Joella Hogan & The Yukon Soaps Company

The Yukon Soaps Company has been around for nearly 20 years. It is Indigenous owned and operated by Joella Hogan. Made with many locally grown ingredients, her soaps are a staple for Yukoners looking for a natural, handcrafted product.

Joella lives in Mayo, the heart of the Yukon, where “people have a deep respect for the land and what it can provide.” She says her inspiration comes from the land around her and the “wonderfully creative people” that she surrounds herself with.

“I was raised to be aware of human impacts on land, water, and the environment,” says Joella, who also has an academic background in Environmental Science and Planning. “I strive to live a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle and support other makers of things homemade.”

So what brought her to soap-making?

“I always had an interest in healing plants and traditional medicine, and I wanted something natural and creative to suit those interests,” says Joella. This has translated into creating “products that have a small footprint, use local ingredients as much as possible, and that continue to meet the needs of those who enjoy my products.”

She is also a beader, and has combined her passion for traditional First Nations beadwork with her soap-making. She recently launched a line of unscented soaps that showcase beadwork from Northern Tutchone women from Mayo. Different beadwork pieces are photographed and printed on dissolvable paper which is then set into each bar. Each soap tells the artists’ story and a bit about the piece that was photographed.

One of the soaps from Joella’s Indigenous Artisans line. (Joella Hogan)

Joella has been operating the Yukon Soaps Company for 7 years now. When she started, she wrapped her soaps in paper with a sticker. Wanting to cut down on types of packaging and quantity, she later moved to a simple sticker on plain bars of soap, drastically cutting down on packaging.

“I wanted people to see the soap,” she says.

Joella’s soaps use minimal packaging, reducing waste and letting customers “see the soap.” (Joella Hogan)


Joella also has customers who buy large amounts, so she decided to create a way to sell in bulk and further cut down on packaging. Recently she’s created a Zero Waste line of bulk soaps. Customers can either buy a bulk batch, fill their own containers with bulk soap, or purchase bulk soaps in pre-weighed reusable jars. She also sells some of her soaps in small, reusable cloth bags, because reuse is vital to cutting down on waste. “I have a really close relationship with our Free Store,” she says.

Running a small business isn’t without challenges, especially if you’re trying to minimize waste.

“Living in the North, there’s a lot of packaging involved with bringing ingredients in,” she says. To combat this, Joella tries to always buy in bulk, and sources local ingredients as much as possible. Plants such as juniper, fireweed, rose hips, and even fair trade coffee beans donated by Yukon’s Bean North Coffee Roasters are just some of the ingredients in her essential soap bars line.

Local juniper berries and fireweed provide the makings for “Yukon Gin & Tonic Soap.” (Joella Hogan)


Her advice for anyone looking to adopt more sustainable business practices and lower their footprint?

“There are so many ways that small businesses can work towards Zero Waste. It takes some time and work up front to look at options and decide what will work best, but in the end you’ll see you produce less waste, use less resources and save money.”

Yukon Soaps Company at the recent Etsy Market in Whitehorse. (Joella Hogan)


Look for The Yukon Soaps Company at local markets and various locations throughout Yukon. You can also order Joella’s products online at



Lea Pigage

Meet the biologist & business owner who sparked our Plastic Free July challenge.

Lea Pigage challenges the need for single use plastics. She began ditching plastic in 2017 for her first Plastic Free July challenge. Since then, she has tried to reduce her use of single-use plastics such as plastic bags, cups, cutlery, water bottles, and straws. What’s remarkable is how Lea has incorporated plastic-free and other zero waste practices into the varied facets of her life – as a biologist, businesses owner, and parent.

Lea and her husband own and operate Urban Caribou Bed and Breakfast in Whitehorse, where she uses simple practices to reduce waste while operating a successful business. These practices include sourcing cleaning and food products in bulk (then decanting into smaller containers) to reduce packaging, lining compost and waste bins with old newspaper, only washing towels upon request, and baking their own homemade bread for guests. Coffee is purchased in bulk using in 5 lb reusable bags from the Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, mini bars of soap are bought in bulk from Yukon Soaps Co., and growlers are provided for guests to refill at local breweries. As much as possible, the preserves they serve are jams made from local berries and all of their bed and breakfast communication with guests is electronic so no paper waste is created.

For those trying to reduce waste, Pigage recommends “starting with things that are easy.” Take inventory of your behaviors, look at what is in your garbage bin, and then “challenge the normal.” She recommends beginning with something simple, like using reusable produce bags. “You can also look for opportunities to buy local, buy bulk, and tweak behaviors. Finding suppliers that share sustainable practices and are willing to accommodate package free options is also really helpful. Riverside Grocery now has a really great bulk section where you can bring your own containers to fill.”

For Pigage, the benefits to her business and community far outweigh any initial inconveniences. According to Pigage, her waste reducing practices are not only good for the environment but also connect her business to a “niche market that supports sustainable practices.” For Pigage it’s clear – “reducing waste is totally possible, if you take it one step at a time.”

To learn more about Lea Pigage and her B&B visit









Northwestel serves the largest operating area in the Western hemisphere and provides service to over 120,000 Canadians in Northern communities. So what motivates the largest communications company in the Yukon, and service provider for almost one third of Canada’s land mass to make their offices Zero Waste and create a comprehensive plan for reducing waste?

According to Northwestel, it’s all about their long-term commitment to Northern people and communities. This is the driving principle behind their focus on safety, respect for their customers and employees, and the minimization of their environmental footprint. This includes encouraging reduction, reuse, and recycling in all their activities.

Cables are collected for recycling in Northwestel’s compound (Photo Credit: Kevin Rumsey)


Northwestel’s parent company is Bell, Canada’s largest communications company. For years now, Bell has been a leader in corporate responsibility, including maintaining ISO 14001 Certification.

What’s that you ask?

ISO or, International Organization for Standardization, is an independent, non-governmental organization that publishes international standards for almost every industry. ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized standard that lays out requirements for an environmental management system (EMS).

“It’s about transparency, accountability, relevancy,” says Kevin Rumsey, Northwestel’s Manager of Environmental Stewardship. “It sets a standard for other businesses.”

The standard is also far reaching, encouraging better environmental performance of suppliers and accounting for all aspects of product management from supply chain through to end of life.


Northwestel’s Environmental Management System


As part of the Bell family, Northwestel is held to the same rigorous standards for environmental management. As a result, they have developed a meticulous environmental management system, one that Rumsey says is driven by comprehensive data management.

“There’s a quote, that what gets measured, gets managed. At Northwestel, everything is tracked and inventoried,” says Rumsey.

“Our EMS consists of over 70 annual reporting tasks, of which recycling is just one. This management plan tracks data for all aspects of the company’s environmental footprint, from the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) we emit, to what type of paper we use, which is FSC certified,” he explained.

What does this look like?

Environmental training is mandatory for many employees, and was completed by 392 employees in 2016.

In 2016, Northwestel diverted 670 kg of used oil, 237 kg of paints, 1640 kg of alkaline batteries, 274 kg of fluorescents, and 808 kg of absorbents, just to name a few.

They operate 8 solar-diesel hybrid power stations in remote northern sites, reducing GHG emissions, energy costs, and their dependence on fossil fuel as an energy source.

They collect and recover mobile phones and chargers, and in 2017 they diverted 19 tonnes of e-waste for recycling.

E-waste is put on pallets at Northwestel to be shipped south for recycling  (Photo Credit: Kevin Rumsey)


Zero Waste Offices


Northwestel’s environmental policy extends into their office spaces as well. Offices in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Fort Nelson have rolled out Zero Waste programs, and feedback from employees is positive. These programs include increased waste separation at the source and contracting for pickup of all recyclables including glass, paper, plastic, tin, aluminum, cardboard and organics.

Their compounds also separate out waste, wire, cardboard and plastic, resulting in their only having a small garbage bin they empty maybe once every three weeks. As much as they can, they are committed to keeping materials out of the landfill.

On top of that, all waste is weighed and tracked so their actions can be evaluated and improved upon.

Zero Waste recycling stations in Northwestel’s Whitehorse offices (Photo Credit: Kevin Rumsey)


Social Conscience


On top of their industry leading environmental policy, the company is also committed to social responsibility. With more than 500 employees across the North, they want to make Northern communities better places to live and work. As a result, there are many ways they are enhancing the quality of life for Northerners.

They have been operating a directory recycling program for 15 years. This program awards cash contributions to schools in Yukon, BC, NWT and Nunavut for collecting and recycling telephone directories. Over the course of the program, they have rewarded close to $250,000 to Northern schools and recycled over 190,000 phone books.

For information on the 2018 Directory Recycling program, visit

Students from Takhini elementary recycling old phone books at Raven Recycling as part of Northwestel’s directory recycling program (Photo Credit: Raven Recycling)


They also support numerous community programs, youth initiatives, aboriginal community and culture programs, and are strong supporters of local mental health initiatives. Northwestel gives over half a million dollars annually to non-profit organizations across the North.

This social conscience, meticulous data management and implementation of a comprehensive environmental management system, has placed Northwestel at the forefront of corporate responsibility, and is setting an example for other businesses to learn from and hopefully, follow.

Learn more at


Lumel Studios

The moment you step into Lumel Studios you can tell this is not your run-of-the-mill glass blowing workshop. From the salvaged Land Rover and recycled wood picnic benches out front, the repurposed wooden beams throughout, or the stairway railings made of rebar left over from the concrete floor installation, the studio is overflowing with recycled and repurposed elements.

“I like that everything has a history. It voices what it was in the past,” says owner Luann Baker-Johnson, who set out to create a new and welcoming space that also incorporated reuse and sustainability.

“As a glass blower, we know we have a large footprint… So then how do you offset that in absolutely every way you possibly can? One of the ways we did that was to recycle, reuse and repurpose absolutely everything from the build.

The biggest challenge is people don’t realize what is garbage and what is recycling. There’s still some Yukoners who don’t realize what you can recycle, but that all comes with time.”

With careful planning and efficient use of building materials, Lumel managed to create a unique and beautiful studio while spending only 40 dollars on tipping fees at the landfill. Careful cutting of drywall, reusing old furniture and salvaging items from several different sources were some of the ways Lumel managed to create a space that exudes character and embraces the value of creative reuse.

Lumel’s waste reduction commitment didn’t stop after construction finished. In the studio, they work hard to recycle every piece of glass they can, minimize waste, sort glass for reuse, and sell used shards to the public. They have many pieces on display made of 100% recycled glass and have also created new pieces from the shards of items that were broken during the earthquake in May. They are even working on repurposing several depression-era glass pieces that were broken in the quake, hoping to bring a 21st century touch to antique glass.

They even ship their glass in salvaged styrofoam and plastic wrap, proudly displaying on each package the fact that they are shipping Yukon’s waste south to their customers.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we’re packing pristine glass in a reused product… It gets everything there so why wouldn’t we?” says Baker-Johnson.

In this way, Lumel is helping to break down the stigma surrounding used goods. They are showcasing the value of recycled material and saving money doing it.

Lumel is not only a leader in sustainability, they also pride themselves on having a strong social conscience. Baker-Johnson learned to blow glass after a family tragedy, and extolls the healing properties of working with such a medium.

“Ceramics is my comfort, working with clay is quite comforting, and glass is the struggle. And I think in life and for healing you need both. Glass has been a healer for me…it takes your whole focus and there’s nothing else in your head.

“I thought it was important…because we can’t change [people’s] history but we can take them away from absolutely everything for a few moments on our bench.”

Lumel regularly holds workshops and demonstrations for street people, disenfranchised youth and the elderly, and has gained the label ‘The Happiness Factory.’ In this way they’ve created a space built on the values of diversity and inclusion, as well as sustainability. They work with animal and human ashes, creating unique pieces to commemorate customer’s loved ones. They have surrounded their studio with a community garden that hosts berries, vegetables and herbs. They also support Habitat for Humanity by creating unique glass pieces for each home built for Yukon families.

Lumel has two main short term goals for the future. First, to build a portable recycled glass blowing studio they can bring to every community in the Yukon. They also want to develop the other half of their lot into a recycled glass blowing studio. Baker-Johnson estimates the new studio could start out using 2000 – 3000 pounds of recycled glass a month and she hopes that one day they will be shipping recycled pieces such as glass bricks out of the Yukon as a commodity.

It’s easy to see why Lumel has been successful. They have thrived as a diverse and inclusive community studio. Furthermore, they are a glowing example to other businesses of how the shift towards Zero Waste can be undertaken creatively and successfully.

Lumel Studios is located at 101 Keish Street, Whitehorse, Yukon. Contact 867-633-2308 or visit for more information.


Changing Gear

Changing Gear has been helping people reuse sporting goods since they opened in August of 2016. Patrick Jackson, the owner of Changing Gear, first had the idea for the business 15 years ago. He recognized that the Yukon is a very active place with “lots of good gear that should be reused.” But it wasn’t until two years ago that he began researching how to bring his ideas to life.

Today, anyone can consign and purchase gently used sporting goods at Changing Gear. “The support from day one has been wonderful” says Patrick. For many, consignment is not strictly about earning money, they’re also “delighted that something potentially finds a home.”

Changing Gear encourages zero waste by helping to create positive attitudes about second hand goods. “If the gear people see is always in a pile or not cared for it has no attraction but put in the right spotlight and made presentable it is perfectly acceptable.”

Recently, Changing Gear has expanded their business to include regular Flea Markets throughout the summer and fall. With the closing of the Salvation Army in April of 2017, Patrick saw an opportunity “to give people a chance to sell or move along goods rather than throw it away.”

The Humane Society, a partner in the Whitehorse Flea Markets, will be accepting donations for the markets.

Changing Gear is located at 91810 Alaska Hwy.

Westmark Hotel (Whitehorse)

The Westmark, the largest hotel in Whitehorse, and over the years has been doing a lot to reduce its contribution to the landfill. They recycle their cardboard by way of Raven Recycling’s pick-up service, have blue bins in all their guest rooms and recycle other things like plastic and paper. Westmark has also gone a step further by working with KBL , who take items like batteries, scrap metal, lightbulbs and smoke detectors for recycling.

In addition to sending things for recycling, Westmark Whitehorse is able to divert a number of other items by way of more informal relationships with other community members. For example, when they are switching out good-quality sheets from their supplies, they donate them to local organizations to sell or otherwise distribute; the same thing happens with shampoos and soaps. A local man takes their used fryer oil to power his vehicles with converted diesel motors, and a local farmer receives some of their organic waste as compost material.

The hotel is also working to reduce waste on the demand side of things as well. For example, they have switched to buying shampoo and conditioner in bulk, and fill dispensers in the guest rooms as a way of cutting down on the amount of packaging used. Similarly, they are replacing their CFL lightbulbs with LEDs, which have a significantly longer lifespan and use less electricity.

Heather McIntyre, manager of the hotel, expressed a great deal of excitement about their current diversion practices and the potential to do even more. “Once it starts, it mushrooms,” she says, and describes how she feels the staff have been able to create an atmosphere where even some of their newer members are able to ask questions and make suggestions about waste diversion. An example of this is their latest project, the tins of heating fuel for banquet servings. It was a new staff member who brought up the fact that the fuel is not always completely used up in a single banquet, and so now the hotel is looking at ways to make sure that it all gets used and that the containers can be recycled.

Heather believes that the hotel is part of a larger shift across the territory, of businesses realizing that it makes financial and environmental sense to increase their waste diversion practices, and a greater number of organizations with capacity to help with that. “Yukon is getting to the point where we realize we can’t keep just putting things in the landfill,” she says, “We need to accept that businesses need to be accountable, and do our part.”

North Star Mini Storage (Whitehorse)

North Star Mini Storage operates 4 storage facilities around Whitehorse and has more than 1000 tenants. That means that they have a lot of things in their storage units at all times. Unsurprisingly, over time much of that stuff ends up needing somewhere else to go, either because owners take on the job of downsizing, or abandon the unit altogether.

Lara Rae, who manages North Star, realized a couple of years ago that it would make sense if the company was directly involved in helping get rid of that stuff, with as much diversion as possible. To do that, last summer she worked with Zero Waste Yukon to hold their first community garage sale, where people could open up their storage units and sell items directly on site. They have also invited people living in condos and apartments to join and store their items in the week ahead of the sale date.

North Star is also one of the main partners behind the highly successful Indoor Community Garage Sale held at the Canada Games Centre the last two February’s.

Though the garage sales have been successful so far, they still end up with a lot of items left over. For that reason, the company is always trying to find other people who would like to take some of their items off their hands, particularly things like furniture.

When asked about her reasons for doing this, Lara says simply, “it just makes sense!” She adds that North Star is always informing customers of their options for diverting items for disposal, and that it also has a financial incentive since they can help reduce fees for disposal at the landfill.

Alpine Bakery (Whitehorse)

Alpine Bakery has been diverting waste and reducing its environmental impact for 21 years – as long as it’s been in its current building at 5th and Alexander street in downtown Whitehorse.

Composting at Alpine Bakery began before the city even began its residential curbside compost pickup, with the help of local farmers who would take it away to be turned into food for their plants. Currently that farmer is Michael Bellan, and owner Suat Tuzlak says that “it’s a real community effort – I couldn’t do it myself.”

Recycling is also a regular part of the bakery’s operations, with a van that was “purchased” in exchange for bread and is used to take things for drop of about once a week. Additionally, they are extremely careful about reducing as much as possible the amount of waste that customers take away with them and their products.

Their café uses real dishware for patrons eating in-house, and when Suat gave this writer a plastic container full of soup to take at the end of the interview, he encouraged that it be returned when finished.

Alpine is also extremely conscientious about waste and other environmental impact on the input side of its operations as well. Cleaning supplies and things like toilet paper are all post-consumer recycled (where applicable) and biodegradable. Alpine grows its own herbs in a backyard garden, and buys other ingredients locally when possible, thus reducing produce packaging and transportation, and supporting the local economy. Energy consumption is minimized, including practices such as hanging all laundry to dry instead of using a dryer, which is one of the most energy- intensive appliances. Indeed, when their current building was first being constructed the bakery explored using renewable energy such as wind to power much of their operations, but due to liability concerns it was never implemented.

For Suat, these decisions are not simply a desire to engage in corporate responsibility, or be able to take on a “green” label. It is a political choice, and a form of resistance to what Suat sees as a concerning trend of large multinational corporations being able to use large amounts of energy and produce large amounts of waste in their production. He articulates his desire to see greater enforcement of environmentally responsible practices, in the form of things like better education about alternative methods, and taxes to incentivize their use. “Gently at first,” he says, “and then enforcement. We need to show the real costs of production, and show that the current methods in most places just aren’t actually viable.”

Canadian Tire (Whitehorse)

Over the past 8 years, since moving into their new location at the bottom of 2 Mile Hill, Canadian Tire has been working hard to reduce the amount of product packaging and other waste that ends up in the garbage dumpster. Cardboard makes up a sizeable amount of the business’s waste product, and General Manager Dwayne Lesiuk estimates that they’re currently able to recycle about 99.5% of it. For the first three months of this past year, that added up to 3 million pounds. Two years ago, they also made an agreement with Raven Recycling that the recycling processor takes all of their waste metals and plastics, and that has reduced their garbage output significantly. Previously, they were producing enough garbage for there to be two 6-yard bins going to the landfill, 6 days a week, and another bin going 3 days a week. Since beginning their plastic and metal recycling, they’re only sending a single bin, 6 days a week, and Dwayne estimates that over all in the last two years they’ve cut their waste by 75%.

The most recent project has been to divert their organic waste, and in the last couple months Canadian Tire has become part of the pilot project for businesses to have their compost picked up by the City of Whitehorse. They’ve only had 3 pick-ups so far, but Dwayne says it’s already making a difference. That being said, he admits that more education is needed to really change the culture among the staff, in order to make diversion part of the regular routine. However, with that in place the only remaining items that don’t have an easy diversion path are wood waste and broken glass – though most wood waste in the form of broken pallets is put out behind the building for customers to pick up and use as scrap wood or kindling.

The motivation for Canadian Tire to increase its diversion comes from both the national and local levels. Nationally, the business is trying to increase environmental awareness and is stocking more “green” products of one kind or another. Along with that, Dwayne credits the local owner of Whitehorse’s Canadian Tire, who wants to see the store be a leader in corporate responsibility. When asked about whether he sees other businesses taking action to reduce waste, he notes that it seems to be the locally-owned businesses that are taking some of the most visible action toward Zero Waste. “Local owners also live here,” he points out, “they care about what can be done here in Whitehorse because they see it directly, and want to keep this place clean.” Not only that, but waste reduction has big financial incentives to go along with it – last year Canadian Tire saved about $15,000 on garbage hauling and landfill tipping fees.

Northerm (Yukon)

When making a move to their new building, Northerm shifted not only their location, but their approach to waste  They made some changes on their own, then hired someone to do an environmental audit, identifying how the company could maximize reuse or recycling of materials otherwise being sent to the landfill.  The zerowaste principles that they have put in place have since reduced their waste by two thirds, while cutting their waste management costs in half!

Packaging and Shipping

The most fragile material that Northerm uses is glass, which it ships up to Whitehorse for processing.  Northerm makes a point of repurposing or recycling all of the materials they receive with the glass as packaging.

For example, cardboard that was used to transport the raw materials is provided to local customers for their use when transporting windows home.  What cardboard isn’t reused is diverted from the landfill for recycling.

Styrofoam is also reused when Northerm ships products to its customers throughout the north. As of March, Northerm has been sending their extra Styrofoam to Raven Recycling so that it can be compacted by their new machine and sent south for recycling.

Styrofoam is also reused when Northerm ships products to its customers throughout the north. As of March, Northerm has been sending their extra Styrofoam to Raven Recycling so that it can be compacted by their new machine and sent south for recycling.

Good, square wooden pallets are kept in the warehouse for re-use.

The remainder of the wood shipped up with their raw materials ends up in a bin rented from PNW, who picks it up monthly and brings it to someone that burns it for heat. The company is currently looking into the possibility of eventually heating their building with this “waste” wood. These practices not only reduce the demand for wood or heating fuel, but they also help keep organic material out of the landfill, reducing the amount of toxic leacheate that it unintentionally produces.


Northerm watches its waste production as well as its bottom line by minimizing waste of their raw materials in the first place.  Each material is processed in a way that maximizes its use for producing the company’s signature products.


One of their biggest steps involved separating glass out of their waste stream.  Glass, with its high shipping costs and currently low market value is difficult to divert from the landfill.  Fortunately, glass poses few hazards when processed into a manageable form, such as sand or clean fill.  Northerm is currently investigating the possibility of crushing their own glass to the size that will be useful for covering waste being buried in the landfill.  This solution is  much preferred to mixing it with other unsorted material brought to the landfill.  Northerm is already sorting its glass out of the wastestream.   They are currently looking into whether they can justify the purchase of their own glass-crushing machine to avoid  the tipping fees of $87/tonne they must pay if they send their glass to the dump.


The leftover pieces of PVC used in window construction were being sent to the landfill until a few years ago they contacted the supplier on recycling this product. Northerm is now sending the leftover material back to the company they purchased it from and are receiving a credit for doing so.  The material is then remelted and formed into new material that is sent back up for making windows.  On the day we visited, Northerm had just shipped out a 30 foot tractor trailor full of PVC cutoffs.

Northerm has also found some creative ways to repurpose some of the materials kicking around the shop.  When making doors, using a router in the shop, they will cut out holes customized for windows that clients have requested.

These cut-outs are saved from doors where metal can be separated from the insulation.  People can use the door cutouts for skirting their campers or trailers.  For doors where the metal can be separated from the insulation, Northerm saves the insulation for people requesting it and sends the metal for recycling.  Though recycling the metal doesn’t always yield a financial return due to fluctuating market prices, separating it out avoids the need to pay tipping fees for bringing the material to the landfill, not to mention helps keep the material in production.  Additionally, the remaining material can also be used to insulate sheds and other things.  Northerm saves this material for people who call them from time to time.


Staff at Northerm also don’t forget to have fun.  Money from refundables as well as aluminum that they stockpile goes into their social fund for staff pizza parties.  By returning cutoffs from the aluminum-framed screen doors they produce, they recently got 30 cents a pound and so $400 went into their social fund.

Mitch Meda, the environmental steward for Northerm couldn’t highlight enough the value of having good advice from their environmental auditor, making a plan and being patient. Knowing what can be diverted and working with staff to make diversion as easy as possible during day-to-day routines helped the process immensely.

Mitch also highlighted that their zerowaste efforts aren’t a one-off event, they’re a part of the everyday operation, which has also helped to make them successful.

When looking to the future, Mitch says ‘everybody everywhere is going to have to do this. Every community is going to have some form of strategic waste action plan. Congratulations to Northerm for leading the way!