3 ways to gift-give waste free

In the spirit of today being another day that the world tries to make you feel like you need to give presents and buy stuff just so that people feel loved and important, and make you feel guilty for not doing so (Happy Valentine’s Day!) – I thought I’d share three ways to give waste free.

  1. Donate to a charity on behalf of your friend, loved one or partner. Thyme & Again had heart shaped cookies that they give you in paper bags, that go towards the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Yummy and kind.Screenshot_20180214-171433
  2. Why not give a dried bouquet? If you’re like me and like to make dried arrangements for fun, you may have some lying around to give. To make it extra special, you can put in a bottle that means something special (like that empty liquor bottle that you drank together and made wild memories with).


3. Just spend time together. Cook dinner for each other, even if you don’t know how – it will be hilarious. Play video games or just lay around and talk. Some of my best memories were with my gal pals laying around in bed and having pillow talk.

And that’s it. This can apply to any special occasion like birthdays and holiday time. How do you gift give?


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.

Hair Care Regiment | An answer for Shannon

zero waste ottawa hair care

A reader of mine, a mother of 2 asked me to discuss my hair care regiment because she is where I was months ago. And you know what Shannon, I have to be honest with you. Although I am pretty content with my hair now, there are days where I still want to cut my hair off just like you do. I want to take a buzzer right from the nape of my hair all the way to my crown and be done with it.


Except.. do you know how fortunate I am to have hair to even f with? The fact that I even have hair to begin with. I mean, why should I even be complaining? This thought alone is the reason why I don’t spend too much time on it. Except that I probably do spend a lot of time looking at the split ends and snipping them off because my visits to a hairdresser are few and far between. This is a weird thing I do when I’m thinking.

But honestly, when I tell you I don’t spend time doing it, thinking about it etc., I mean it. 90% of the time, I roll out of bed and do one of two things:

Stand up. Or roll onto the floor.

Just kidding.

I either glance in the mirror, check my part a bit with my fingers and walk out the door or I  throw it up in a high, messy bun with an elastic or a chopstick and walk out the door. Wait a minute, I don’t ever just walk out the door, I have a child. What parent out there has ever just “walked out the door” with their child. Basically, I don’t have time to f’s with my hair. I have so many other things that take priority, like whether or not my child wiped his butt.

Having been a hairstylist for more than 5 years (kind of still am) this is the complete opposite of where I used to be. I would do and put, cut or spray just about everything in my hair. And one thing I learned is that: hair is trainable.

Our bodies are very well designed in that everything that it is supposed to do, it does for us. Including take care of our hair. We just don’t let our bodies do it. We don’t trust it. We rely on what others tell us. And what they will think of what we look like. We compare hair. We wish we had different hair. We do everything that big marketing companies want us to do so that we can spend money just so that we can feel better about the way we look.

Because what we look like, we’re told by companies, isn’t good enough. What our hair is naturally doing, isn’t good enough. And so gallons and gallons of water is wasted washing chemicals down the drain. Billions and billions of dollars are spent on products, packaged in plastic, trying to achieve hair perfection.

I get it though. It’s hella hard not to buy in. Trust me. This no poo, non-traditional hair care business isn’t easy. There are days where I hate my hair. There are days that I think like I look like the greasiest, dirtiest mess ever. I want to give up on it some days. I get self-conscious and wonder if people think I even shower. Of course, most of this is just made up in my mind. Or… everyone around me just won’t tell me the truth. I sometimes daydream about the shampoo I used to use, it’s smell and lather and fantasize about going back to it.

But I don’t. I won’t. I think it’s out of fear that I will mess up what I’ve worked on for so long. I don’t want to go back to all of the lies.

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So here’s what we’ll do Shannon, beautiful mother of 2, who seems to have tried everything without any hope – let’s find you a solution. I’ll share what I do and give some insight. I’ll talk to you like I would my clients who used to sit in front of me in a chair at the salon. Ready?

Are you living in the country or the city?

The type of water affects your hair. It is not actually the soap itself. Depending on where you are and what the water is like, your hair will react differently. Country or “well” water is considered to be more hard. City water is still “hard” it is just treated more with chemicals. Rainwater before it goes into the ground is considered soft. Here’s an article that discusses more about that. I live in the city and my building is fairly old. So I’m not sure what is in those pipes.

How often are you washing your hair?

And not just that, how often do you wash it with soap and how often do you wash it with just plain water? I wash my hair maybe 2 times a week. Once with soap. Once without. Don’t get it twisted, I shower (I think?) more than 2 times a week. I just don’t always wash my hair.

Are you washing with hot water in the beginning and then ending your shower by rinsing your hair in cold water?

Heat opens up the hair follicles so you can clean it better and the cold water helps to seal it. I do this in replace of hair conditioner. First I wet my hair and when I apply the soap to my hair, I actually only put it on the top most layer working from the middle of my hair down to the ends. If I feel like being risky, I’ll maybe put a tiny amount on the top of my hair near my roots.But I don’t do this often.The top of your head and the roots of your hair is where the head forms all those oils.

My soap already has oil in it, I don’t want to add it to an area where oil already is coming from. I just like to rinse my hair roots with hot water and that’s it. The outer layer of your hair, as in the hair that you see most, is what collects the most pollutants from the air. That’s why it’s important to clean that part, not to mention the ends because everything ends up settling at the ends because gravity is boss. I wash it with hot first then before I get out I douse it with cold water.

Are you using heat on it? The more heat we put on our hair, the more damaged it becomes. Avoid using heat excessively. I rarely blow dry my hair. In the last year, I think I used a blow dryer three times, which saves on energy. I only recently started straightening my hair again and I do it once every other week, if that. Doing this gives me another day or two of not washing it.  The greasiness in my hair actually helps protect my hair from the heat, but at the same time it also helps to tone the greasy feeling down. Maybe because it’s being burned off? I don’t know.

Are you really patient?

At six months I wanted to shave my hair. At over a year, I now love my hair more than ever. I have more good hair days than I’ve ever had in my Life. My hair felt really awful at one point, and now it’s the softest I’ve ever felt it without using any products. But I struggled to get to where I am. And I already told you I still have crappy days just like the rest of us. I persisted. I was patient. You need to be too.

Are you testing different products for at least two weeks?

Maybe one week minimum. So that’s seven-fourteen days of washing. It doesn’t need to be every day, just in total. Your hair needs to adjust to whatever it is you’re using. Some no poo methods did not work on me. Some of the homemade soaps made my hair feel greasier. I switch up my homemade shampoos that I use on my hair to see the difference and also so that my hair doesn’t just get used to it and then not work as well. The soaps that I use that my friend makes have a few simple ingredients.

Do you accept your hair?

How well do you know it? Do you have thin hair? Coarse hair? Do you have a lot of hair but it’s fine? I have a ton of hair but it’s actually very fine. Which is why my hair gets build up easily and can look greasy if I use a soap that has too much oil in it. Your hair will also never look like anyone else’s because it is your own.

The one thing I hated at the salon was if someone brought me a picture and told me to make their hair look like that person’s hair in the picture. What works on one person will not necessarily work on you. We have different textures, different face shapes, different thicknesses. The sooner you can accept what your hair naturally does, the easier it will be for you to transition.

Yesterday I was having a good hair day. Today I washed my hair but didn’t use any soap. Today I like my hair too. It feels so soft. I’m also in a different city so the water could be different. Tomorrow I will not wash my hair. I probably won’t wash it until Monday. I spend very little time on my hair and I like it that way. I have way more important things to do than fuss about my hair, like write this blog.

Just remember, the process is different for everyone. The time of transition is different for everyone. Trust that you won’t have a perfect score of great hair days even when you think you’ve gotten over the imaginary “no poo hump”, but that it does get better over time.

Zero Waste Answers For Reader: Yvonne

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Did I tell you lovelies, how much I enjoy answering your questions and replying to comments on the blog? So much I apparently have to do it at 4am even when I really should be resting.

Well a reader named Yvonne took the time to comment on the blog with a few questions and I thought why not share the answers with all of you?

So here goes:

Hi there, I have a few questions for you.

1. How is Castile soap compared to soap nuts? And why soap nuts instead of that? (For detergent)

Actually for whites, I still prefer to use the soap and baking soda over soap nuts. I don’t own too much white clothing (mainly my sheets) as of right now, but perhaps when I really minimize that’s all it will be, just black and white. I like soap nuts because they are one item as opposed to my previous detergent which was combining two ingredients and shaving a bar of soap. Castile soap can be found in large bulk plastic containers. Soap nuts come packaged in just a cardboard box. Although if you do want to order soap nuts in larger quantities some companies still use plastic.

To be perfectly honest, I’m still figuring out what my preference is. I wouldn’t recommend using soap nuts for full loads, as in don’t try to cram in all your laundry like I sometimes do because it can’t wash well. But they are entirely compostable.

2. What sunscreen do you use? I love my Japanese sunscreen but they test on animals, plastic packaging, chemicals, etc.

My friend made me a sunscreen that I still use. I’ll try to find out the ingredients for it and let you know. I’m also very brown so I don’t apply much sunscreen and I just don’t lie out in the sun for extended periods of time, if ever. I have actually carried around an umbrella on sunny days.

3. Would you recommend I get a big bottle of Castile soap (tho plastic packaging) and use it for everything : shampoo, body wash, laundry detergent, hand soap, dish washing liquid, floor cleaner, etc. or you have better ideas?

I would recommend you try different things and then see what you like. You may not like how castile soap washes your hair. For body and hands, it’s fine. Laundry detergent, like I mentioned before I was using that combined with baking soda. Floor & window cleaners, you could just use vinegar and water. Dish washing liquid, you could use it but just cut it with borax so that is heavier for grease. For me I use either straight grated homemade soap bar in hot water or I mix the soap bar with borax in a glass container (like Frank’s Hot Sauce) that can be poured out.

4. What are materials that can be decomposed?

I’m not sure what materials you want to know about. Organic food waste can be composted. Cardboard. Coffee grinds. Soap nuts. Wood. In terms of clothing, cotton, linen, silk, wool, hemp. Some people think fabric made from bamboo is too, but I recently discovered it’s not nor is eco-friendly. If you’re breaking down clothing, it’s best to cut it into very small pieces. Otherwise, I’d recommend finding an organization that does textile composting or repurposing.

5. How to decompose?

We have a program with the City of Ottawa that picks up our organic waste, but if you have a space in your backyard you can create your own. There are lots of online resources on this. There are also bins that you can buy that can be used for composting. Not sure where you are located though. We’re moving to the country so we’ll be building our own. There is also the option of creating a vermicompost, which is a worm bin but that takes special care to create that one.

6. How did you deal with all the plastics, or unnecessary items in your life before converting to this lifestyle? 

About 5ish years ago I stopped buying plastic water bottles or any drink in plastic bottles. I wasn’t that aware at the time so I would still consume a lot of goods that were in plastic just like most people. I was literally no different than anyone else. When it’s normal to create garbage, you don’t really think twice about doing it. But when you’re not creating any garbage everything becomes magnified. As in, you notice a lot quicker and a lot faster. For example, it’s automatic for me to scan a room and the environment particularly events, restaurants etc. I do it out of habit now whereas before it wasn’t a habit. It took time for me to make these adjustments.

In terms of all the other items, I’ve moved and travelled so much that I am used to getting by with very little material possessions. I think it would be about 10 years ago that I decided that anything I purchased would have to be arts-related or a creative tool. I did only large shopping sprees for clothes once a year. Still now, I try to be selective with anything I buy. I’m looking for quality items I only need to buy once or that I can easily repair.

So sorry there are so much to ask. But I’m really interested to live a zerowaste life, now starting little steps : Castile soaps , tote bags, reusable water bottle. 

Starting little steps is the best way. I’m really proud of you.

For your bacon cravings. Please watch these documentaries : cowspiracy (environment), earthlings( animals – highly highly recommended), forks over knives (health) And see if you still feel hungry looking at meat/bacon/eggs and dairy.

I don’t eat meat right now although I have slipped up as I have written in my previous post. I prefer fruits and vegetables over anything. I also could never kill an animal. I have already watched all of the documentaries on meat and I know that I hate what happens out there. I don’t support any of it. Agriculture takes up so much resources and creates a ton of waste.

However, I have learned about more humane ways and have gained a respect for the farmers that genuinely treat their animals well and use their animals to help grow the land how mother nature intended. They let their animals run free, roam forests, play and eat grass, seeds and berries.

There are really great documentaries and books by Michael Pollen that talk about how animals are vital to the growth of plants and what the best practices are for farming. I do not in anyway advocate slaughter houses or any of the major meat corporations out there nor do I eat any of that, but I do recognize the value of animals. Especially knowing people from different cultures and parts of the world who live off of the land and who really take the time to use every part of the animal. Some of these people consider the animal sacred and it is just part of their tradition.

The thing is, I can’t stop people from farming animals but I can take the time to understand the difference between terrible conditions and humane ones. Much like supporting fashion, people should know the difference between factory slave-laboured clothes and eco-sustainable fashion.

My preference is vegetarian but I think if anyone is going to eat meat, it’s wise to support the people who practice it humanely because getting the world to eat only vegetables and no meat, just like getting the world to make zero garbage, is going to take a long time to change. Educating yourself is the only way to make informed decisions and have thoughtful conversations with others rather than just believing one way is the only way and the best way and defiantly demanding everyone follow because of x, y, z.

My goal with everything is to be accepting of others and their choices yet at the same time, I need to be true to my values and discover what works best for me, my son and my lifestyle, whatever it may be at the time. As with zero waste, I’m still learning how to be a vegetarian and because I consider myself a student of life, I do accept insight on the subject. I’m just not one to follow the crowd because someone tells me it’s the right thing, I really have to figure it out on my own and let my heart be my guide.