IMPACT conference Ottawa group picture

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in the IMPACT! Youth Sustainability Leadership Conference. The conference aims to help young leaders "take their next strategic step for action: to deepen their sustainability understanding, build their leadership skills, and develop or advance projects and initiatives for meaningful change." The conference demonstrated that there are no sustainable actions too big or too small: all are worthy, all are rad and all are important.

Moreover, in addition to eating some delicious vegan food and meeting some other sustainably-minded individuals in the community, I got to share my zero waste journey with others. But perhaps most importantly, I learned about some other community-orientated sustainable initiatives and social entrepreneurship actions spearheaded by some very cool folks all over the city. From ethical energy to ethical brunch, here are some sustainable actions percolating across the 613, and perhaps how you can get involved.

Ethical Tree sample of website page

There is nothing more disappointing than going out with friends for food and realizing that there is NOTHING on the menu you can eat. Trust me, this happens more often than not. One time, listed Subway as their top vegan friendly-restaurant... So my new friend Siavash, an uOttawa grad, helped to create, an ethical-business directory specific to Ottawa. You can find restaurants, cafes and other cool places to support by selecting your personal ethical preferences, be it Vegan-Friendly, Fair Trade, Organic, or Woman-Owned.

There are over 300 establishments in the directory alongside accurate rating and reviews. Imagine finding the perfect new breakfast spot with veg-options for Sunday brunch with your gals... that is actually owned and operated by other gals! Plus as we move into exam season, this is a great resource for finding fair trade coffee shops across the city which fit your dietary-preferences. So great!

Another really cool movement already well established is Backyard Edibles, an urban farming operation which transforms underused residential space into productive market gardens. Talk about eating local! Folks who offer to have their backyards (or frontyards) farmed get a beautiful garden managed by the very cool and experienced BE farmers as well as a basket of garden fresh veggies each week.

You can find BE's urban-farmed produce at Farmer's Markets across the city once again when the weather get warm so keep your eyes out! And if you have some backyard dirt without any vegetable friends which also meets their basic requirements to become a garden plot, perhaps you can get involved and get some urban-grown, organic veg in return.

uOttawa's Cuppa Change group bake sale

A more recent addition to the Ottawa sustainable scene and started by students still in their forth-year here, Cuppa Change is a capacity building organization and initiative platform that hopes to provide agency, education and initiatives to encourage youth to promote ethical and sustainable community development. I am particularly partial to Cuppa Change because it was founded by some close friends who love working together to inspire change! If you saw the red boxes by the recycling stations around campus, that was Cuppa Change's first initiative called Roll Up for Change.

They collected winning Timmies rims and donated them to those homeless shelters in order to provide folks with a free cup of coffee and build relationships between service providers and members of the homeless community. They have some amazing things coming up, including a much-needed mental health initiative and a project concerning food waste. If you wanna support them, they are still building a team, looking to umbrella any cool ideas you may have and are having a fun pub night this weekend!

Finally, I want to share with you a for-profit cooperative with grassroots vibes who are doing great things for the energy grid. The Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op is a seriously cool community-owned solar energy investment opportunity which partners "with local property owners to use their land or rooftops for community-owned renewable power projects". This may seem complicated, but members can buy shares and get returns on their investments through sale of the power back to the grid, allowing individuals to make worthwhile social, sustainable and local financial investments. I also got an insider scoop and learned that they expanding their team, so this is a great experience for folks with an expertise or just a passion for clean energy who is looking for their next step.

The IMPACT! conference didn't just feature folks who already had some skin in the sustainability game. They were also concerned with empowering students and recent grads at all stages of their sustainability journey, providing development workshops and talks as well as networking opportunities and funding. The workshop included a diverse range of student leaders so naturally there was a diverse range of interesting and innovative project ideas in their nascent stages, concerning everything from outdoor education to indigenous awareness, from app development to farming co-operatives.

Once again, my favourite takeaway from the conference is that there is no project too small and no initiative too big. Everyone can do something and there is something for everyone to do. Some really special and sustainable things happening on every scale in our own backyards, from solar to sushi. Lets support each other, shall we?

~ jennie - @trashlesslovemore

Sorting through all your clothing for the ethical options can cause you to drink a bottle of wine

The well-worn, Madmen-esque marketing mantra that "sex sells" may still hold up, but a new wave of conscious consumerism has folks many reaching for benefit-corporation over bikini-clad and eco-products over easy prices.

But why can't we have both? Who wouldn't want to look hot, fun, beautiful, trendy, cool, sexy etc.  and still do better for the planet and its people?

What is known as "fast fashion" is a complex and frightening issue in which the hottest trends are made to appear to come and go so quickly that consumers feel the need to buy more and more with little regard for the environmental and ethical impact of the industry. Fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world, and the second largest consumer of water. Around 13 million tons of textile waste end up in landfills each year. Furthermore, the hazardous production and manufacture process  is horrible for water systems, agriculture and even your own health. Plus, the push for fast fashion results in deplorable working conditions.

Frankly, there is nothing sexy about any of this.

And speaking of such, its formal/grad season! So while students are scrambling to finish thesis papers and study for finals, they also have to start thinking about what to wear to their faculty formal or graduation.

So I set out to find where sexy and sustainability co-exist, tips for how you can look good and still do good and where your intentional choice to be better to the earth will help you be your best self.

Be kind and rewind (rewear)

Lizzie McGuire struck the fear of being an outfit repeater into every 90's child's heart. Wearing the same dress to the different event could be a hard pill to swallow (what about the instagram!), but if you can get over it, you'll save yourself cash money. And you can switch up other things like your accessories, your shoes and even your hair to give the same outfit a whole new look.

What are friends for?

Still don't want to wear the same thing more than once? Borrow from a buddy! Shopping your friends' closets is a great way to find something cute and all you have to spend is quality-time.
Or better yet, turn it into a party. My gal pals and I had a dress swap this past week where we all brought our dresses over to my place, drank some wine and had a mini fashion show. It was tons of fun and a really stellar study break. I got honest fashion advice about what looked good and we all found something super cute to wear.

Check out local vintage stores, the Free Store and so much more!

There are ways to shop without breaking the bank. Plus shopping lightly-loved clothing saves money, but also saves the clothing from ending up in landfills.

Here are a list of the best consignment stores in the Ottawa area. Also uOttawa's Free Store is a great place to look for outfit pieces for free! Another good place to look is the uOttawa Clothing Sale/Exchange group on Facebook. You can post your own gently-loved items and find those of others.

And I've never tried this before, but Rent frock Repeat (they have a showroom in Ottawa) seems like a cool way to get a designer dress without the environmental and actual cost.

But what happens if you find an adorable vintage dress, but it isn't quite the right size? Well become tight with your tailor! You might have heard the slogan "repair is a radical act", but by fixing and reconstructing old pieces, you can give them new life.

(While on this topic, when you are discarding of your old clothing, don't throw it out! Donate it and repurpose it!)

Three visitors to the uOttawa Free Store take a look at the great things they found

Shop sustainable

Finally there are some higher-end retailers who are catching up with the times. My true favourite is Reformation; their clothing is so beautiful and so beautifully made! (and they have free shipping worldwide!)

Here's a list of some other high-end ethical fashion brands available in Canada.

On the down side, true sustainable fashion is often more expensive and difficult to find. But in defense of these brands, the quality is way better, they are typically fair-trade and domestically-manufactured and they are good for the earth and for you. It's an investment and a choice. So perhaps rather than buying five cheaply-made dresses at Forever 21, you can buy one beautifully-made one from an ethical retailer.

Some advice for folks who like to wear suits and ties

If you're a person who likes to wear suits and dress pants rather than dresses, I'm afraid this post is not going to be particularly helpful for you. There really aren't many ethical retailers out there catering to eco-friendly "men's" dress wear.

However Nordstrom, while it is not the most transparent of department stores despite their alleged ethical commitments, has a line of organic cotton dress shirts. Sadly, besides that, I could not find an environmentally-friendly dress shirt, or tie, dress pants or really anything, anywhere. So all this is to say, this is pretty disheartening and if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

Eco-friendly makeup

My piece last week talked about zero waste tooth paste and some other fun, eco-friendly bathroom tips. In addition, my favourite green and cruelty-free makeup brands are e.l.f., Lush and Physician's Formula. Again, here is a full list of green and cruelty-free makeup brands available at Sephora so you can put your best face forward.

What not to wear  

Do your research before you buy! Rank A Brand is a great source of info. The worst culprits will rarely be transparent on their own platforms with their actual sustainability commitments and manufacturing practices.

And all in all, the average piece of clothing is worn only seven times before it is discarded. So whatever you do end up buying, try buy something you can invest in.

We have the power to demand change with our dollar. We can use that power to show retailers that sustainability is sexy! Instead of being addicted to fast fashion, perhaps we could get addicted to socially responsible, community-oriented, and eco-friendly fashion?

And if you have a favourite brand who has made some seriously sexy commitments to sustainability, let me know!

And best of luck with your grad ball/faculty formal! You're going to look great!

~ jennie - @trashlesslovemore

Saviez-vous que certaines installations sur le campus recyclent l’eau qu’elles utilisent? Je parie que non. À condition d’appliquer un système de filtration adéquat, les eaux usées peuvent pourtant être nettoyées et réutilisées.

Les installations aquatiques sur le campus l’ont bien compris. Pour souligner la Journée mondiale de l’eau, axée cette année sur le thème du gaspillage, nous nous sommes entretenus avec Bill Fletcher, gérant des installations aquatiques, pour découvrir comment celles-ci atténuent le gaspillage de l’eau ici même, sur le campus.

Les installations aquatiques ont été conçues pour la recherche sur les poissons et les amphibiens. Il va sans dire qu’on y consomme des quantités d’eau faramineuses.

(J’en ai profité pour demander ce que font exactement ces grenouilles. On m’a indiqué qu’elles se détendent, tout simplement. Je trouve le tout un peu inquiétant, mais qu’en sais-je?)

Les installations consomment quelque 30 millions de litres d’eau par an, ce qui n’est pas peu dire. Or, grâce à des filtres biologiques, 85 % de cette eau est réutilisée au sein du même service.

De gigantesques filtres biologiques ont été installés dans chaque pièce pour extraire l’ammoniac de l’eau et la réapprovisionner en oxygène. Comme les poissons respirent sous l’eau, ils absorbent l’oxygène qui s’y trouve. L’ammoniac provient quant à lui des excréments que génèrent les poissons (mais non de leur urine, puisqu’ils n’en produisent pas).

Les filtres biologiques éliminent l’ammoniac de l’eau à l’aide de bactéries naturelles mélangées à des billes de plastique (qui n’ont jamais à être remplacés – bonne nouvelle!).

C’est ainsi que ces filtres biologiques recyclent 85 % des 30 millions de litres utilisés annuellement (soit l’équivalent de 12 piscines olympiques). Si ce n’était de ces filtres, la quantité d’eau consommée serait bien plus imposante!

L’eau qu’ils ne parviennent pas à recycler n’est toutefois pas perdue. Dix millions de litres sont acheminés vers la Centrale thermique, qui les utilise à des fins de refroidissement (la vapeur qui s’échappe au-dessus de la centrale provient ainsi d’eau recyclée). Même si une faible quantité de l’eau non réutilisable est acheminée vers les égouts, on peut être fier d’atteindre un taux de recyclage de 85 %.

En simulant les courants marins naturels dans les réservoirs circulaires, le personnel de l’aquarium contribue à diminuer le niveau de stress des poissons. Le système est également conçu pour pousser les sédiments vers le fond du réservoir, où ils sont recueillis. Ainsi, les poissons ne sont pas continuellement exposés à ceux et celles qui nettoient leurs aquariums.

Je m’écarte du sujet du gaspillage de l’eau, mais je ne saurais passer sous silence tous les efforts déployés par le personnel du laboratoire pour s’assurer que les poissons ne sont pas stressés. L’ampleur de leurs précautions en est touchante! On ne pense pas au stress que peuvent subir les poissons. Les réservoirs et les systèmes de nettoyage sont conçus pour les calmer, l’éclairage dans chaque pièce reproduit leur environnement naturel et la température de la pièce est réglée pour veiller à leur confort. La pièce où logent les poissons tropicaux a de quoi faire transpirer!

À l’occasion de la Journée mondiale de l’eau, prenons tous un moment pour songer à son importance pour les humains et les animaux. Indispensable pour notre campus, elle a bien plus d’utilités qu’on ne se l’imagine.

~clarissa -  stagiaire en communications

L’idée de tout éteindre à la maison ou en résidence en refroidit plus d’un – l’idée peut sembler angoissante pour certains, et ennuyante pour d’autres. C’est pourquoi, largement inspirés par nos recherches sur Google, nous vous présentons ici quelques suggestions pour participer à Une heure sur Terre sans vous tourner les pouces dans le noir.

*N’oubliez pas qu’il est interdit d’allumer des chandelles dans les résidences de l’Université d’Ottawa; or, les chandelles traditionnelles peuvent toutefois être remplacées par une lampe de poche ou des chandelles électriques.

1. Faites un pique-nique intérieur. Étendez une couverture au sol, invitez un ami ou deux, allumez des chandelles* et régalez-vous. Il n’y a rien de mieux que de relaxer avec des amis autour d’un repas.

2. Organisez une soirée cinéma. Cette option n’est pas entièrement sans faire appel à l’électricité, mais elle peut s’en approcher. Allumez la télévision, mais éteignez tout le reste. Certains étages en résidence ont opté pour cette formule.

3. Dessinez à la noirceur, puis comparez les résultats avec vos amis une fois la lumière revenue. En plus de s’amuser, certains se découvriront peut-être un talent caché.

4. Les ombres chinoises (utiliser ses mains et une lampe de poche ou une chandelle* pour projeter des ombres au mur) nous rappellent les divertissements de nos ancêtres, avant l’arrivée des technologies. Pourquoi ne pas vous en servir pour raconter une histoire?

5. Observez les étoiles. Même si l’activité se déroule habituellement à l’extérieur, nul besoin d’affronter le froid des hivers canadiens – une fenêtre fait très bien l’affaire.

6. Prenez des photos à l’obscurité et publiez-les sur Instagram en utilisant le mot-clic #uneheurepourlaterre.

7. Sortez vos jeux de société, jouez aux cartes ou faites des charades. L’obscurité relèvera le niveau de difficulté!
(En passant, saviez-vous que vous pouvez emprunter des jeux de société à la bibliothèque?)

8. Optez pour un jeu-questionnaire et mettez vos amis à l’épreuve!

9. Faites du yoga ou de l’activité physique à la chandelle*. L’obscurité transforme complètement l’expérience – à essayer absolument!

10. Faites une sieste (bon, celle-là, elle est de moi). Personne ne semblait le suggérer en ligne, mais pourquoi pas?

11. Offrez-vous une soirée musicale acoustique – nul besoin de micros et d’amplis pour improviser rythmes et harmonies entre amis.

12. Lisez à la chandelle* – ce n’est peut-être pas idéal pour les yeux, mais c’est une activité à la fois agréable et reposante.

Fondue avec lampes solaires

13. Préparez une fondue à la chandelle*.

14. La lecture d’œuvres de poésie a tout pour nous émouvoir – surtout lorsqu’elle a lieu à la chandelle*.

15. Équipez-vous de brochettes et faites rôtir des guimauves sur une chandelle* ou un bon feu de foyer, si vous avez la chance d’y avoir accès!

16. Racontez des histoires de fantôme entre amis pour vous donner une bonne frousse.

17. Construisez un fort à base d’oreillers, comme dans le bon vieux temps.

18. Compilez vos factures d’électricité pour l’année et donnez son sens à cette heure dans l’obscurité (moi, j’ai trouvé cette suggestion amusante).

19. Tant qu’à éteindre les lumières, aussi bien fermer les yeux et méditer un peu.

20. Promenez le chien! En l’absence d’un ami à quatre pattes, faites une marche entre amis.

21. Collez-vous entre amoureux. Pourquoi pas? Pas besoin d’électricité pour se faire une petite soirée douillette.

22. Prenez part à une activité communautaire (voir la carte Une heure pour la Terre).

23. Cédez à la tentation et amusez-vous avec des bâtons lumineux! Il n’y a pas de meilleur moment pour ce faire (à l’exception, peut-être, du Disco Vélo).

24. Faites le grand ménage. Ce n’est peut-être pas ce qu’il y a de plus amusant, mais l’activité a le mérite d’être utile.

25. MANGEZ. Si on ne voit pas ce que l’on consomme, difficile de s’en culpabiliser.

~clarissa -  stagiaire en communications
A frog in a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

Did you know that uOttawa recycles water? As in use it, get it dirty, and use it again? I'll bet you didn’t. Now, of course, you can’t just use it immediately after dirtying it, but with the right filtration system, the water can be used over and over.

A filter and a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

That’s what they are doing in the uOttawa Aquatic Care facilities on campus. So in honour of World Water Day, with this year's theme being waste water, we spoke to Bill Fletcher from the Aquatic Care facility on how they are reducing water waste right here on campus.

The Aquatic Care facility focuses on the research related to fish and amphibians, so you can imagine they use a lot of water.
(I asked why the frogs were all like this. I learned that this is how they relax, a little creepy in my opinion but you know, I am not a frog).

Some frogs surface for air while others relax on the bottom of a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

The facilities currently use 30 Million litres of water a year! Wow.
But 85% of that water is getting reused right in the facility. How you might ask? One word: Bio-filters.

A filtration system removes nitrogen at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

They have these huge bio-filters in all the rooms that remove the ammonia and re-oxygenate the water. The fish breathe underwater so they 'breath' up all the oxygen (never even thought about this myself) and the ammonia comes from fish waste (not pee, cause fish don’t pee!).

They obviously can’t have too much ammonia in the water so the bio-filters remove it using a naturally occurring bacteria that is mixed in with the plastic filter pellets (which never need to be replaced, so yay).

Filtration pellets at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

So the bio-filters recycle 85% of the 30 Million litres they use (that's about 12 Olympic sized swimming pools), imagine how much water they would need if they didn’t recycle it!
Of the water that they can't recycle, 10 Million litres goes to the Power Plant and is used to help cool it down (that’s what the mist coming out the top is, recycled water!) Admittedly, there is a small amount that goes into the sewer but over 85% is still a pretty awesome number.

A round tank  at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

These circular tanks mimic water currents which help minimize the stress levels of the fish by mimicking the natural environment. This system is also designed to use the water current to push sediment in the water to the bottom of the tank where they have a collection area that removes it. In this fashion, fish don't have to come in contact with people cleaning the tanks constantly.

Gold fish swimming in a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

Not that it has much to do with water waste but you would be surprised how hard the staff in Aquatic Care work to make sure the fish are not stressed, it is actually very touching. I never thought about how stressed fish could get. The tanks and cleaning systems are all designed to reduce stress, the lighting in each room is designed for what fish would have in their natural environment, and they even adjust the room temperature to make sure the fish are comfortable. And let me tell you, the room with tropical fish... much too hot for me.

Tropical fish at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

So this World Water Day, maybe we should take a moment to thankful of how important water is for people and animals alike. Water is essential for the campus to work properly and it has more uses than you ever thought.

~ clarissa - communications intern