A mini interview by Sidney Weiss

Sidney is in their third year of journalism at Carleton University and was working on the zero waste movement in Ottawa. They reached out to me to ask me a few questions about the lifestyle. Thank you Sidney!

Just a note: while Jodi and I would love to be able to connect and meet with everyone when we are asked, we do have full lives of children and businesses, so we apologize in advance if we can’t meet up or write back to everyone.


How long have you been living zero-waste? What was your inspiration into this lifestyle? Did you have some type of epiphany, friends/family told you about it etc..?

I have been living “zero waste” for over two years, starting February 2015. More seriously in the first year as it was a project I had given myself for one year. I’m not 100% sure what happened, except that I couldn’t get the fact that I was producing a lot of garbage and seeing so much of it everywhere, out of my mind. I literally had to change or I would have gone crazy. I did write a blog post about it here though. 

Is Ottawa an easy place to live this lifestyle?  

Yes, I would say if you are single it is definitely easy to live this way. It is not easy if you don’t have access to a car, live out of the city, are marginalized/low income, or have a large family with differing views.

Can you tell me a bit about A Dream Lived Greener, what it is/why you started/what you do/talk about a few products you sell/promote etc.!

A Dream Lived Greener started as a blog project documenting my one year journey to live “zero waste.”  It was a way for me to be accountable to myself and share how I was feeling. Through that blog I received many questions on the lifestyle and would try my best to answer them.

During the second year of living this lifestyle, my friend and I decided to create an online store for the products that we use. We bought wholesale for our own products that we used daily and decided to put the rest of our stock online at an extremely affordable price. We didn’t want to become Amazon, so our mark up is not much. We’re not big on consumerism, so our online store isn’t a large corporate venture, but we just wanted to offer plastic-free alternatives (toilet paper, soaps, straws etc.) without the extra costs that come with buying through retail or at a grocery store.

Would you say there is a big community for the zero-waste movement in Ottawa?

There is a growing community. A lot of them say hi to me through this blog (thank you for reading!). But honestly, the community had begun before the movement even had a name. Most of the older generation, like our grandparents or parents, have implemented many of the 5 R’s that “zero waste” claims to talk about today. My parents still have clothing and household items that I remember seeing and using when I was a child. Consumerism and convenience have made it easy for us to lose sight of the fact that things used to be very simple. I talk to a lot of older people who share things that they have been doing all their lives. As I’ll mention below, the internet has just made it easier for us to find what we want. We can find what we are looking for with a simple search. 

 What are the easiest/hardest/most surprising things/steps you have living zero-waste?  

The easiest thing about living zero waste was probably the little things, like bringing a water bottle or your own grocery bags. Recycling and composting, as well. The most difficult thing in the early stages of my journey was getting out of my comfort zone and asking for things without plastic. People would look at me odd because no one was accustomed to it. Nowadays you see videos and read articles all over the place so it seems to be more common.

One thing that I found surprising was the amount of backlash in the community towards each other. For example vegans who would talk down on “zero wasters” who ate meat, or “zero wasters” who would scoff at people who drove cars and didn’t ride bikes. Although there are a lot of people who support each other, I found it odd that no matter what, there was always some sort of hate or judgement, as though we forget we’re not perfect and that change doesn’t come quickly.

What are some of the cool, unique methods you have come up with to adapt to this lifestyle?  

I think the only cool, unique method I have come up with, is just painting with natural paints, like beet root powder, turmeric and activated charcoal. Everything honestly has been done before. People have been making their own products and fixing their own things for years. This lifestyle has only became more recognized because of social media. Other than that, to adapt to this lifestyle just required a lot of research and practice. 

Why is this specific movement something you are extremely  passionate about and committed to?  

I am passionate about it, but since my year has passed I feel like avoiding plastic and composting isn’t enough. The more I read and the more I see pictures of everyone’s jars, the more I feel like I’m not doing enough. I’d need to lobby the government to make changes, as well as go straight to the head of manufacturing companies to implement real change, which would cost a lot of money.

I try to stay committed to it because I care about the world that my son will be living in – and hopefully that I’m still able to live in too. I want him to feel like I did my best to protect him, our planet, and teach him how to take care of it, like it’s his home, but at the same time, I am realistic – things are changing and who am I to say that what it’s changing to isn’t for the better. We like to think that we are Gods and that our lives are important (which they are), but no one truly can say what the future will look like or if we’ll even be alive tomorrow.

The only thing we can do is try to do our best and live our lives the way that we feel is best and right for ourselves and each other. 

 Do you have a mason jar with your garbage for the year/6 months (or whatever!) If so, can you tell me what is in it?

I still have my mason jar from my one year journey. It mainly had produce stickers, twist ties, dental floss, plastic from the lids of jars and chocolate wrappers. I don’t continue to put things in that jar today. 

Ottawa just announced they will be opening their first zero-waste grocery store! Do you think it will be successful? What does this mean for Ottawa and this movement?  

I am very excited for Valerie! It is a lot of work opening up a store. Jodi and I had spent quite a few months last summer developing a business plan for a “Zero Waste” store and we found a location too. But the investment and time required is huge. We are both full-time Moms of little ones on top of having our own businesses. We are able to commit to our e-store  without any overhead or stress. We used to frequent one grocery store that opened in Hintonburg with similar goals, called the West End Well. They had to close after one year of being in operation.

Having done our research, as well as being business owners, we know and understand profit margins, expenses and risks that come with having overhead. The market area has higher rent which will mean a higher mark-up on products. Nu Grocery will work for those that live in the market and who work or travel through downtown. For others, like I mentioned above – low income, large families (parking in the market is difficult enough on it’s own, let alone with kids), or who live far away from the market, it won’t make much difference. I think a zero waste store is a great step for Ottawa, but there are so many bulk stores, grocery stores and local businesses all over the city that already offer the experience of shopping without plastic.

That being said, I do hope that it will be successful and that it’s a great thing to have in Ottawa! I definitely think more stores should offer ways to shop more sustainably.

What are some further steps Ottawa could take to make this a more accessible lifestyle for citizens – in terms of shopping and products, as well as waste disposal/recycling etc.? 

I think that the zero waste grocery store is a great start, and more stores should offer products that have less packaging. Some other suggestions are for Ottawa to have a plastic bag ban, businesses should not offer plastic cutlery, plates or disposable coffee cups, the city should have green bins out next to conventional garbage cans like San Francisco does, Ottawa can make electric cars (or transportation) more affordable and eventually extend the train to communities that are further out.

But as I sit here and type, the truth is none of this will happen just by talking about it here, avoiding plastic or watching what I’m buying. What I really need to do (and what we need to do) is make it to City Hall for a meeting and give my voice to the people who are really capable of making large scale change – like this article states best:

“On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.

So if you really care about the environment, climb on out of your upcycled wooden chair and get yourself to a town hall meeting. If there’s one silver lining to the environmental crisis facing us, it’s that we now understand exactly the kind of work we need to do to save the planet—and it doesn’t involve a credit card.”

Mattress pick-up in Ottawa

Zero waste ottawa mattress donation
Hey Ottawans,

Recently I had to go through the process of getting a new mattress and discarding the old one. We had a king-size mattress that we wanted to save from the landfill and donate because it was in good condition so I called around. To no avail, no companies would pick it up because of either the size of the mattress or because they stopped receiving mattresses due to bed bugs.

The places that I was referred to that DO NOT pick up used mattresses but DO pick up large, gently used, furniture were:

Habitat for Humanity – Fee for pick up
Canadian Diabetes Association – Free pick up
Salvation Army – Free pick up
GoodWill  – May be a charge
Helping With Furniture – Free pick up
St. Vincent De Paul – Free pick up

However, one man in Ottawa is a volunteer that picks up gently used mattresses of ANY size FOR FREE and donates them to people who are new to Canada.

Paul Dietz
Cell: 613-791-3877
Resettlement Resource Service Volunteers

Pick-ups will not be immediate and can take a week or more. Please have patience as it is completely volunteer run.


My strong recommendation to anyone purchasing a mattress in the future is to buy a protective cover for your mattress, especially a waterproof one if you have children. This will help protect it from bed bugs, wetness etc. and is helpful for furniture donation in the future.

When traveling, keep all of your clothing and bags away from the beds, floors and any places that may be accessible to bed bugs. As soon as you return home, leave your suitcases and bags away from your bedrooms (if it’s winter, you can leave them outside) and wash your clothing on hot. For more tips on preventing bed bugs visit this article: HERE.

If you have any other information, please feel free to comment below.

2 Year Zero Waste Check-In

As the second year of my “zero waste” journey ends, I thought it would be appropriate to check in.  Let me be clear and say that I am no longer the same person that I was when I began. Meaning I’ve definitely loosened the reins a little, especially since cutting meat and dairy out of my life completely.

As part of my two year celebration, I wanted to post something fun. While I avoided ever reading any of the comments on the video about me living zero waste, I finally took a moment to scroll quickly through them and pick out some of my favs.

But before we get to the questions and comments posted on the Exploring Alternatives video, I thought I’d quickly establish 5 Truths.

Truth #1) Since moving in with my partner, I can safely admit I have created about a large garbage bag full of garbage. We don’t keep separate garbages or anything, nor do I stuff all of my items in a mason jar, but I do monitor my waste still and over the past six months, I approximate about one full garbage bag. Part of which is also because I volunteer to rescue food now. Not too bad, I’d say.

Truth #2) Take out has been a culprit. UberEats and Just Eat make it easy. On the days I don’t feel like cooking or I haven’t had any time to go to the grocery store or out anywhere, then I order for delivery. I admit to having about 7 instances in the last year where I ordered in and has contributed to my waste. And it has been from the same place. Open Rice.

Truth #3) Make-up. That natural, DIY stuff, other than my activated charcoal eyeliner, I hate. I still use eyeshadow make-up that I’ve had for years when he and I have date night (I know make-up junkies will tell me it’s probably gone bad, but I can’t waste it), and I bought fresh mineral bronzer once when I had a photo shoot. Although, I will post a DIY recipe for vegan mascara, it’s really only good for people with light lashes. My lashes are black as black can be. When I put it on, you can’t even tell the difference, so why bother? I still barely wear make-up except for the activated charcoal eyeliner and I don’t need to justify why either.

Truth #4) I still screw up on saying no to straws, especially when travelling.

Truth #5) I was feeling depressed once and I bought 2 shirts that weren’t thrift. They were on clearance. Did you know clothes get thrown out that are on clearance if no one buys them? Basically anything that is on clearance, food, furniture or anything damaged even slightly. Right in the trash. I had a friend work at a home decor place once and she told me that slightly scratched furniture needed to go in the dumpster, but FIRST it had to be beaten up with a hammer and mutilated so that no one would ever want to take it away from the dumpster. Ever. Sigh.

And that’s it. Have fun reading YouTube comments.

Yes, I believe I should too. Still part of the dream. 


Linda, you are right. I was not aware that every thing I do has an impact. Thank you. I definitely feel way smarter after reading this comment, but I think you also do not understand what striving for “zero waste” really means. I understand that we can not be perfect in today’s standards. It would mean not owning modern technology, like this computer (or smart phone) you’re writing me on. We would need to grow our own food and save seeds. Compost our own waste. The list goes on. I don’t claim to be perfect and I’m sure most zero wasters understand that they can’t be perfect either. 


Don’t pity single mothers. I have met many Mommies who are single by choice because they wanted a child but didn’t want to look for a suitable partner or waste time. Also, my boy has a great relationship with his Father. 


Bulk buying is purchasing larger quantities, yes. When you can afford it. A few times I’d buy bulk and there would be about 3 or 4 of us pitching in on the order. At Mountain Path the minimum order was $300. 


I still Art. I am an Art Educator and run a nonprofit that provides free workshops to at-risk youth in Nunavut and Ottawa so I have to purchase supplies when I run workshops. Outside of that, on my own, I still upcycle, use garbage and I’m actually STILL using my inventory from before zero waste. I seriously had A LOT. 


Nope. It’s a Classic Samurai. I still haven’t had to purchase new blades since I got it. 


There are many articles that would beg to differ. And my son hasn’t made a single complaint once about not having many toys. He has a lot of fun playing with his current small box of toys, or legos that were from 25 years ago, or with sticks, or with spoons, or with the tiles on the floor of the kitchen. He makes art. He uses something called his imagination. He is definitely very much a child that plays, is creative and has fun. 


You’re right!  This is so fucking stupid! Actually to be fair, if you killed yourself it would make for one less person creating waste, encouraging consumption and contributing to stupid global warming, but please don’t do that. There are probably people that love you and would miss you. 


My name is not Bea, but if you took the time to read any of my first posts, you’ll see I used her as a resource and source of inspiration when I first started.


I Amazoned it. Not the best choice, but when I went straight to the company website, they don’t sell it there. Classic Samurai. 


When I lived closer to a natural food store that sold it in bulk, I would buy it there. Now I just try to buy the largest jug of it possible when and where I can.


Aw, thank you. I feel calm. Most of the time. And no I am not Indonesian. Are they calm with gentle soothing aura’s? I am from Southeast Asia from a tiny country with over 7,000 islands called the Philippines. I am Filipina. 


Here, here Kristina! I second her about Stefan Thompson. He’s a beautiful soul and a talented artist. 


Yes. I am Vegan. I don’t think it should ever be about comparing though. People do what they can when they are moved to.


Thank you.


So the Internet says. I have also read on My Plastic Free Life aka Beth Terry, that they are not. And that you shouldn’t put them in your compost. Whether they are “edible” or not, I don’t want that in my body. Maybe you can tell me if they are. Eat a lot of them and poop and then tell me if they show up in your poop or not. 


I took my one year of hardcore zero wasteness seriously. Almost too seriously. You are correct that buying fruit out of season and not local is not that sustainable. Trying to be zero waste does not mean you are perfect, as I have admitted to many times in this post and many others. The larger quantities you buy, yes the more sustainable that can be, but also the more you waste, should it go bad. I buy what I need now.


You caught me. I do drive a car. So I am a horrible zero waster. Both my cars I have purchased have been old. My first lasted me 3 years. I have a car because I work for myself and have to travel to many locations with camera equipment or art supplies in order to survive and feed my child. I can not be perfect. At least I have not purchased a brand new car, ever. Buying new, unless possibly a hybrid or electric, is worse for the environment. 


I use my entire face to wipe my butt. My whole entire face. Actually, I use these


Everything that has happened now is a result of someone copying someone else. In fact, you’ve actually just copied a previous comment. Artists do it all the time. So do Writers. Monkeys copy. So if we must copy something, I agree with Lainey Marie.


I do not make shaving soap, though my friend has made some for men. I just use bar soap that my friend makes and water.


The only juice I have bought was 100% not from concentrate cranberry juice to relieve a bladder infection and it was in a glass bottle. Otherwise, I make my own juice using a blender or just drink water. . 


I would never refuse any medicine that I needed in order to live a happy life. I have definitely bought Advil once and once I was prescribed something to help me breath due to asthma. Being perfectly zero waste is impossible, I agree. 


I just shouldn’t be pooping… interesting. I think if I never pooped, I would definitely be famous. As it stands right now, I am not. And that is because I poop.

Simple 2 Ingredient Eyeliner



June 01, 2016:

I did it! I finally made my own eyeliner, and it’s vegan!  It was really easy. I have no idea why I procrastinated for about a month before finally making this.

Here’s how:


  • 1/4 tsp (or 4 capsules) Activated Charcoal
  • Distilled Water (I just used filtered, filtered by my Binchotan Charcoal Filter)


  1. In a clean bowl pour 1/4 tsp activated charcoal.
  2. Take about 2 drops of water (I used a wooden chopstick to drop and mix).
  3. Mix it up and continue slowly adding a few drops of water until charcoal is clumpy.
  4. Pour mixture into a small glass container or empty tin and pack down and smooth with your fingers.Make sure to use a clean pointed or angled brush when applying. Dampen the brush beforehand. You’ll notice it’s a little gritty, but that’s how activated charcoal is. Provided I don’t rub my eyes, this can last me all day and I’ve been using this for over a week now. Other recipes that used oil, I found didn’t stay on as long. But you let me know which works better for you!


    **Update (January 24, 2017) Now, I actually ONLY wet my brush and dip it into the container of powdered charcoal. I’ll take a little tiny bit of powder on the end of my wet brush and mix it together until it creates a paste before applying. 

INTERVIEW: Soap For Sale, the soap-making process


**Just a note: This is a post transferred from our other site written on June 20, 2016**

Hey everyone! I wanted to give a little bit more background into the wonderful world of our soaps that we sell here, handmade by our permaculture, nature loving Mama aka Jodi aka Soap For Sale.

When I first went no ‘poo (meaning I quit conventional shampoo) I panicked but finally quit messing around and started to use Jodi’s soap and I haven’t looked back since. I actually got over the huge hair hurdle, don’t even use conditioner anymore and barely have to think about what my hair is doing. The amazing hair days are back in full force and lucky for me, the kinds I LOVE are 100% Vegan.

Both Jodi and I use this soap daily – for hands, face, body and hair. Sometimes we even use her plain, unscented all-purpose cleaning soap for our dishes, which is basically coconut oil, lye and water. We don’t sell this, but we can do custom orders.

We only use what she makes and have even converted most of our friends and family.

So, let the questions begin.


A: I really love soap and I used to spend a lot of money at Lush until I realized that most of their products contain ingredients I am no longer OK with having in my cosmetics. I first got into making soap around this time, which was about 7 years ago; I was starting to feel like I had very few practical skills and that I was very dependent on other people to make and do things for me. I began looking into how things are made and if I can do it myself before I bought something. I’ve learned how to make a lot of things now but I think soap is my favourite. I really love coming up with new recipes and I can hardly wait to unmould a new batch of soap to see how it’s turned out.


A: Lye is sodium hydroxide, a very alkaline solution and it is essential for soap making. Real soap is made with lye and is otherwise a detergent. When Lye is mixed with fats/oils (the acids), saponification occurs and both are neutralized, forming a salt. Once a batch of soap is finished saponifying, all of the lye will have reacted with the oils and there is no lye remaining in the finished product. Soap makers use more oil/fat than will react with the lye so that you have a gentle, moisturizing bar of soap. The standard is about 5% extra.

There are different ways to label soaps so you may not see lye/sodium hydroxide on the ingredient list. I label my soap by listing the ingredients that go in before saponification occurs because I think it is the easiest to understand. If I listed the ingredients as they are in the finished product, you wouldn’t see lye but you would see ‘glycerin’ (a natural byproduct of saponification) and the names for the saponified oils would be different; instead of, for example ‘coconut oil’, you would see ‘sodium cocoate’. A lot of vegetarians may be buying soap with animal fats if they don’t the name of the fat in the finished product.

For more information on how soap is made: http://www.soap-making-resource.com/how-is-soap-made.html


A: Most of my soap is made in wood moulds that my husband made for me. I line them with parchment paper because I can compost it when I am finished, although most soap makers use silicone liners or freezer paper because the soap comes out with smooth edges. Freezer paper is lined with plastic these days so I don’t use it.

I also have a round silicone mold for making soaps and sun screens but I try not use any plastic and never any that I have to dispose of when I’m finished.


A: Buying my soap is more expensive than most of the soaps you find at a store because I try to buy ethically sourced materials. I am also a small business so I don’t get the better deals of buying in very large quantities. I use only essential oils for scent which are much more expensive than synthetic fragrances or perfumes. Essential oils are natural oils extracted (usually by steam or water distillation) from plants. Most of the soap you find at the store use synthetic ingredients that are cheaper, but also more harmful to your skin.


A: The lye reacts differently with everything that goes into the batch of soap and so it is difficult to say what benefits you may get from the essential oils. From my own online research, it seems people believe that the essential oils do retain most of their beneficial properties. To be honest, I do not know very much about aromatherapy and the healing benefits of essential oils and because so much is needed in cold process soap, I use them mainly for their scent. For salves, I stick to the few I know more about. If you are interested to know a little more from someone more knowledgeable, I found this great interview about essential oils in soap making: http://roberttisserand.com/2011/06/essential-oils-in-soap-interview-with-kevin-dunn


A: It doesn’t take very long to make the soap – just a couple of hours for all the preparation, making it and cleanup but it needs at least 4 weeks to cure. Saponification only takes up to 48 hours but as the soap sits, the water will evaporate and the bars will harden which is good because they will last longer.