Positive Environmental Forecast from an Unlikely Place

Sylvain Bouchard, Polyform’s representative, holds plastic crystals made of recycled waste. The company recycles 5 million kg of plastic waste annually. All photos by Damira Davletyarova.

I don’t own a cottage, or a house, so it was the free tickets and mere curiosity that brought me to Ottawa’s Cottage and Backyard Show at the EY Centre in March. Not knowing what to expect and with nothing to buy, I was surprised to see many companies that offered products, services and technologies focusing on the environment.  For nature lovers, there are great possibilities to bring yourself even closer to the outdoors.

Walking through lanes of booths, I met companies that are making new decks, outdoor furniture, boats and kayaks from recycled materials. There are solar panels to provide your cottage with electricity. Further along are charities that will help you to take care of your shoreline property to improve watershed health.

My attention, however, was caught by various beads and capsules placed in small plastic bottles that resembled pills. These are the EPS and EPP crystals. Decoded: It’s expanded polystyrene and polypropylene that is used for packaging and insulating floating docks and automotive parts. The company markets the material as “eco-conscious” Styrofoam.

The company’s name is Polyform. Their sign reads: “Sustainable Company.” What do they mean?

4 Public
Close to 12,000 people came to the Cottage and Backyard Show at the EY centre, where 250 exhibitors presented their products and services.

Polyform’s representative Sylvain Bouchard explained: the EPS and EPP crystals consist of 98 per cent air and 2 per cent plastic. The company’s special recycling plant at Granby, QC uses plastic waste that is collected from residents and industrial plants for raw materials. He told me the plant recycles over 5 million kg of plastics annually.

Environmental awareness has encompassed our indoor and outdoor living, including the use of renewable energy. Our new federal government and their work in the Paris Agreement rekindled public interest in greenhouse gas emissions. What will this year bring to renewables? I approached the booth with mounted solar panels to hear what they had to say.

“2016 should be a positive year for renewable energy.” This sunny forecast comes from the president of Ecosolaris, Martin Lambert. His company is one of many that help enterprises and residents integrate solar heating, solar electricity and biomass to reduce their use of conventional energy. He says “the demand is only going up.”

The president of Ecosolaris Martin Lambert says people are more concerned about climate change and are more willing to use renewable energy.
The president of Ecosolaris Martin Lambert says people are more concerned about climate change and are more willing to use renewable energy.

“People are willing to make a move regardless of their return on investment, which is what needs to be done,” Lambert says.

Before leaving the fair, I noticed beautiful silhouettes of animals, plants and other objects framed into wood. The exhibitor’s name was Stephen Washer, and I quickly joined the crowd that gathered around him.

“To make our art, we use left-over wood and scrap materials: old tables, baseboards. We add colour and texture to it,” Washer explains to visitors. “To create the background, we use material that comes from garbage: old hockey sticks or chains from bikes.”

3 Stephen Washer
Stephen Washer, co-founder of Behind the Woods, explains to visitors how he and his cousin Marco Facciola make art from wood leftovers and garbage items.

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Later, Washer told me that it has been only a year since he and his cousin Marco Facciola founded their company Behind The Woods. Washer works as a project manager with Windmill Development Group and Facciola is a mechanical engineering student at Concordia University. Behind The Woods is their hobby. The hobby was born when both men were children, while they worked with their fathers in workshops. Over their lives, this hobby evolved into passion and a quest to do something good for the environment.

“As a society, we discard so much, and our landfills continue to grow. This is not a sustainable path,” Washer tells me. “We are trying our best to show people that you do not have to throw your old furniture into the trash, and that we can reuse and transform it into beautiful art.”

Meanwhile, the sun was setting over the horizon. The exhibitors were covering up their displays. It was time to leave, yet I felt sorry for not having more time to explore the exhibition. At the same time, I was excited with the thought of what the future might hold for the environment.

At the end of the day, I can say that more companies are betting on sustainability, because they know the age of arrogance has passed. The time for being earnest has come. With an abundance of information and the clear implications of extreme weather on display around the world, there is little excuse for anyone not to take the sustainable approach.