans”. I believe her first sentence was “this poo stinks” but that’s neither here nor there. I bought an old sweater from a thrift shop. It wasn’t really wearable anymore as it had some holes worn through but the sleeves and a big chunk of the body were still good. After consulting some crafter friends for advice, I cut off the sleeves of the sweater and sewed them together in a circle where I had cut. Then I cut off the top and added another piece of sweater for a waste band. It was easy and fast and the result was super cute fuzzy elf pants! I made a really tall waste band so they come up over Aurora’s belly and she looks very elven (the McGaughey ears help the look too). Here is a photo.
And here are some links to tutorials in sweater pant making.  Neither are exactly like the ones I made, but they do a better job of explaining than I did.
green kitchen
I am collecting old sweaters to make more of these in different sizes so if you have old sweaters please contact me.
Another upcycling idea we are working on is a castle out of toilet paper rolls and a cardboard box. I also saw a friend make a guitar out of the same things.

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Filed under art, baby, clothing etc., fashion, fun

The incredible Bulk

We threw out another grocery bag of garbage yesterday. That’s 6 weeks this time. Woo Hoo! I’ve asked Kyle to start saving his chip bags and things like that again (which I insisted that he throw out to make room for the baby). I have a couple workshops coming up where I can use them for installation. Garbage installation! I also still want to try weaving them.
I went to the Young and Eglinton Centre Bulk Store  and bought a big bag of bulk chocolate bars(about 20), so that we could have some treats without packaging. Someone ate the majority in one day! That’s the problem with bulk. I wish there was a corner store near us that sold bulk so it was easy to buy just one package free bar at a time. It is hard to keep chocolate bars in the house when you know they are just sitting there. I wouldn’t be able to do it previously either. I can now because surprisingly, with pregnancy came self restraint. I can now eat just one bit of chocolate and save the rest for later.  Now all you detectives know that I wasn’t the someone who ate too many chocolate bars(not this time anyhow)….

Grass Roots no longer carries bulk vinegar. This is a huge blow. They are looking for another supplier but their supplier just stopped carrying it. We use vinegar as the main ingredient for cleaning supplies, and though I know the containers are recyclable, I really don’t want to get a container every time. Bulk is so much better! And we have no problems keeping lots of vinegar in the house. It’s not as tempting to over clean as it is to over eat!

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5 weeks this time

As most of you know, we are done the “absolutely no garbage allowed” part of our project, and have been producing approximately a grocery bag of garbage every 3 weeks.

On Sunday I threw another grocery bag of garbage out. I made it 5 weeks this time! Kyle has been saving his garbage to make art with, so we may end up throwing that out too if he hasn’t made it before the baby comes. We need space for baby stuff, we don’t have any extra room for storing garbage. The main offenders for Kyle are chocolate bar and chip wrappers. There are no package free potato chips and home made ones are just not the same. It is possible to get wrapper free chocolate bars at bulk stores, but there are none really close to us and when I do get them, I get a whole bunch, which Kyle usually eats all at once, and then feels sick. He doesn’t want me to buy a bunch more, but eventually he wants just one more and gets it at the convenient store. The good thing is the wrappers are pretty so if he does find the time to make art, they turn into aesthetically pleasing art. O.K, enough Kyle gossip (sorry sweety).

I have weened myself off waffles! So that’s less plastic garbage for me. I can’t get off the crackers though. I still need them in the morning to fend off my nausea. I also threw out my first pair of disposable contact lenses. They are very small, but I wondering about environmental problems caused by the chemicals breaking down. I’ll try to do some research.


Filed under art, project rules


I have been noticing lately that when ever I read an article about this project and it says “Sarah McGaughey, environmentalist”, I feel irritated. At first, I thought it was just because I don’t like labels period and I would rather just be called Sarah, but today I realized I don’t mind being called an artist. There is going to be an article in Glow magazine about Kyle and I, and this project, so today a fact checker e-mailed to make sure everything was correct. When I got to the part that said, “you are an environmentalist in Toronto”, I corrected it and said ” I am an artist in Toronto.” Then I got to thinking about why I would object to being called an environmentalist. I came up with this: it’s redundant. We live on this earth/ in the environment. If we don’t take care of the environment, we are not taking care of ourselves, as everything is connected. It’s really obvious and natural to me to be concerned for the environment. Saying I am an environmentalist is like saying, I am a breathist, I believe in breathing; I am a foodist, I believe in eating; I am a flatulentist, I believe in farting. These are all just natural things we to do, that don’t need a label.  Also it seems to me that the minority should get labels, and I feel that the majority of people do care about the environment. Yes, I am prepared to be called naive again.  So instead of calling everyone who cares an “environmentalist”, why don’t we just use name calling for the people who are doing harm. They can be “destructionists” or “Greedists”. I’m not sure why “artist” doesn’t seem like a lable to me, maybe because it’s something I chose, something I do, rather than something I am. Maybe it’s because I’m cranky and contrary. So, I suppose,  if you have to call me anything, call me an artist, or Sarah, or  a cranky pregnant person who is just trying to do her bit.

That’s all for now. I’ll post about cat litter tomorrow. Oooooo the suspense!


Filed under art, inspiration, press, project rules

What and Why?

I tried to explain what this project is about in the ABOUT section, but I still get a lot of questions so I thought I should expand. I am an interdisciplinary artist and as well as being a lifestyle change and an environmental choice-this project is performance art.*

That’s where the extremism comes in. If it was just about the environment, we probably wouldn’t chose to make ZERO garbage no matter what, because sometimes the no matter what is not the best choice for the environment or our health. Example:

We reject the Harmony organic milk in re-useable bottles because of a small plastic safety seal, and instead make rice or almond milk. Neither rice nor almonds can be grown locally and have to be shipped from abroad causing pollution and numerous other environmental horrors. Harmony Organics works very hard for the environment and the community and it’s not really proactive to be talking our business away from them.

The goal of the project is to get 31 concecutive days (one month) without creating any garbage. Kyle and I attempted to do this for two years and didn’t succeed in getting a month garbage free. We got 2 black garbage bags bags in two years. At that time, the rule was, if we got garbage, we would keep it and try to make it into something else. At the end of the two years we ended up with the two bags that we through out, plus a number of collages made from the garbage. Mine look like garbage but Kyle’s are very successful and he has given some to friends as well. We are both doing the project but we have different rules.

KYLE: Make no garbage for 31 days. Recycling is OK. Incidental garbage that can be made into something else is OK. If garbage occurs that has no other possible use, or that gets thrown out before it has a chance(like at a restaurant), the clock starts over.

SARAH: Make absolutely no garbage for 31 days consecutively. Even if the garbage can be made into something else, the clock starts over. Recycling is limited to one 6 litre contaniner for the duration of the project (not just the 31 successful days, but how ever long it takes to get there.) I had originally thought I would wear all the garbage that I made, but my friends talked me out of it because they said I have enough guilt and I don’t need a hair shirt.

I have recently had to go to the doctor, and learned that I will need to go quite a few more times in the next little while so I have decided to make an exception for medical garbage that I can’t avoid. 

*Just to expand, here are two art in life performance artists, that have influenced me the most. I will try to add more soon and may be even put some of my past work somewhere you can see it.

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