Lately I’ve been watching perhaps too much Netflix but one show I really enjoy is the BBC’s Money for Nothing, where the host visits a recycling centre quite similar to the écocentres we have around Montreal. These are places where people bring bulky items and anything they’re not allowed to put in the municipal recycling or garbage. During each show, host Sarah Moore chooses three potential items that she or another designer will upcycle so that the item, once transformed, becomes something that may be sold at a profit instead of ending up smashed up in a landfill. If the item sells, the person who brought it to the recycling center gets any profit made after labour and materials.
Some of transformations featured on the show are amazing. For instance, any piece of furniture brought to Margate designer Zoe Murphy becomes a work of art featuring handprinted painted designs and textiles. Jay Blades is genius at giving old chairs a refresh. In one episode, Rupert Blanchard takes an old wooden door and turns into a hallway console table! Blacksmith artist Bex Simon and her husband, David, do amazing (and difficult) work turning items Sarah saves into such unique creations as a sack barrel table or a chair made from half a bathtub. The stuff Sarah tackles usually turns out well. I think silver plating the game pieces from a discarded Monopoly game and turning them into jewellery charms is brilliant. But some stuff hasn’t worked out. One item that stood out for me was a jerry can sliced in half so that it would become a lamp that stores a hip flask. It didn’t sell even though its reinvention cost a lot. I do wonder how many items featured on the show found permanent homes. I realize the episodes I’m referencing are a bit dated now, since they’re from season one but it would be interesting to discover whether the rescued and revamped items are still in use all these years later.
The show got me thinking that I’m either acquainted with or know a number of people around Montreal who are eco-entrepreneurs. Not only that, they’re all kind women who do a lot for others and for their communities. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
For a few years now, ever since she decided to devote her summers to gardening, Tracey has been involved as a working member of the Coopérative de Solidarité Abondance Urbaine Solidaire (CAUS), a non-profit urban agriculture solidarity co-op in Verdun. Not only does CAUS follow permaculture practices in its gardens but the food they harvest is grown using no pesticides and minimal energy. She’s vice-president of the Grand Potager, a non-profit group whose mission is to run an urban agriculture resource center out of Verdun’s municipal greenhouse. The Grand Potager is a place where people not only find food security and gardening projects under one roof, they see all the key movers and shakers in Verdun’s growing urban agriculture movement working together. This greatly improves communication between the different organizations, citizens and the borough and it’s a lot easier for anyone with an idea for a new project to get a handle on what’s going on and create new partnerships.
Claudia is an incredibly talented artist and a brilliant recycler. Her materials include discarded computers and old silver cutlery she transforms into gorgeous jewellery and accessories, true works of art. I’ve written about her a few times now, see here and here.
As president of Senteurs D’Angkor Canada, Natalie not only imports and distributes the Senteurs D’Angkor (Scents of Angkor) lines of natural, handmade and fair-trade soaps, spices, massage oils, and incense from Cambodia. Most of the product packaging comes from the sugar palm tree, an abundant natural and recyclable resource in Cambodia. By selling these items, she helps Cambodian craftspeople, many of whom are women, earn a good living.
Tina runs Brooks Pepperfire Foods with her husband Greg Brooks, where they specialize in using fresh chili peppers and preparing Greg’s Peppermaster brand products, which include fresh pepper mashes, sauces, chocolates and even an antidote (!) in small batches. Besides a shared love of hot peppers, the two are fiercely committed to fair trade, respecting the environment and treating people fairly.
Flourish & Knot started in 2013 as a DIY and lifestyle blog. Now Sarah, a musician and teacher, has turned it into a boutique floral design business, offering floral design for weddings and events, custom arrangements and centrepieces (for instance, for Mother’s Day), DIY floral workshops where she’ll teach you how to arrange flowers and DIY event floral services for folks living in the Greater Montreal area and in Eastern Ontario. The flowers are sourced as locally as possible and she’s eco-conscious in her choices of materials.
A whirlwind of energy, Rachel Chainey is not only a co-founder of successful Montreal cooperatively-run art hive and neighbourhood café, Le Milieu, as coordinator of the Concordia-initiated Art Hives Network, she’s been instrumental in sharing her know-how about these gathering places where people from all walks of life can create art using second-hand materials on a pay-what-you-can basis, learn or share a new skill and eat a healthy snack. Thanks to Rachel, there are now over 70 art hives worldwide and in 2016 she and Le Milieu received a Community Partner Award from Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement and the Office of the Provost. Her commitment to art hives and making art accessible for all to all is so strong she wrote about them for the Master’s of Fine Arts degree she just completed at Concordia.
With a blog dedicated to “living rural in the city,” Jane cares deeply about urban homesteading and believes we need to put nature back into cities.
From April to June, she runs Rewilding, a hands-on consultancy and landscaping service that replaces asphalt conventional driveways with green driveways “that conserve water, eliminate salt, and look super-attractive from the street – expanding your yard and garden.” She replaces run-of-the-mill lawns with native plant landscaping. So instead of grass, you have plants found elsewhere in Quebec, plants that offer food and shelter to insects and birds and that would be there if our houses and pavement didn’t exist. As she explains:
Well, as you can imagine, if you have a yard, it’s incredibly satisfying to grow your own tomatoes and other vegetables, to enjoy the beauty of a garden, and share it with birds and other wildlife. Not just the wild life of backyard patio parties (Woot!).
Jane aims to change people’s perceptions and habits so we all use fewer resources. She helps people prevent bird deaths by installing bird-strike prevention products on windows.
As Earth Day wraps up, I salute these women who do so much to make this world a better place.