Category Archives: interactions

Zero Waste Beer

Living zero waste isn’t about deprivation; it’s about living with less and figuring out better solutions that just happen to not involve disposable packaging. And it’s about time we talked about beer.

growlerBeer is one of Grant’s very favorite things, and in Canada, all the major domestic brewers (Molson, Sleemans etc) refill their glass bottles. It’s a carryover from before the age of cans, and luckily it has stuck with us. We also have excellent take back programs (known in the US as bottle bills). That 10 cent deposit we pay on every beer can or bottle seems like a little thing, but it really works. The National Brewers Association reports that Canadians recycle 99% of their beer bottles  – nice work everyone!

Of course the metal caps and cardboard boxes are recyclable, but if you’re looking for a truly zero waste option beyond brewing your own, your best beer bet is to buy from a local microbrewery.

We recently visited Bridge Brewing in North Vancouver where we discovered that the owners Leigh and Jason are kindred souls in zero waste.  They are a microbrewery in the truest sense of the word, recently upsized from a garage hobby to a full fledged business with a tiny tasting bar squeezed into a little industrial strip near the Second Narrows Bridge.


They mill their own grain and compost it when they’re done, they wash caps for reuse instead of trashing them, and they’re looking for options for their grain sacks beyond recycling. They mostly sell growlers; large refillable glass jugs with reusable screw caps that hold just under a six pack of beer with no disposable packaging whatsoever! bridge brewingLeigh, who sports the awesome title of Director of Consumption, says she doesn’t like folks using plastic cups, so she even has a stock of glasses she lends out if you’re buying a keg. It’s this kind of customer service that makes me think that Bridge is going to be around for quite a while.

capsMicrobreweries mean you’re buying direct from the source – supporting the local economy, and getting a fantastic, package-free product to boot. If you’re near North Van, swing by Bridge, and if not, post your favorite brewery that refills growlers in the comments!



Filed under food, interactions, product reviews

Making Secondhand Cool

Our old neighbour is the Fashionista Sista, and I’m thinking that some of her aura of stylishness has rubbed off on us because, a few weeks ago, Grant and I were invited to sit front and centre at a fashion show.

Yes, a fashion show. With models and a runway and everything. Such fun! But, before people start posting comments about the consumption and excess of the fashion world, let me say that the reason we were invited was that the show was all about upcycled clothing.

The event was the brainchild of Sayan Sivanesan. We first met Sayan at one of our screenings, and he was so excited about sustainability, we could tell he was going to do some amazing things. Sayan is a business student who recognized that for many people, there is a serious social stigma to buying used clothing. For a large portion of the population, it’s just not “cool”. In fact, when he surveyed people at the Sauder School of Business, he found that most of his peers never shopped secondhand; they thought thrift was either for poor people or was about low quality clothes.

That inspired Sayan to start a movement to make secondhand clothing go mainstream.

His concept is called RISE upcycling, and here’s how it works:

  • Clothes get donated.
  • If the fabric is not usable, it goes to textile recycling.
  • If the clothes are of excellent quality and tailoring already, they are embroidered with a red feather logo and included in the “renew” line of clothing (which is equivalent to your standard Value Village type thrift store type pricing).
  • If they are good fabric, but need some altering, they are given to in-house artists who take them apart and put them together into a new, one-of-a-kind piece that is part of the “rebirth” line (think $45-200 for handmade gems) before being embroidered with a red feather logo.

This perfectly tailored, upcycled vest made from an upside-down pair of jeans was one of my favorites.

The red feather is the official RISE logo. Based on the concept of a Phoenix rising from the ashes, it’s a subtle symbol that the garment has been upcycled, reused, or reborn in some way.

In addition to feeling like minor celebrities (Sayan got us front row seats at the cat walk), the event was really fun. After the show, people could walk around and look at clothes in a gallery type setting and try them on and sip cocktails. It definitely felt more upscale than your standard Sally Ann, but we still walked away with a nice tailored shirt and salvaged skirt for just $20.

I like to think that if I was wearing my skirt, and I saw someone on the street who also had a red feather logo, we’d exchange a secret knowing (and extremely fahionable) look before continuing on. . .

In any case, RISE just launched their new website, so keep your eyes peeled for red feathers out there!


Filed under interactions

What can I do? I’m only a kid!

Sometimes Grant and I get to speak to school groups. We show our film and tell a few stories and answer questions about living zero waste. And sometimes I’m stuck that we’re talking to youth who maybe don’t have a lot of control over their garbage. I mean, most of our garbage comes from food packaging, and they probably aren’t the ones buying the food in their family. I even had one girl ask me today “but what can I do?”

I’ve been thinking about it. And I think there are lots of things you can do to reduce waste even if you’re under 19. Here are some ideas to get you started. You don’t have to do everything; just start with what works for you!

  1. Carry a stainless steel water bottle and vow never to buy bottled water again.
  2. Bring your reusable container and cutlery everywhere! (start at your cafeteria)
  3. Ask for experiences as gifts (think birthday presents like movie or concert tickets, playland or fun park passes, a massage, a hiking trip, skiing, etc)
  4. Buy clothes that are secondhand or have a clothing swap with your friends. Donate clothes that you’ve outgrown to charity (organizations like Big Brothers will even pick them up from your house)
  5. Look on your municipal website to see what can be easily recycled where you live. Then talk to your family and set up recycling bins in a convenient place in your home.
  6. Focus on one thing. Pick one thing that you can live without (plastic bags, paper napkins, disposable cutlery) and start avoiding it today. Once it becomes easy, then add something else.
  7. If you pack your own lunch, try to make it zero waste by eating whole fruits and packing food in reusable containers. Try making some of your favorite packaged food from scratch (eg. granola bars)
  8. If you’re a female, try reusable feminine hygiene like a menstrual cup or cloth pads.

At School:

1. Start Composting (this is a big one, so do it as a group, and talk to your administration and teachers to get help if you implement).

  • The Students at Windermere Secondary in Vancouver have a large composter and even have a Zero Waste Committee. Check it out here.

2. Make recycling at school easier.

  • The shop students at Charles Tupper Secondary in Vancouver made attractive wooden recycling bins with three compartments to have in school hallways.
  • Homma Elementary in Richmond has great posters reminding people to recycle and compost.

3. Try your own challenge.

  • The students at UBC Commerce Environment Club decided to carry all their garbage with them for a week to draw attention to how much they produced. They said it automatically made them make better packaging choices.

3. Do something at school to draw attention to garbage.

  •  The students at Fraser Heights Secondary School in Surrey made a Christmas Tree out of reused pop cans

4. Start a Campaign or a Petition

  • When she was just 16 Michelle Arsenault of Dryden, Ontario started the website to help her community reduce plastic bag use.
  • UBC Students got a waterbottle refill station installed to help people cut down on buying plastic water bottles.


Filed under Around the house, interactions

Zero Waste Champions with Children

So here’s the deal. We’ve been ‘trying’ this zero waste thing for two and half years now, (you would have thought the novelty would have worn off, but it hasn’t. ), and we’ve been screening our film at as many events as we can fit in to our spare time, so we get to meet lots or interesting people. People just learning about zero waste and people who produce less than us.  But no matter what the audience, one of the most popular comments we get has to do with having children.

“You couldn’t possibly live zero was with kids”, they say. “Your project wouldn’t have been possible.”

So to those nay sayers, I give you my zero waste champions with children:

Marcia is from Kamloops, BC.  She saw Grant and I speak a couple years ago at the RCBC conference and (to toot my own horn) has been pondering her own waste ever since. Well, truthfully, she works in the waste management field, so she has probably been pondering it for a bit longer than that, but this month is the month. This very April (Earth Month), Marcia is taking the zero waste plunge with her somewhat reluctant husband Trevor, and her 16 month old daughter. (Marica has secret inspirations to continue once the month is up, but don’t tell Trevor). They’re much better at their garbage inventory than we ever were, and I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot about parenting zero waste style. You can follow them from day one at

My Zero Waste – The original (in my mind) zero waste family! Mr, Mrs, and Little Miss Green are based in the UK and have a fabulous website with tons of resources in addition to their daily blog posts. They’re all about making zero waste accessible and fun.

Say No To Trash – It started off in Toronto, but now they live in Kingston. Sarah was one of the first Canadian zero waste bloggers I read. They started off trying to go 31 consecutive days garbage free, then they had a kid, and the saga continues into all kinds of sustainable lifestyle choices.

Zero Waste Home – I just recently found Bea and her fabulous zero waste family of 4. They are the epitome of an ubber modern, zero waste American family (with some distinctly “euro” undertones since Bea is from France). They live a seemingly super organized lifestyle in a gorgeous home in California that I think will appeal to those who want to try zero waste, but don’t want to labeled as a hippie.  Check out their awesome yahoo video here.

The Rubbish Diet- Karen Cannard is another UK zero waste icon. She’s a housewife (and now freelance writer) with two young children who meant to have an 8 week challenge back in March 2008. Needless to say, she became addicted to the lifestyle and has never looked back

MareBare Necessities – Marin is on a one-year journey of attempting to ‘live with less’. She’s not  purchasing new items (with the exception of basic essentials such as groceries, toiletries, etc.), buying locally whenever possible, and trying to reduce her overall environmental impact. And yes, she’s a Mom.

Glenbrook Zero Waste – An entire street of folks (14 families – many with kids) doing the zero waste thing.

And I’m sure there are many more folks out there zero wasting and living with less while dragging their children along with them. Or maybe it’s the children who are dragging the parents? Either way, if you have more fabulous families to add to the list, please put them in the comments.


Filed under interactions

Midway Journey Documentary

If you’ve seen our movie, you’ll know that there are hundreds of thousands of baby albatross dying on Midway Island each year filled up with our plastic; plastic that is floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The gorgeous footage of the albatross in our film was shot by Jan Vozenilek. He, Chris Jordan, and a team of passionate people have been documenting the lifecycle of the albatross on Midway as part of Journey to Midway. They are about to embark on another leg of their project and plan to be on Midway Atoll when hundreds of thousands of fluffy baby albatrosses are nesting with their parents. In addition to Chris Jordan’s ongoing photographic work on the island, the team is collaborating in the creation of a documentary film about their experience, that that they “hope will bring a message of beauty and renewal to an audience of millions of people around the world”.

In their own words, their film “will be a powerful visual journey into the heart of Midway’s astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. Through our journey we hope to rediscover—in the grandeur of the magnificent albatross and it’s far-reaching travels, and in the unbroken primal cycle of mating, brooding, nurturing and fledging despite the albatross colony’s encounters with plastic—that by turning toward flowing life in all its beauty and resilience, we find a path toward acceptance and inspiration. Our story will be framed in gorgeous state-of-the-art high-resolution digital cinematography, in one of the world’s most beautiful island landscapes. The viewer will enter a paradoxical world of horror and beauty, destruction and renewal, and emerge with their worldview shifted.”

I have met both Jan and Chris personally, and I know that they are humbly dedicated to preventing plastic pollution and to getting the story of Midway out there. If the images of the albatross touched you, and made you take a second look at your everyday waste, please consider supporting these guys. You could:

Please join now in supporting the MIDWAY project. And check out their latest trailer below.


Filed under gifts, interactions, packaging

The Perils of Plastic

This feels a bit like confession: “forgive me readers for I have sinned; it has been over 2 months since my last post.” So much for my weekly installments.  . .

Grant and I got pretty wrapped up in our cycle trip across the country this summer, and I got preoccupied with organizing community screenings of our film, but there’s no excuse really.

So to get back on track, I want to jump in with what we did last weekend. Last weekend, we attended a heartfelt presentation by Jan Vozenilek about the growing problem with plastics in our oceans and its effect on Midway Island’s albatross.

Although we have known about these issues for a couple years, we were still both overcome with emotion; seeing Jan’s latest powerful images from Midway made it feel as if we were hearing it for the first time. In addition to sharing short films and images, Jan brought a collection of plastic collected from inside the stomachs of dead baby birds. I was astounded by how many lighters and toothbrushes there were in the pile, and it really hit home that this plastic was our plastic: stuff that we all use everyday is killing marine wildlife.

To balance all that doom and gloom, Jan shared some positive stories such as the girl in Penticton who campaigned to get her highschool to give up plastic waterbottles (and achieved success in only one year!) and how the videos his team took on Midway have reached thousands of people around the globe. If you ever get a chance to see Jan speak, I highly recommend it, but in the meantime, please visit

In the photo left to right… Joe Schweers (filmmaker), Jan Vozenilek (filmmaker), Grant, Jen, Taina (Plastic Manners – who is living plastic free for 2010!)


Filed under interactions, media