'Crisis of Convenience [w.a.s.t.e]' www.wearesavingthe.earth by Norwin Anne, part of the 2022 DesignTO Festival. Photo by Steven Meyers.

Submission Deadline
Friday, September 23, 2022

DesignTO Symposium
‘Trash Talk’

“MC24: How to Change Everything. Practically everything we do today needs to change. We are still doing most things as if we own nature and have unlimited resources. We work as if waste is not a problem. We treat nature like a pantry and a toilet. We think short term, party like there’s no tomorrow, and pass the check to future generations. We dump problems we can’t solve into places we can’t see. And many of our solutions create more problems than they correct.”

– Bruce Mau

The trajectory of the climate crisis will be determined by the future of waste management. How we deal with waste touches all levels of society, from an individual’s reusable coffee cup, to regional wastewater treatment, to the international waste trade. As individuals, we make near-constant decisions about waste – both consciously and subconsciously – from product purchases, to modes of transit, to waste sorting, to diet practices. To “flatten the curve” on the climate crisis we will need a wide-range of innovative waste management strategies. 

As a fundamentally generative practice, design is inextricable from waste. In every discipline, designers aim to innovate and develop new buildings, products, ideas and methods. What is to be done with all of this “stuff”? Increasingly designers are being called on to consider the full lifecycle of a product or engage in waste-led design. 

This symposium invites designers and thinkers to explore design responses to the problem of waste management. How do we design for carbon neutrality, or even carbon negativity? How are designers responsible for the environmental impact of their designs? How can we transform our relationship with waste and begin to see it as a valuable resource? Can concepts like “embodied carbon” – which is monitored, studied, and regulated in the building industry – be implemented in other industries? How can we move public awareness beyond the “reduce, reuse, recycle” slogan, first popularized in the 1970s, to a more urgent call to action?


  • Deconstruction and the recycling of construction materials
  • Planned obsolescence and repairability
  • Urban mining
  • Waste sorting
  • Designing for product end-of-life
  • Impact of the pandemic on waste
  • Waste as metric, including public health
  • Food waste
  • Energy recovery
  • Waste as archive or museum
  • Impact of global supply chain shortages on waste
  • Circular and vertically-integrated systems

Talks may be about current research or case studies, new products or technologies, spaces or experiences, speculative design or strategies, or new processes or policies.

All submissions must include the following:

  • A description of your talk topic (max. 500 words), including target audience, format (keep in mind that the symposium will be online), and length/timing (15-20 minutes preferred);
  • a short bio on you and/or your creative practice (max. 150 words);
  • 1-3 visuals of your work (max. 1MB per image), or a link to a video (if available); and
  • Your contact info (name, email, phone number, mailing address), a CV, and website URL, Twitter and Instagram handles (if available).


All submissions are due Friday, September 23, 2022 by 11:59pm ET.

How much does it cost to submit?

There is no fee for this submission. A modest speaker’s fee will be paid to successful applicants.

When and where is the Symposium?

The Symposium runs during the DesignTO Festival, January 20-29, 2023. The dates and times TBC. This event will be held virtually – speakers will not be required to travel. We reserve the right to modify dates, times or delivery methods if required.

What happens next?

Successful submissions will be notified by email in mid-October 2022.


Email any questions to Robyn Wilcox, Head of Programming, at [email protected] with this subject line: Symposium + your name.

Going into its eighth year, the Symposium is a signature program of DesignTO, a non-profit arts organization that produces Canada’s largest and leading annual design festival.