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.


Leslie Leong (Yukon)

Visual artist Leslie Leong’s work uses and is inspired by a wide variety of materials that may no longer be considered “useful” for their original purpose. These include computer parts, old maps, copper pipes and bits of Gold Rush-era glass, all turned into pieces of jewellery.

Leslie was originally inspired to create art from things that would otherwise be considered “waste” shortly after moving to Whitehorse in 2009. Her husband was trying to get rid of an old computer, and when he was unsuccessful in doing so, she and her son decided that they should take the opportunity to see what was inside it. She found the contents of it beautiful, particularly the pieces of motherboard with gold contact pieces, and decided to make herself a necklace with pieces of it, for which she received many compliments. She started making jewellery to sell in 2010, and continues to expand in terms of both the original materials and final products. Indeed, at the beginning of our conversation she showed me one of her more recent projects: earrings made from old guitar strings.

Her work is driven by her motivation to reduce the need for new materials by increasing the lifespan of products and materials that are already available. “We have so much stuff in the world; we don’t need new stuff, we should just use what we have now,” she says, adding, “I hate that planned obsolescence thing…I want to un-planned-obsolescence things!” Her workroom is filled with items that already have a planned re-use, and others that she has picked up but isn’t quite sure yet what she’s going to do with them. “I’ve got all sorts of things that I just need to find a use for, but I like them!” she says, pointing out for example a number of old mirrors lying against one wall. Those she might attach to old silver trays, giving them new life with a different, old-timey style.

In addition to making jewellery, Leslie has also been introducing young people to the potentials of material re-purposing. She has done art programs in schools, and this summer has been an instructor at a camp put on by Arts Underground to make art from recycled materials. She’s interested in spreading the idea that many materials don’t need to go straight to the recycling or garbage bin when they’ve been used once. “I don’t think people realize how useful the materials are that we have right in front of us,” she says, before rummaging through her workspace to show me one more item that she’s found a new life for.

More examples of Leslie’s work can be found at

Kate White

Kate White and the City of Whitehorse Mini-Carts Program

In the spring of 2014, the City of Whitehorse put out a call for participants in their “mini-cart” waste reduction pilot program. Kate White, MLA for Takhini-Kopper King  saw the ad and put her hand up to take steps towards minimizing her waste.

The City of Whitehorse launched the small cart trial as these carts are easier to move, easier to store and help shift behaviour with regards to waste management by emphasizing the smaller capacity for landfill and the larger capacity for compost.

Kate’s full-sized black curbside garbage cart was replaced with one that has about half the volume of the original, which she continues to use to this day. Kate still has a full-sized compost cart, and recycles everything she possibly can. This means that even after two weeks, her garbage is still not full; and the contents of the garbage is mostly dog poop, which cannot be composted at the City’s facility.

If you are interested in getting your large cart swapped out for a mini-cart, please contact the City of Whitehorse at 668-8312.

Mike Bailie / Lorne Mountain

Mike has been the driving force behind the Mile 9 Dump in Lorne Mountain for the last twenty (20) years. He has helped to make it a community facility that hosts events and facilitates education!

According to Mike, at Lorne Mountain they currently divert 50% of their waste, and have been doing so for close to a decade. That is something to be proud of! They set up measurement systems, actual weights when they could get them and conservative estimates when they couldn’t. They actually went into dumpsters in the wintertime and weighed/measured how much stuff in them was recyclable. It turned out that 80% of the materials were recyclable! They left it all out of the dumpsters to show people what could be done differently. They then wondered what could happen with a little education…

They got ten (10) families and helped them learn about recycling as well as helped them set up easy in-home waste management systems. The families weighed their compost, recycling and garbage over a four (4) month period and the average was 75% diversion with 4 families over 90%.Not bad – but that was residential garbage…

They then moved on to see how much could be diverted from Industrial/Commercial settings. They had Aroma Borealis, Lorne Mountain Community Association (LMCA) and Golden Horn School involved in trying to see how much they could divert. They went into the classrooms and talked to kids,  set up recycling stations in each class and got them competing against each other and the teachers. Aroma Borealis was able to divert 95% of it’s waste over a six (6) month period (and still does several years later), LMCA did over 90% and Goldenhorn School was over 70%.

Our latest project is to increase our community diversion rate to 75%. We plan on accomplishing this through intensive 1-on-1 education as well as ramping up diversion programs such as our electronic waste program. We are tearing down electronics and appliances that aren’t recyclable into their base components and recycling them. Almost everything is made of paper, plastic, metal or wood so if we break things down to that level then we can recycle the materials and divert it from the landfill.

Darren Holcombe

Darren lives outside of town and goes to the Deep Creek dump each week to drop off their one tiny bag of garbage and some wood/tin scraps from projects. More often than not he comes home with much more than he left there.  In the above photo, he and his partner Lara are modelling the brand new shirts they found (still in the packaging!). Below is a photo of what they brought home from a single trip…

His work bench was created entirely from salvaged wood, complete with a salvaged vice that was modified to fit the bench. Darren also creates various pieces for sale such as funky birdhouses and beautiful toolboxes made from repurposed materials.

Here’s Darren discussing his low-impact lifestyle.