Polaris: Artist Leslie Leong Creates Costumes from Scrap

Photo courtesy Little Dipper Films

Yukon isn’t exactly Hollywood, but we’ve had our share of film crews coming up here to shoot their films over the years. While many of these films will hire local crew and even actors, you’d be hard-pressed to find a locally produced film. That is, until now – until Polaris.

“It’s a dystopian fantasy thriller set in a frozen world.” Says Max Fraser , local independent filmmaker and the Yukon Producer for Polaris. The film features an all-woman cast, surviving off the land, but “the story centres on a 10-11-year-old girl who is raised by a polar bear.”

Polaris is one of the films being featured during the Available Light Film Festival, beginning this week on Thursday, February 9, 2023. The film itself can be viewed on Saturday, February 11, at the Yukon Arts Centre.

However, the fact that the film is locally produced isn’t the reason why Zero Waste Yukon invited Polaris to be featured in our Zero Hero series. We’re here because of how the art department went about making the costumes – that’s where local artist Leslie Leong comes in.

“They [Polaris] did have a costume designer,” says Leong, “but she doesn’t work in metal, so she was looking for someone.” When they approached her, Leong jumped at the chance: “My role was to make armour for this band of post-apocalyptic warrior women – pretty fun! … it was such a neat creative thing! How could you say no!”

The cast of warrior women

Photo by Leslie Leong

The Polaris Art Department specifically sought out Leong because she is a Yukon artist with extensive experience working with a wide variety of materials, and specifically recycled materials. Fraser notes Leong’s background with pre-used materials was important to the look of the film because “the script gave us a story where people are surviving in a post-apocalyptic environment … [there are] parts that take place in a vehicle junkyard, so the women would have been scavenging parts from there.”

Polaris cast on setPhoto courtesy Little Dipper Films

Despite her background, Leong was initially a little lost as to how to begin: “I didn’t know how to make them at first.” When looking around for inspiration, she found it in a pair of old rusting tins right in her own yard. “I had two in my backyard specifically because I was going to use them for planters, but I never got around to it. So when they talked about this armour that needed to be old, because they didn’t want anything shiny, I just took them out of my backyard, and then tried to cut them and shape them, and they seemed ok … we ended up needing a lot more.”

She needed to make around 10 helmets and 21 suits of armour, to be exact, all of which needed to look rusty, old, and made from repurposed materials. “You either have to distress them,” says Leong, “or get them [pre]distressed … sometimes, old materials are actually better. In this case, that was true. If you tried to use new materials, you’d have to try to rust it somehow. It’s pointless if you already have the source.”

Which is how she and a friend ended up in an old dump site in -35 weather to scavenge for materials.

“That was the hardest part for sure. We had to make two trips; each trip was about 5 kilometers there and back, and you had go down this steep bank and dig around where the garbage dump was and pull these things out, and then haul them by foot on sleds – so that was the hardest, getting the materials.”

Leong was also involved in sourcing non-armour costumes for the cast – and these also needed to look well-worn. They were furthermore working with a very short timeline, and the costume designer didn’t live in the Yukon.

“It was only three weeks from the time [the costume designer] arrived to get this all done. So I started the week beforehand to put the call out to the community for all sorts of stuff for her – and for me. … the community up here are so wonderful! Lots of people donated stuff that they were getting rid of anyways – and helmets because I needed the helmets to put the metal onto. … People like to contribute to those kinds of things – I think that’s really neat about our community.”

And the end result has had an impact. Says Fraser, “I just want to give a lot of credit to the art department. They were very resourceful. They very cleverly, very creatively put this together. … People are impressed with the look and the feel.”

Woman warrior in armour

Photo by Leslie Leong

In reflecting on her experience, Leong says she feels a sense of pride in her role to source and scavenge pre-used materials: “I like doing new things. I like learning. I like seeing what [different] materials can do and what we can use them for. … I want to get people to look at material differently, to look at their recycling differently. I just feel like we don’t need new stuff. … I think it helps, actually, to be more creative, because you are kind of forced to think outside of the box. And I think sometimes we just need a little bit of training in that.”

Fraser echoes her sentiment about using and reusing what we already have: “it’s an example for how we should all live in the future.”

Re-Wrap the North

Let’s face it, traditional paper gift wrap is not a sustainable product. Nor is it in any way friendly to our growing circular economy. It is not recyclable, is made from the lowest grade of recycled paper, uses too much dye, and likely contains plastic film and/or glitter. Add to that recyclers’ confusion while playing the classic game of “what bin does this go in?” and gift wrap will most likely become filler for the landfill. Here in Whitehorse, however, we have a great local alternative for creating the magic of a wrapped gift, and Emilie is leading the way.

No matter how small a change, Emilie Hamm believes any amount of waste reduction would be a positive one for our community. And as she is someone who enjoys the gift of giving, her small business Re-Wrap the North is a perfect way for her to help the community to reduce its waste. Her dedication to keeping all parts of her business as low impact as possible, and her innovation in reducing even packaging waste, make her a wonderful example of a Yukon Zero Hero.

Emilie has tried many creative alternatives to wrapping, including an old magazine, and even coloring on plain craft paper, but she had her eureka moment when she stumbled onto the idea of using fabric. Her idea to share this alternative by building Re-Wrap the North grew from there.



With a bit of care, you can use fabric wrapping many times over, just wash and repeat. Re-Wrap the North ships out its products in bio-degradable packaging. The ribbons are also reusable, and the labels are made from recyclable cardstock that can double as a gift tag when turned over. When sourcing her fabrics, Emilie aims for Canadian made and orders in tandem with local businesses to save on shipping costs/emissions. The finished product can be found in packages of squares, with different designs. Check out her Instagram account @rewrapthenorth for a video on how to gift wrap the Furoshiki way.

Her products are available for purchase at Spruce Box Co., in Horwood’s Mall and on Etsy (Link Below).



The Yukon Refillery

Located in the Horwoods Mall the Yukon Refillery is an exciting new low-waste business in Whitehorse. They offer a range of high quality environmentally conscious personal care, household cleaning, and laundry products for sale by weight using your own re-used containers.

We sat down with Michelle who opened the business with her husband (Baird) this year. The business idea started early in 2020 and plans were made for a permanent location opening in March of 2020. That is until COVID upended plans for many small businesses including The Refillery. They then shifted to an alternative plan where they would get the business started at the Fireweed Market over the summer. Although delayed, an official storefront was opened in October at the Horwoods Mall.

In the brightly lit modern space, you can find laundry soap, dish detergent, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, surface cleaners, toothpaste, deodorant, and other products. Simply bring in re-usable containers and they can be filled with whatever you are looking for. If you forget a container they stock a “Container Library” of washed and re-used glass containers.  They are building their stock with an ethos of as local as possible and as sustainable as possible. Currently they carry North American brands including Pure Line, Sensibility, Sapadilla, Bottle None, and Oneka. They also hope to hear from customers about what products they would love to see to help build the inventory.

So far, The Refillery has limited opening hours on Friday and Saturday but the community enthusiasm remains high. When we were there customers were consistently coming and going, reflecting a demand for low-waste shipping options.

In the last few years, a wave of low-waste bulk retailers using this model has spread across the continent. It is hard to deny the advantages of this type of shopping. For one you are decreasing your waste by re-using packaging. Secondly, you get to choose the volume you would like to purchase. That means you are not restricted by the manufacturer to buy a large volume of something you know you need or conversely a small amount of a product to try it without spending much money.

Opening this business and getting a retail location in the midst of COVID is a huge achievement for a family run business. At this time, the goal of the business is to grow their opening hours and establish an inventory of items sought in the community. In the future, they would like to expand beyond home and personal care items towards food products.

We are excited that amidst the challenges of 2020, an exciting low-waste business is succeeding in our community. The Yukon Refillery is without a doubt a Zero Hero business!

Follow The Yukon Refillery on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/yukonrefillery) and instagram @yukonrefillery.

Firebean Coffee Roasters

If you enjoy local coffee, then you probably know Firebean Coffee Roasters. The small-batch Yukon roaster is bringing old school techniques to the forefront of the northern coffee roasting scene.

Sole proprietor Michael Russo calls his small business a case of “accidental entrepreneurship”. What started out as a hobby has grown organically into a successful small business. Russo began fire-roasting coffee using a hand spinner, and soon recognized an opportunity to do more. It was on a visit to a museum in Parry Sound that he found the stationary bike that would take his hobby to the next level.

He brought the bike home and connected it to a repurposed pizza oven. He began churning out “pedal-powered” coffee and the business has been growing ever since. In the early days he and his partner Sarah were producing 10 lbs a week, now they’re producing 100.

Firebean’s bicycle roasting set-up next to some ready-to-roast beans. (Photo: Michael Russo)


“We value the old school art and the craft”, says Firebean’s website – “working with simple technologies towards a valuable end is fulfilling”.

In this day and age, where technology is becoming increasingly complex and resources must be extracted faster and faster to keep pace, this is just the type of system we need more of. Simple, low-impact, local enterprises are essential to build resilient, sustainable communities.

“The bike always works”, says Michael.

Whether it’s minus 30 or plus 30, there’s no worrying about power outages or mechanical issues that come with electric or gas roasting systems. This also means less waste as Russo doesn’t have to purchase gas or rely on electricity. Their system is simple and reliable. As long as he can pedal, he can roast, and because the set-up is wood-fired, the energy supply is 100% renewable.

Working with fire instead of gas or electricity requires more attention to keep the right temperature, but the energy source is 100% renewable. (Photo: Michael Russo)


Russo and family have been moving around a fair amount, so the bike’s portability is also an asset. He says that his relationship with the bike has become somewhat love-hate. He still enjoys the process, and it keeps him healthy. The bike-powered aspect of his business is also powerful marketing. On the flip side he says, “biking (for fun) has lost some of its appeal”.


“Lean and mean”


Working at such a small scale, the business is, in Michael’s words, “lean and mean”. This means they are able to do things that other businesses might not be able to, including testing out different ways of reducing waste in the business.

Producing small batches of coffee means they turn over their inventory faster than larger scale roasters. This has allowed Firebean to switch to using a lower barrier compostable coffee bag for some of their more frequently purchased bags and high frequency shop deliveries. These bags are actually cheaper than a conventional coffee bag, meaning the savings are financial as well as environmental. They also hand stamp their bags, saving costs and materials.

“Millennials read the packaging”, Russo says. He recognizes that customers are looking more and more at the environmental footprint of their products and packaging. “Years ago we probably wouldn’t be thinking as much about our environmental footprint, but I think everyone is recognizing that there’s responsibility involved in running a business”.

Firebean is using a compostable bag for some of its roasts, cutting down on materials and costs. (Photo: Michael Russo)


One way they’re cutting down waste is by selling coffee in bulk, and supplying it in reusable pails as well. This has presented challenges, as the pails are hard to keep track of, but currently they still bring their bulk beans to Riverside Grocery this way. Once empty they’re returned, washed and ready to transport another batch.

“We’re planning to bring bulk to the Fireweed Market this year”, Russo tells me. “I think it lines up with some of the values the market is trying to promote, and we really believe in putting stuff out there just to see what happens”.

Last Christmas, they found some antique canning jars at the Wish Factory in Whitehorse and put them to good use, selling coffee and gift cards in a container that could be reused again and again.

Russo dropping off fresh bulk at Riverside Grocery in Whitehorse. (Photo: Michael Russo)


Firebean really doesn’t produce much waste during production. Apart from a small bit of chaff left over from the roasting (this just ends up on the ground to decompose) and ash from the oven, it’s almost a Zero Waste affair.


Building community


Firebean is also helping grow a more local circular economy through collaborations with other Yukon businesses:

They’ve partnered with Bean North Coffee Roasters to do a roasting day, and teamed up with Winterlong Brewing to create a Rye Coffee Porter and “Divine,” a special edition barrel aged coffee and beer. They partnered with Deep Dark Wood Brewing Company on a Golden Sour beer. Their coffee has also been used in Yukon-made soaps, Yukon chocolate and Yukon salts from Axe and Crocus in Dawson City.

These partnerships are vital to building strong relationships with other local businesses and supporting a sustainable local economy.

Russo’s advice to other businesses?

“I’m reticent to preach to others”, he says. “What works for us might not necessarily work for others. I would say to test stuff out, see how it works. One of the benefits of being small is that we can fiddle around until things work”.

He encourages others to try any small step.

“No business is too big or too small, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Small ideas are worth testing and no effort is too little to try if it means you’re moving closer to Zero Waste”.

This fiddling around seems to be paying off, and here’s hoping more exciting things are to come from Firebean Coffee Roasters.

Check them out on Facebook, Instagram, or at their website, www.firebeancoffee.ca


Clayton Peacock

Clay Peacock in front of a pile of cured compost, ready for use. (Photo: Zero Waste Yukon)


If you’re familiar with the City of Whitehorse’s compost program, you may know that it’s come a long way in the last 6 years. One of the main reasons for the program’s success is Clay, the compost lead hand at the Whitehorse Waste Management Facility. With food waste a key theme for Waste Reduction Week, we thought we’d highlight the unsung hero turning Whitehorse’s organic waste into compost “black gold.

“Things are going really well,” Clay tells me. “We’re breaking records every year.”

Most of that is large loads for gardeners and landscapers, but they have also been selling lots of bagged compost for smaller home gardens as well. It’s no surprise that the compost is popular, what could be better than getting a high quality product produced right in Whitehorse?

A close-up of the finished compost.


“You’d be hard pressed to find a better product in North America,” says Clay. “We take great pride in our work, and we’re constantly testing to ensure that what we produce is of the highest quality.”

There’s a reason why many refer to the compost produced here as “black gold.” The finished product is Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certified for use in organic gardens & farms. They perform bio-assays every 50 cubic yards and test twice a year for hydrocarbons, herbicides and pesticides. The compost consistently has well over the required minimum 95% germination rate.

Clay says he’s disappointed to hear people mislabel the compost produced in Whitehorse as poor quality.

“Lots of what you buy in stores is produced in one place, but labelled in another, so it’s difficult to find out where the compost comes from or what’s in it. With our compost, you know exactly what you’re getting, a local product that’s supporting a local economy and not being shipped in or shipped out.”

Image result for whitehorse compostResidents can buy bagged compost from the Waste Management Facility, or arrange to buy bulk loads.


Clay’s passion for his work is evident, and it’s clear that this job has had a positive impact on his life. As we walk past the windrows, large piles in various stages of composting, he comments on the smell.

“That smell, that’s good compost. It makes me feel good. You can tell when things are going wrong or right, just by the smell.”

“I spent a lot of years in construction and mining, which can be really destructive industries,” Clay says. “Switching to this job was great, because I could still operate equipment, be outside, but now I’m giving back instead of taking away. I’ve helped transform this place, and it’s transformed me.”

“To be able to take something that people see as waste, and turn it into something they can use to grow food, to feed their families, is something really special. We’re taking over 40% of people’s waste and giving it back to them, what could be better than that?”

This is how items come into the facility, before they are piled into aerated windrows (Photo: Zero Waste Yukon)


The payoffs don’t come without a lot of hard work though. The Whitehorse compost facility is essentially run by two people. Particularly in the summer, when things are busier, they’re swamped trying to keep up with the workload.

“In some places, you might have a whole crew of people dedicated to just pulling garbage out of the compost,” he says. “If I had a crew of 7 people, this place would be like the Taj Mahal of compost!”

It’s two weeks of work to simply shift all the piles over, and with expansions planned for the compost facility, the team has been working even harder to get things ready.

A lot of local businesses are supportive of the City’s organics program, and working hard to ensure they’re composting properly. He points to Save-On-Foods as a good example. Since the beginning they’ve been taking their time, ensuring that plastics don’t end up in the organics bin. While others aren’t quite at that level, he says that slowly a lot of the stores are coming around. Fortunately, composting is now mandatory for the commercial sector, so the compost program will continue to grow.

Organics is the number one material landfilled in Whitehorse. This is a big problem, as landfilling organics creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.


When I asked about contaminants in the compost system, Clay tells me that plastics are the number one. Plastic bags and cutlery are most common, and a lot of this material has to be filtered out of the finished product as it doesn’t compost.

“Biodegradable does not mean compostable,” stresses Clay. “Lots of these products are deceiving people, because they’ll say “made from plants” or “biodegradable” but they actually still contain plastic and won’t fully break down.”

He really encourages people to be aware of their purchases – certified compostable bags and cutlery will compost entirely in the system, but plastic bags and forks won’t.


Any compostable products you buy should have one of these two logos, confirming that the product has been tested for compostability.


“We still see tiny bits of plastic in the finished compost – that’s unavoidable. It’s not an issue for the compost quality, and there’s no danger of things leaching into your garden, the bigger concern is that with watering, the plastics rise, and either wash or blow away, into the sewers, into the river.”

It’s no surprise then that he brings his own bags to the grocery store. “When we forget our reusable bags, we’re carrying those groceries out in our arms,” he jokes.

Clay is unsure that a ban on plastics could happen, with the pressure of plastics industry influencing governments. “If it’s between doing the right thing and the dollars,” he says, “the dollars win out every time.” He isn’t wrong. There is tremendous industry influence on government action against plastics. In the United States, there are many states where the plastics industry has even successfully pushed for legislation which prohibits plastic bag bans.

A map of bag laws in the US shows the states with bag laws in place (blue) and states where these laws have been preempted with support of the plastics industry lobby (orange). (Photo: plasticbaglaws.org)


Our discussion turns to recycling and the myth that by simply putting things in our blue bins we’re doing the right thing.

“We recycle because we grow up being told it’s the right thing to do, but when our plastics are being shipped away to be burned, how is that right? There are no easy solutions, but we need to be honest with what’s happening.”

He’s right that there are no easy solutions. The systemic change required to reduce our societal impact on the planet is complicated and at times, overwhelming.

“I don’t know the answers,” says Clay, “but I know this is a good system.”

Judging by my garden’s response to his compost, I’d say he’s right.



Aroma Borealis

Since 1998, Aroma Borealis has provided locally made natural herbal health and aromatherapy products to Yukoners. Their products are a reflection of the northern boreal forest and the people who live here. They also strive to create products that are kind to the Earth, and this environmental commitment extends into all facets of the business. I sat down with manager Jennifer to discuss Aroma Borealis’ Zero Waste journey.

If you’re on social media, you may have seen a post recently that Aroma Borealis had installed bulk containers for shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath and body wash.

“It was one of our most popular posts,” Jennifer tells me. This isn’t surprising, as the Yukon community clearly wants to be part of the refill revolution. Currently you can bring in any 8 oz (or multiple thereof) container and refill. They even offer glass mason jars with pumps if you prefer not to use plastic bottles!

You aren’t able to buy in bulk by weight yet, but they are working out the logistics with the hope that soon you can bring any container you like to fill up.

When asked about the reaction from the public, Jennifer says it has been “so, so good. People are very excited about the opportunity to bring their own container. The excitement is coming from all ages too, which is nice.”

Providing bulk options doesn’t only save resources and reduce waste, it’s also good for business. Jennifer says that the store saw a spike in sales with the announcement of their bulk section. It’s not just shampoo and conditioner either, you can also get lotion, beeswax and cocoa butter in bulk!


Beyond Bulk

Bulk offerings aren’t the only way Aroma Borealis is trying to reduce their footprint. They offer many package free soaps and bath bombs, and always try to use reusable, plant-friendly and/or recyclable packaging. They are also exploring ways they could potentially use Loop packaging, where consumers buy items in reusable containers and simply return them to the store to be cleaned and recirculated!

The store has two composts, one picked up by the city and a garden compost which the staff bring home to use in their gardens. All the staff members take their lunch waste home. “We’re all responsible for our own waste,” says Jennifer. “For a long time I didn’t even know where the garbage bin was because we create so little actual trash!”

When I asked Jennifer what was challenging about reducing waste she didn’t really have an answer. “If anything the challenge is how to cater to all people’s needs and keep options open,” she says.

“As far as reducing waste goes, it hasn’t been challenging, in fact it’s easy, and you feel good. It’s really exciting and we just want to keep going. We’re always asking ourselves, what else can we do?”


Changing the supply chain

Aroma Borealis is also setting an example of how businesses can influence suppliers in order to reduce wastage. They ask some suppliers to send only clear bottles for some products because they can be reused over and over in store when crafting products instead of having to be recycled.

“The companies have been very receptive,” says Jennifer. This shows that stores don’t have to settle for the status quo, but can be proactive in trying to use more environmentally friendly packaging options. It also shows that local retailers have some say in how they receive products.

If you’re unhappy with the packaging in your local store, speak up about it. Make contact. The more people that do, the more we’ll see local business actively pursuing alternatives through their suppliers, and producers designing for the circular economy.

Learn more about Aroma Borealis at aromaborealis.com or stop by the store at 504-B Main Street in Whitehorse!




Riverside Grocery

Guest post alert!

We asked the folks at Riverside Grocery to tell us about their Zero Waste efforts – here’s their story!


Moving towards Zero Waste has been a work in progress for us. Beginning with single use plastic grocery bags, we continue to brainstorm ways to eliminate more and more unnecessary waste that we produce. While we have increased our awareness and reduced our waste by approximately 90%, there are still a lot of ways we can continue to improve.

In July of 2015, we announced that we would be eliminating single use plastic grocery bags in the upcoming months. We received a mainly encouraging response, and a lot of questions about why we made this decision. After seeing so many bags littering the streets and wilderness of not only the Yukon, but the oceans, forests, and beaches we visited, we were inspired to make a change. The elimination of bags turned out to be an easy transition and our customers were so supportive. On October 10, 2015, we gave away our last single use plastic grocery bag. To ensure continued success we provide cardboard boxes for customers to take home, help customers carry groceries to the car, and of course encourage everyone to bring a bag.


Riverside’s delicious soft-serve ice-cream can be served into any container, and they encourage customers to bring their own!




We were happy to see the positive response from our community, and from there we were aware of all the other areas we could easily improve upon. We had sourced compostable cups for our coffee, soft-serve ice cream and slushies, but we were still using plastic straws. In 2016 we sourced bulk compostable paper straws so everything we provide for ice cream and slushies is completely compostable.

When the City of Whitehorse began the pilot program for businesses to have compost bins, we jumped in whole-heartedly. Having an organic produce section in store it made perfect sense. Between composting and being much more aware of our recycling, especially paper and cardboard, we have reduced our garbage production by approximately 90%.

In addition to our compost bin, we put all of our certified organic produce that would be composted aside for Ibex Valley Farm. The chickens at Ibex Valley eat all of our no-longer-perfect organics and produce quality eggs that we sell. This mutually beneficial relationship reduces waste and energy, strengthens the business community in town, and gives us a great way to get to know the impressive and wonderful business of Ibex Valley Farm.

Bulk Bins!


The next phase came in spring of 2018 with the arrival of our bulk bins. We had wanted bulk bins for years, and we knew all along that when finally got them we wanted them to be as waste-free as possible. We would need a reliable ‘tare’ system so customers could bring any container they had available, and and easy to learn system of refilling containers. We always encourage customers bring their own container when possible, and foster a learning environment for bulk shopping. From our own experience we know it can take a few reminders to bring containers and bags; it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight.

There are numerous options in bulk at Riverside, and the best part is you can tare your own container, something the larger grocery chains don’t allow (Photo: Riverside Grocery)


When we got the tare system up and running (‘taring’ is the ability to weigh a container before filling it, allowing someone to pay for only the weight of the product inside the container, and not pay for the weight of the container itself), the sky was the limit. We now offer a Bring Your Own Container option for everything in our bulk bins,  soft serve ice cream, slushies, icebergs, penny candy, locally brewed Summit Kombucha, and bar soap and shampoo bars from fellow Zero Hero, The Yukon Soaps Company. It is so encouraging to see so many people coming in with containers doing their best to reduce their waste. From coffee mugs from home for ice cream, to home made cloth bags to grab a few handfuls of snow peas from the produce cooler.

Zero Waste soaps from the Yukon Soaps Company in Mayo, YT.


We still have a long way to go on the road to Zero Waste, and we have a few more ideas up our sleeves. While everyone tries their best, it is a work in progress and we still love seeing someone carrying a big cardboard box filled with groceries out the door if they forget their bags. The participation from the community is what keeps us inspired and motivated to do more. We are learning along with the rest of town; only 5 short years ago the thought of Zero Waste was barely on our minds. However, it is amazing to see what a close-knit town of like minded, outdoor adventuring, passionate people can achieve.


Riverside Grocery is located at 201 Lowe St. in Whitehorse. Check them out at www.riversidegrocery.ca or on Facebook or Instagram!



Fahrenheit Hair

Maybe you have heard the buzz around Whitehorse lately about a certain salon doing things a little differently. Indeed, Chantelle Tarapaski and her team at Fahrenheit Hair are leading the way when it comes to waste diversion. Fahrenheit is the only salon in the Yukon to be designated a Green Circle Salon, and is a model for other local businesses.

Owner of Fahrenheir Hair Chantelle Tarapaski gave a tour to Mayor Dan Curtis to discuss all the ways they’re diverting waste (Photo: Fahreneheit Hair)


What’s a Green Circle Salon?


Green Circle Salons is a business dedicated to diverting salon and spa waste from landfills and waterways. By signing up with Green Circle, Fahrenheit now has a way to repurpose and recover some of the resources that they cannot recycle locally, many of which are contaminated.

Green Circle approached Tarapaski to see if she wanted to sign up for their service. At first, she admits she was hesitant.

“I felt that Green Circle might be using us to profit on protecting the environment, but then I realized this was a good thing because they were actually doing something good,” she says.

“If gas companies can profit off something harmful to the Earth, why shouldn’t a business profit off helping to protect it?”

A glimpse at Fahrenheit Hair salon, located at 2099 2nd Ave in Whitehorse (Photo: Fahrenheit Hair)


Before signing up, Tarapaski wanted to make sure that she knew what was going to happen to the materials her salon sent out. She took a trip south to tour the Green Circle facilities. She drilled them about different items and was impressed with the system in place for recovering materials.

Fahrenheit pays Green Circle for the service, and in return, ships out her salon waste to be recycled. Tarapaski recoups some of the cost by charging a $2 eco-fee to her customers, who are glad to pay. All the recyclable materials and contaminates are collected and stored before they are shipped out to Green Circle.

Aerosols and colour tubes are some of the hard to recycle materials that Fahrenheit ships out through Green Circle (Photo: Fahrenheit Hair)


What does Green Circle collect?


Fahrenheit Hair collects and ships a long list of different items to Green Circle. Contaminated foils, aerosols, colour tubes, excess hair colour, and any spa waste with contaminates or chemicals are included. They also send their hair clippings.

The hair clippings go to a corrections facility in Maple Ridge, where they are stuffed into old nylons to create booms. These booms are used to soak up oil spills from water. When the booms have been used and re-used to their capacity, they are brought to mushroom fields where they are broken down by fungal spores.

Some other items are separated and recycled, while the remainder go to a waste-to-energy incinerator. On top of all the materials shipped out through Green Circle, Fahrenheit collects all their recyclables, and keeps a compost bin in the staff room for organics. They’ve also invested in water saving EcoHead taps.

Materials like contaminated foils are stored in the office until there’s enough to make a shipment to Green Circle (Photo: Fahrenheit Hair)


Tarapaski says she was asked a lot about the salon materials from her customers and was feeling some pressure to give them answers.

She says making the change to divert more waste was a bit of work at the beginning, but now things are easier.

“I wasn’t always environmentally conscious,” she says.  “Now I get anxiety in the stores when I see all the packaging.”

There are many containers associated with running a salon, so that means many trips to the recycling centre.

“My offices are full of recycling but it’s worth it,” she says.

Fahrenheit diverts about 95% of their waste, and fills less than half a small bag of trash every month.


What’s next?


Tarapaski says the response from her customers has been nothing but positive. She’s continuing to look at ways the salon can further reduce its footprint.

She is looking into whether her hair clippings could go to our local composting facility, which would save on emissions. She also has plans to order some organic cotton produce bags that she can provide free to customers.

More importantly, Tarapaski is encouraging more local salons to sign up. She’s hoping the industry gets to a point where every salon is working cooperatively to reduce their waste.

Wouldn’t that be something?


Fahrenheit Hair is located at 2099 – 2nd Ave. For more information call 668-2882 or visit their Facebook page.



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 www.yukonsoaps.com.



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 www.urbancaribou.ca