Action over anxiety: Tippi Thole’s journey to a tiny trash lifestyle

How one Montrealer is rethinking her footprint

Like a lot of people, Tippi Thole starts her day with a cup of coffee. She uses an espresso machine, since it doesn’t require paper filters or plastic pods that will end up in the trash later. The only waste generated by Thole’s daily java fix are coffee grounds, which she tosses into the compost bin.

After coffee, Thole prepares breakfast with her 11-year-old son. In order to cut out wasteful packaging, many of the ingredients she cooks with are packaged in compostable material, like cardboard, or purchased in bulk and transported home inside glass jars. If an item isn’t available in sustainable packaging — like tortillas, for example, which are usually sold in sealed plastic bags — she makes it from scratch instead.

Waste is something Thole spends a lot of time thinking about. On her website,, she documents her efforts to lead a “low-waste” lifestyle; by scaling back her consumer habits, giving items a second life, and avoiding wasteful materials like plastic, Thole aims to minimize the amount of trash she creates as much as possible. Aptly titled, the website encourages visitors to “reconfigure” their waste sorting system so that the largest bins are dedicated to recycling and compost, and the smallest bin is dedicated to trash.

I feel like all of us can reduce [our] trash,” said Thole. “It’s something that all of us can do, it’s very attainable.”

Currently based in Montreal, Thole grew up in Missouri in the United States. When she’s not working on, she splits her time between her job as a graphic designer and her recently-acquired role as a teacher to her son, who is homeschooled as a result of the pandemic. Thole’s son is an enthusiastic participant in low-waste living, scribbling math equations on scrap pieces of paper and drawing with coloured pencils instead of plastic-encased markers.

The Concordian sat down for an interview with Thole back in February. Having been featured in publications like The Washington Post, Business Insider, and the CBC, she’s no stranger to media attention. Throughout the interview, she’s relaxed and upbeat, pausing only to take sips of her coffee, courtesy of her aforementioned espresso machine. Although the subject of climate change can certainly be a harrowing one, she maintains a positive mindset when speaking about it. She says her experience with low-waste living has been empowering and uplifting.

What I really like about trash is we can see the impact of our habit changes. We can see that we’re making a difference,” she said. “It creates this positive feedback loop, where the more you do, the more you want to do.”

Thole was inspired to make the change to a low-waste lifestyle after attending a 2017 TEDx talk by activist and researcher Carole Devine called “Cleaning Up Our Plastic Mess.”

“I didn’t really understand the enormity of the problem, and how it wasn’t just a problem in the ocean, it was a problem in the land and air and soil, and all these other places too,” said Thole. “I like to say that action feels better than anxiety, and when I learned about plastic trash, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I want to do something.’”

In Canada, an alarming 91 per cent of plastics produced each year aren’t recycled, and the numbers are about the same in the United States. This means that the plastic take-out containers, shampoo bottles, and yogurt cups crowding your recycling bin will most likely end up in a landfill, or even the ocean, where they can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. To many of us, images of marine life swimming through layers of tangled plastic have become increasingly familiar, and the consequences of this reality can be extremely dangerous, threatening ecosystems and poisoning the food chain.

Although the problem is overwhelming, Thole decided to do her part by reevaluating the items she brings into her home and where they end up. She set a goal to fill her recycling bin as slowly as possible, so that she only needed to roll it to the curb once a season. Last year, she doubled up on this goal, filling her recycling bin a grand total of two times. That same year, she only took her trash can out once.

I think it’s fun to have goals … because then you start to see those tangible benefits, and it feels so good,” said Thole.

One criticism that the low-waste movement has faced is that it shifts responsibility from large, environmentally-damaging corporations and governmental bodies to individual consumers.

While Thole recognizes the importance of legislation and corporate action when it comes to tackling the climate crisis, she believes that the power of individual citizens should not be underestimated. For one, the more that individuals adopt sustainable habits, such as the use of reusable water bottles, the more those habits spread — and they can spread quickly.

“Governments and businesses, they move at such a slow rate. Whereas, as individuals, we can make this change today,” said Thole. “We don’t have to wait. And I think right now the crisis is at that point where we don’t have time to wait.”

Thole says her son plays a big role behind her quest to make sustainable choices. She says his love for animals and nature has been a great source of inspiration. As the weather warms up, the pair will soon embark upon what they call “litter walks,” when they venture outdoors to pick up trash that was formerly trapped beneath the snow. It’s an activity Thole and her son look forward to doing together.

“[He’s] a huge motivating factor for me, him and really all future generations,” said Thole.

Thole says she feels a moral responsibility to leave the earth “better than [she] found it,” for the sake of our planet’s future.


Feature photo by Christine Beaudoin


She’s just being Miley

Miley Cyrus and the road from Disney darling to rocker chick.

On March 24, 2006, the first episode of Hannah Montana aired on Disney Channel.

The premier was an instant hit, earning 54 million views and subsequently launching the career of then-14-year-old Miley Cyrus, daughter of famed country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. Almost overnight, Hannah Montana evolved into one of the most iconic Disney shows of all time. It wasn’t long before Miley’s face was plastered across the bedroom walls of pre-teens everywhere.

Much of the show’s success can be credited to its original soundtrack. The songs were pure pop and positivity, featuring Disney-approved lyrics about friendship, self-confidence, and livin’ life to the fullest. As a care-free 10-year-old whose self-confidence was yet to be squandered by the perils of puberty, Hannah Montana’s music really resonated with me.

“You’re right, Miley,” I would think. “Everybody makes mistakes.”

I utterly idolized Miley Cyrus, as many girls my age did. When Breakout came out in 2008 — her first studio album unaffiliated with the Hannah Montana franchise — I loaded up my iPod shuffle with each track and listened religiously. Aptly titled, Breakout provided a glimpse of Miley beyond her role as Hannah Montana; the woman behind the wig, if you will. While certainly not as bold as some of her later music, this album had an edginess to it unparalleled by her Disney-discography.

Take Breakout’s lead single, “7 Things,” for example. The song is less about a school-girl crush, and more about the complexities of a toxic relationship, illustrated by lyrics such as You’re vain, your games, you’re insecure / You love me, you like her and The seventh thing I hate the most that you do / You make me love you.

While Miley’s Disney gig undoubtedly propelled her career as a solo artist, it also placed her beneath a microscope. 

Disney stars are often held to near-impossible standards in terms of their public image, and there’s little room for personal-growth, experimentation, or mistakes. This is especially unfair considering most of these celebrities are hired as teenagers — a time when growth, experimentation, and mistakes are the name of the game.

In 2008, when Miley was just 15, intimate photos she took for her boyfriend were leaked on two separate occasions. That same year, Miley faced fierce backlash after the release of her Vanity Fair cover, on which she was wrapped in a sheet with her bare back exposed. She later apologized for the image, saying in a statement, “I have let myself down. I will learn from my mistakes … My family and my faith will guide me through my life’s journey.” She has since revoked this apology.

Looking back, I’m inclined to think that instances such as these played a huge role in how Miley’s music evolved moving forward. By the early 2010s, Miley’s image had changed entirely. As if to symbolize her entry into a new era, she traded her long brown hair for a short, icy-blonde pixie cut, and her pop-rock sound for a mix of synth, pop, R&B and hip hop.

Although songs like Cardi B’s “WAP” make Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” (2013) sound like a nursery rhyme, at the time the track was considered quite provocative, featuring lyrics such as It’s our party we can love who we want / We can kiss who we want / We can screw who we want. From this point onwards, Miley’s artistic choices became increasingly controversial: she posed naked in her “Wrecking Ball” video, twerked at the VMAs, and sported an oversized diaper and pacifier in her BB Talk (2015) video, to name a few things. This time around, however, her controversies were intentional, unlike when she was a teenager. I can’t help but think that through these controversies Miley was simply fulfilling a need to express herself freely and openly — express her sexuality, her boldness, her queerness — because during her Disney days, she wasn’t allowed to do so.

In a 2013 interview with Barbara Walters, Miley’s words said it all: “I don’t think I was ever really happy with who I was.”

Today, in 2020, Miley has taken on yet another new image. In the past few months, she’s released a series of new wave, rock, and grunge covers, from Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” to Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” to “Zombie” by the Cranberries. Along with her single “Midnight Sky,” released in August, the songs perfectly showcase Miley’s smokey, powerful voice. Her blonde hair now shaped into a shaggy, Joan Jett-esque mullet, she’s fully leaning into the role of rocker chick, and it suits her.  Her new album, Plastic Hearts, is set to arrive soon, and I’m looking forward to hearing how her sound continues to evolve.

I think part of the reason I’m so emotionally invested in Miley and her career is because I grew up alongside her. Miley has undoubtedly played with different identities over the years, and so have I — I’m not exactly a care-free ten-year-old anymore. The lesson I get from all this is pretty clear: nobody’s perfect.    


Graphic by Chloë Lalonde @ihooqstudio


The case for cash: why turning away cash in the midst of a pandemic is a bad idea

Refusing cash payments disadvantages Canada’s most vulnerable populations

It’s an experience most of us have become accustomed to: you step into a cafe, mask on, hands freshly sanitized at the front door. You order your drink, whip open your wallet, and pull out your debit card to seal the deal. You’re playing by the rules — as you should — and this includes your decision to pay with plastic. After all, there’s a sign taped to the sheet of plexiglass separating you and your barista that reads: “TO PROTECT BOTH YOU AND OUR STAFF, PLEASE PAY WITH DEBIT/CREDIT ONLY.”

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has led many vendors to favour card over cash in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. For a lot of people, this transition is no big deal. We’re so used to tapping our cards and completing transactions in a matter of milliseconds that now even entering our pincodes feels like a chore, let alone counting out bills and taking back the change. Even before COVID hit, paper (or rather, polymer) money was on the outs: in a 2018 survey, a quarter of Canadian cash users reported a decrease in their usage over the previous year. Evidently, the rise of credit-rewards, online-shopping, and mobile payment technology has caused many consumers to cut down on cash, leaving their piggy banks to collect dust.

For some Canadians, however, the transition from paper to plastic isn’t so simple. According to data from the World Bank, nearly one per cent of Canadians are unbanked, meaning they’re entirely unserved by banks or similar financial institutions. Other sources, such as ACORN Canada, report that up to three per cent of the population are unbanked — that’s roughly 1.1 million people. While it’s true that opening a bank account is usually free, keeping it isn’t; most accounts charge monthly fees that, for many people, aren’t worth the added expense. Plus, opening a bank account requires sufficient identification, which thousands of homeless and precariously-homed Canadians don’t possess.

In mid-March, just as COVID’s first wave began to take off, the Bank of Canada asked vendors to continue accepting cash to avoid putting an “undue burden on those who depend on cash and limited payment options.” Despite this statement, there are still signs with dejected-looking emojis on them that read “NO CASH” taped to storefront windows, even as we reach the end of September. Although vendors, workers, and consumers are doing everything they can to keep their interactions as contactless as possible, experts say banning cash isn’t necessary. According to the experts, handling bank notes is no riskier than touching other surfaces such as doorknobs, handrails, and the buttons on debit machines. As long as appropriate safety measures are respected following the use of cash, such as thorough handwashing, it’s considered a socially responsible way to spend money.

The barriers preventing vulnerable populations from achieving security and stability are endless, and putting up another barrier will only further escalate these inequalities. For too many, the freedom to pay cash isn’t a choice, but a means of survival. If you’re able to choose debit or credit, then by all means, do. But if you’re someone with the power to refuse or accept a bank note, it might be time to change your mind about change.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Online opt-out discussions began without consulting fee-levy groups, documents reveal

Disclosure: The Concordian is a fee-levy group

The CSU had maintained that it would consult with fee-levy groups to implement an online opt-out system

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Concordia administration began development of the online opt-out system before consulting with fee-levy groups, newly-surfaced emails reveal. 

Conversations between CSU General Coordinator Chris Kalafatidis and Dean of Students Andrew Woodall date as far back as December 2019, despite the CSU’s promise to develop the opt-out system in consultation with fee-levy groups. The groups were not consulted until months later.

Students voted in favour of the online opt-out system in a referendum last November. The new opt-out system would no longer require students to contact each individual fee-levy organization in order to retract their shares.

One of several requests made through Kalafatidis’s emails was the addition of  a “check-box” feature, which would enable students to click on the groups they do not wish to support. Other requests included a limited selection period and a record of opt-outs that could be accessed by fee-levy groups.

Fee-levy organizations such as The Concordian, The Link, CJLO, Sustainable Concordia, and People’s Potato receive most, if not all, of their funding from student fees. Most groups charge less than 0.40ȼ per credit. 

“Moving the system online makes it impartial,” said a Sustainable Concordia employee in an interview last November. “It makes people make hasty decisions that they don’t understand the consequences of, and it shuts down the conversation before it even starts.”

Many groups perceive online opt-outs as a threat to their survival and, in turn, the well-being of students.

“Online opt-out … has destroyed organizations that students have spent years building,” said the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) in a statement. “With that, fee levies have been working to help all our students, particularly those in financially precarious positions.”

News of the correspondence between the CSU and the administration surfaced through a Facebook post made by CSU Councillor Margot Berner. The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

According to Berner, Kalafatidis failed to obtain approval from the council before contacting the administration.

“The council is the decision making body of the Union,” wrote Berner. “Executives are supposed to execute those decisions. Not take it upon themselves to pitch their own ideas to the admin.”

Kalafatidis told The Link yesterday that he was mandated to speak to the administration as soon as the referendum passed. He said that only non-negotiable aspects were discussed.

“I was firm that these were only ‘immediate asks’ and not the final recommendation,” he said.

Woodall had asked Kalafatidis to confirm that no formal demands had yet been made in an email sent December 20.

“Clearly, the way that you conduct the consultation will be important and, without stepping into territory that isn’t my business, I urge you to spend some good effort on this,” he wrote.

Online opt-outs are to be implemented in September 2020.

Update: The emails between Chris Kalafatidis and the Concordia administration were discussed in a CSU council meeting last week. A motion to keep the original September timeline for the launch of the online opt-out system was tabled indefinitely. 




Archive graphic by Le Lin.


In light of ‘racist remarks’ made by MP Derek Sloan, Asian Canadians demand he be kicked out of the Conservative Party

A new national network, ACT2endracism, asks political leaders to denounce Conservative MP’s comments against Chief Public Health Officer

A coalition of Asian Canadians are demanding MP Derek Sloan be kicked out of the Conservative Party for his remarks against Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. The coalition, called ACT2endracism, asked political leaders to “publicly condemn anti-Asian racism” in a statement released Thursday.

Sloan made headlines in April after criticizing Dr. Tam’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, citing her reliance on allegedly-flawed data from China and the World Health Organization. In a tweeted video, he questioned whether Dr. Tam works for “China or Canada.” Dr. Tam was born in Hong Kong.

To date, Sloan has refused to apologize, despite national backlash. “I did not– and I am not– questioning Dr. Tam’s loyalty to Canada,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

According to ACT2endracism, Sloan’s behaviour is exemplary of the “growing anti-Asian sentiment and violence” brought on by Covid-19.

“This is race-baiting at its lowest,” says Walter Chi-yan Tom, a Human Rights lawyer from Montreal. “We cannot allow those who lead, or aspire to lead a national political party, to fan the flames of hate in our country.”

Sloan is currently one of four candidates on the ballot for the Conservative Party race.


Feature graphic archive by Alexa Hawksworth

Closure graphic by Christine Lam

Student Life

Cruelty-free beauty pt. 2

Back in November, I challenged myself to replace some of the items in my beauty routine with affordable, cruelty-free alternatives (I made a list of my favourites that you can read here). Well guess what, people: I’m still broke and I still like animals, so I’ve kept up with it!  

While I’ve still got a ways to go, the items on my vanity are looking a lot different than they did a few months ago, and I’m happy to say that finding these products is becoming easier and easier. From skincare to makeup to hair care, there are tons of options out there for the conscious consumer on a budget.

Here’s another list of inexpensive, cruelty-free products I’m loving at the moment. 

Niacinamide Serum:

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%$5.90 for 30 millilitres 

Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that works wonders for the skin by reducing inflammation and balancing oil levels. So, if you have skin that is sensitive and/or acne-prone, then this serum from The Ordinary is definitely worth trying. The texture is light and a little goes a long way—just make sure to seal it in with moisturizer afterwards!

Comparison: Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster — $63.82 for 20 millilitres


Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Butter Bronzer—$21.99 for 10.8 grams

This bronzer from Physicians Formula is my favourite of all time, hands down. The texture is smooth and blendable, so there’s none of the patchiness that bronzers can sometimes cause. Also, since the shades have a slight coolness to them, it won’t leave you looking like Donald Trump after a day at the tanning salon. Plus, it smells amazing! 

Comparison: Benefit Hoola Bronzer—$40.00 for eight grams


The Ordinary Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants$9.70 for 50 millilitres 

Sunscreen is something we should all be wearing daily (even in winter, folks). Luckily, this SPF from The Ordinary is an inexpensive option that sinks into the skin quickly and doesn’t leave your face feeling oily throughout the day. I will say that, since it’s a mineral sunscreen, it does leave a slight white cast on the skin. This doesn’t matter much for me since I’m literally the colour of drywall, but anyone with a deeper skin tone might have to experiment with it a bit. 

Comparison: Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42—$44 for 30 millilitres 


Covergirl Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation—$19.49 for 30 millilitres

This foundation from Covergirl has a unique, almost mousse-like consistency that feels lightweight and comfortable, but provides surprisingly full coverage. What I like most about this foundation is that it doesn’t separate and become patchy throughout the day, which, in my case, even some of the most expensive foundations tend to do. It’s easy to layer and easy to blend, so the finish is nice and natural. 

Comparison: Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation—$55.00 for 30 millilitres

Lip Gloss 

Essence Shine Shine Shine Lipgloss—$3.99 for 4.5 millilitres

This $4 (!!!) lip gloss from Essence is as shiny and glossy as they come. This stuff seriously rivals some of the fancier glosses on the market, and it comes in a surprising number of shades. It’s good stuff. 

Comparison: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer— $25 for nine millilitres 

Leave-In Conditioner

Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Reparative Leave-in Conditioner—$13.49 for 325 millilitres

As someone with really dry, damaged hair, the leave-in conditioner has been a game-changer. I love this one from Shea Moisture because it thoroughly hydrates my hair without weighing it down. It also smells amazing and helps to define my waves.


Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil/Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Revamp Recollections: Making over The Concordian office

Sit the f*ck down, Property Brothers, there’s a new pair of renovators in town.

For reasons I will never fully understand, Mackenzie Lad, digital editor and production manager here at The Concordian, and I, were given permission to makeover the office. Equipped with limited knowledge and a whole lotta drive, we spent the entire reading week completing step one of this process: revamping The Concordian’s meeting room.

By the looks of it, the meeting room hadn’t been fixed up since the late 70s. The furniture alone was a dead giveaway: all burnt orange and lime green material, the chairs were so coated in dust and mysterious stains that I’m pretty sure they qualified as archeological artifacts. A series of old, rickety desks and tables were pushed into the corners of the room, their only purpose to serve as landing strips for generations of Concordian staff and their random junk: uncapped pens, broken computer keyboards, empty coffee cups, loose papers. Some of these documents dated as far back as 1979, and if that doesn’t signify the need for an update, I don’t know what does. Clearly, we had our work cut out for us.

Step One: Paint the Damn Walls

On our first day, we were graciously joined by Matthew Coyte, our managing editor, and our good pal Sean Hennegan, who doesn’t work for The Concordian but was helping us out as an act of charity.* Since Mackenzie and I are not exactly Amazons, we decided to use Matt and Sean’s height to our advantage and tackle the walls first. The plan? To revamp the navy walls with a shade of sky blue and to add a fresh coat of white paint everywhere else.

I was young and naive then (last week), so I figured that by the end of the first day, each wall would be covered in its first coat of paint. In retrospect, this was an absolute pipe dreampainting is a painstakingly tedious endeavour. Between covering the door frames with tape, filling the holes with spackle and laying the actual paint down, we put in hours and hours of work, only wrapping up at the end of day three. That said, it’s remarkable what a new coat of paint can do, leaving a room that once felt dark and drab now light, airy and open. It was worth it!

Step Two: Fix Up the Furnishings

After the painting was finished, we decided it was time to deal with the meeting room’s abundance of ancient furniture. We started by getting rid of a few things: a desk with a broken leg, a table that didn’t quite fit with the rest. Some of the remaining furniture needed a bit of TLC, so we wiped down the chairs, painted a couple of the shelving units white and stained one of the tables deep mahogany brown to match the others.

We also rearranged the layout of the room, repositioning desks and moving chairs around, and it was with this step that I saw our transformation really start to come to life. “We’re in the home stretch!” I kept repeating, like some dad at a barbeque whose burgers were nearly ready to come off the grill. Ever-so-cordial, Mackenzie endured this embarrassing aspect of my personality like an absolute champ, pitching in with enthusiastic “yeahs!” and “woo-hoos!” as much as she could bear. It was true, though: all that was left to do was the fun part.

Step Three: Sweet, Sweet Memories 

Like any media publication, The Concordian has accumulated a significant amount of archival material over the years. Decades-old, black-and-white photographs of various Stingers sporting events were scattered on the tabletops, put there who-knows-how-long-ago with the intention of hanging them on the walls. Newspaper after newspaper, many of them yellowed with age, were piled up on the shelves, and negatives of issues-past were stacked in boxes in the corner.

Sifting through the archives was like taking a trip back in time and we wanted to incorporate the material into our decor as much as we could. We framed and hung some of the Stingers photos, finally giving them their rightful place on the wall, and tacked the rest to a huge corkboard above the couch.

We also thought it might be cool to cover the main meeting room table in a collage of old publications, so we spent one afternoon breathing in Modge Podge fumes as we cut and pasted pieces of newspaper to the wood. I think it was a success!

There are two more rooms at The Concordian that we haven’t touched yet—the production office, where we design the layout of our paper each week, and the studio—so Mackenzie and I still have a ways to go. Up next, we plan to tackle those Cheez-Whiz coloured walls. I’ll keep you posted.


*Editor’s note: Sean has kindly asked that we refer to him by his chosen title of “Senior Executive Intern.” Since that position does not actually exist at this publication, we will henceforth be referring to him by his second title of choice, “Local Cool Guy.” 


Collage by Mackenzie Lad ft. the real Property Brothers

Student Life

Cat poop, but make it manageable

As you probably know by now, the cat-human hybrids from the Cats movie don’t have buttholes. Like many people out there, I find this information to be profoundly disturbing, and could have gone my entire life without pondering how a furrified James Corden goes to the bathroom. But I didn’t come here to talk about Cats, the movie, or to make friends. I came to talk about kitty litter, goddamnit. 

Unlike Taylor Swift’s Garfield cosplay, real cats do have buttholes and they use them to poop (take notes, Hollywood). I know this because I currently live with three cats, all of whom regularly shit in my house. Through much trial and error, I have developed a system that meets all of my targets when it comes to this: it’s good at controlling odour, it’s affordable, it’s healthier and it’s (relatively) environmentally friendly. So, although you most certainly didn’t ask for it, today you’ll be getting the inside scoop on exactly what this system entails. 

The litter

The litter of choice for most cat owners is made of clay. Usually about $1.25/kg*, this route can be cost effective. However, it does involve some cons: it’s heavy, the little bits of clay get everywhere, it’s not great at controlling odours, it’s harmful to the environment and it kicks up an enormous amount of dust. As someone with chronic asthma, I noticed a significant improvement in my breathing after I got rid of this stuff. 

I’ve also experimented with the use of silica crystal litter, which is made from granules of sodium silicate, similar to the stuff inside those “Do Not Eat” packages you might find in a new purse. While this method is much better at hiding smells and doesn’t produce dust, it’s significantly more expensive at around $4.5 per kg.

The third type of litter I’ve tried is made from wood pellets, which I use today and will likely use forever. The highly-absorbent (and biodegradable) pellets turn to sawdust when they come into contact with liquid, so the soiled bits are easy to seperate from the rest. They also do an amazing job at concealing odours, so rather than smelling like the inside of a zoo enclosure, my home now smells faintly like a freshly cut pine tree. The best part, however, is the low price point: at about $1/kg, it’s even cheaper than clay!

*All litter prices are pulled from the Mondou website. 

The litter box (a.k.a. Defecation Station) 

The general consensus for the replacement of plastic litter boxes is once a year. Your cat’s digging and scratching cause the plastic to wear out over time, meaning it’s easier for gross smells and bacteria to become trapped within. The result? Over your cat’s lifetime, you’re going through a lot of plastic and a lot of cash. 

An alternative I like to use is litter boxes made from stainless-steel. This method is much more hygenic and durable, so you save money in the long run. That said, the cost of the initial purchase can run up to $80.* One tip I picked up from Reddit is to buy stainless steel steam pans instead (the kind you might see at a hotel buffet). I got mine for about $35 and it works great. Just make sure to tape up the edges since they can be a bit sharp. 

*All litter box prices pulled from Amazon. 

The waste disposal 

For a long time, I had no clue how to dispose of the cat waste itself. I tried flushing it down the toilet, but it turns out this is really hard on the pipes. Plus, flushing cat poop can introduce a parasite called toxoplasma to the water. This has the potential to harm aquatic life as well as humans, as the parasite is difficult to filter from our water supply. 

Next, I tried tossing the waste directly into the trash can. This was a huge no-go, as the smells added up quickly and I was forced to take out the trash nearly every other day. I also tried putting the waste into biodegradable doggie bags before tossing it, which helped a little, but still wasn’t ideal.

The solution that has worked best for me so far is the LitterLocker, which I picked up for about $17 at Walmart. The lid design seals the waste away after it’s been disposed of, so it does an amazing job at controlling odours. The biggest downside, however, is its use of plastic bags. While one refill of bags lasts a surprisingly long time, I’m still on the lookout for a more ecological and economical alternative, so stay tuned! 

While it’s certainly not a glamorous topic, developing an effective system for cat poop is essential when it comes to the health and happiness of you and your pet. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be harmful to the earth and, above all else, it doesn’t have to be smelly. 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

DIY diaries: Apartment decor

You know how taking hormonal birth control tricks your body into thinking it’s pregnant? Well, I think mine has tricked me into thinking I’m a mother of three, armed with a Pinterest account, the loyal patrons of my mommy blog and a burning desire to get crafty. (My children’s names in this scenario are Kayleeigh, Kaiylen, and Kaedenn, by the way).

Let me explain.

I’ve recently noticed a monumental shift in how I like to spend my free time. Lately, my perfect evening is spent holed up in my apartment, pounding Diet Cokes and making macrame. Nothing gets me more jazzed these days than the prospect of organizing my cupboards or repainting my closet doors. Who have I become?

As winter slowly draws to a close, the mood to change things up in my home has been especially strong. Redecorating costs can add up quickly though, so I’ve had to find some ways to do it on the cheap. Here are some easy, quick, and affordable projects that I’ve really enjoyed so far.

A great way to make things a bit more sophisticated is with a quick coat of paint. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Plants, Paints and Pots

Whenever I pick up a new houseplant for my home, I usually plant it in one of those cheap terracotta pots from the dollar store. While this looks nice enough on it’s own, a great way to make things a bit more sophisticated is with a quick coat of paint. Personally, I’ve been enjoying this stone-gray colour. It’s easy to paint over afterwards and the porous surface of the terracotta is really forgiving when it comes to making cheap paint stick on. The only thing left to do is actually remember to water the plants. This is something I struggle with and will likely continue to struggle with until the end of time.

Any kind of paper works when it comes to origami. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Origami on a String

I recently took up the hobby of making origami—again, I genuinely don’t know who I am anymore. Something I’ve been doing lately is stringing paper cranes together using a needle and embroidery thread, and then hanging them around my apartment.  I think it adds a really pretty pop of colour to the room and the cranes are surprisingly easy to make once you get the hang of the different folds. I learned how to make them following YouTube tutorials.

As long as it’s cut in a square shape, any kind of paper works when it comes to origami. That being said, I do find that using actual origami paper makes things much easier since it’s so thin and easy to fold.

Chalk paint is great because you can apply it to all kinds of surfaces. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Put Some Chalk Paint on It 

Do you have a roommate? Does that roommate have an old whiteboard they’re going to throw out? Does that same roommate also have a can of spray-on chalk paint? Do you feel confident enough in your relationship with said roommate that you can steal their whiteboard and chalk paint without their permission? If so, try it out!

A chalkboard looks much nicer than a whiteboard, in my humble opinion. Plus, chalk paint is great because you can apply it to all kinds of surfaces. Just make sure to draw a cute doodle of you and your roommate on it afterwards, to make up for stealing her things.

Cards are Cute

A cheap frame from the dollar store is a magical thing. I keep a stack of them stowed away in my closet, so that whenever I stumble across a cute print, I can easily hang it up that same day. A frame also allows you to get creative with what you display on your wall because it makes almost everything look pretty, elegant and intentional.

A frame allows you to get creative with what you display on your wall. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Lately, I’ve been really into framing the postcards I’ve collected over the years. Whether they be from my own travels or someone else’s, I can’t resist bold colours with a glossy finish, ya know? I think they look lovely grouped together in four-panel frames like the one you see here. (The skull print is not a postcard, by the way, but a print by a local artist—you can find her as manson.grrrl on Instagram. Her stuff is great!).

This also works really well with greeting cards. In this case, I cut off the front portion of the card and glued it down on a coloured piece of paper so that it would fit into a larger frame. It’s a great way to liven up a room without spending the big bucks.

Redecorating doesn’t have to be expensive and time consuming, and you don’t even have to be a Pinterest mom to make it happen. Plus, focusing your energy on personalizing your space and working on yourself is a great way to put off studying, so that’s healthy! Hopefully these ideas can inspire you to get creative with your home. Happy decorating!

Photos by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Student Life

Listen up, people! Three new(ish) podcasts to listen to

Like many folks nowadays, I’m a huge fan of podcasts.

Although many of my favourite shows have been around for years, like My Dad Wrote a Porno, S-Town, and Planet Money (to name a few), there’s a constant stream of new releases hitting the market, and a number of them have become staples in my playlist. Here are three new(ish) podcasts that I’ve been enjoying in 2020.

For the consumer of current-events: Why it Matters

Hosted by Gabrielle Sierra, Why it Matters aims to tell us precisely why we should give a damn about today’s biggest events, issues and stories. Topics include the threat of nuclear war, the accumulation of space-junk, the pros and cons of artificial intelligence and more. Backed by extensive research and in-depth interviews with researchers and analysts, the podcast serves as a quick and effective way to catch up on some of modern life’s biggest topics, calling into question how tomorrow might be changed by the events of today.  

Trigger warning: sexual assault 

For the true crime enthusiast: Chasing Cosby 

Just as the title suggests, Chasing Cosby chronicles the myriad of sexual assault allegations made against Bill Cosby and the events leading up to his consequent arrest. The show is reported and hosted by Nicki Weisensee Egan, the first American journalist to dig into the issue after initial allegations were made in the early 2000s. 

In many ways, the nature of the subject matter in Chasing Cosby makes it difficult to listen to—Cosby was accused of assault by up to 60 women, some of them as young as 15 when the alleged abuse occurred. That being said, the podcast is definitely worth a shot if you can stomach it. Its narrative is ultimately driven by the voices of survivors, their stories exposing the dangerous intersections of the power and predatory behaviour that have come to shape our world today. 

For the culture-curious: The Dream, Season 2

In the first season of The Dream, host Jane Marie dove into the world of multi-level-marketing and pyramid schemes. Now, in season two, she explores the ins and outs of the “wellness” industry, from Bible-approved essential oils to Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous vagina eggs. At its core, the podcast ultimately serves to dissect our culture’s growing obsession with alternative medicine and the risks associated with its wide-spread commercialization. So if you’re a self-identified skeptic, or maybe you’re just looking to learn something new, this one’s for you.

While this list doesn’t even begin to cover the abundance of new podcasts out there, it’s a start. So next time you’re sitting on a bus, doing your dishes, or walking the dog, try giving these shows a listen. Happy listening!

Student Life

Contemporary Craft: Why We Continue to Produce Textile Art in 2020

Jenna Cleyle, Monika Noble and Rivka Mitchell are roommates. Graduate students in their early twenties, the three friends share an apartment in the heart of Outremont. It’s a cozy place, with potted plants nestled in every corner, fairy lights strung across the ceiling and a huge, remarkably comfortable couch in the middle of the living room. A couple of nights a week, the roommates stretch out here to watch movies and eat junk food and chat about their lives. It’s a welcome break from their hectic schedules.

There’s a ball of blue yarn and some knitt ing needles sitting on the coffee table; evidence of the pair of socks that Rivka has been working on. Having knit since she was a kid, it’s not unusual to find her with her feet up in front of the TV, needles clicking away. Sometimes, Jenna and Monika will knit with her, but Jenna typically prefers to do embroidery and Monika likes to sew. She just recently purchased a sewing machine, as she felt it was finally time to acquire her own after she’d grown up using her grandmother’s.

This image of three young women working together—each of them threading and stitching and looping and cutting—is reminiscent of some scene from a Jane Austen novel. It feels like taking a step into a different time, only instead of sitting in front of a gently crackling fireplace, the women are sitting in front of an episode of The Bachelor and yelling at the TV.

For this trio, creating these projects is a source of great comfort and joy. The fruits of their labour are sprinkled all around the apartment in the form of sweaters, blankets wall decor, some of which they’ve gifted to one another. It makes them feel good to see their hard work turn into something useful.

“I take a lot of pride out of it,” said Monika. “I’ve used my hands and made something that I really like. It’s like, ‘I can do this!’”

A study by the University of British Columbia found that knitting can help ease the anxiety associated with eating disorders.  After attending knitting classes, 74 percent of subjects, all of whom were women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, reported feeling calmer and less preoccupied with their weight and eating habits.


The psychological benefits of knitting have also been put to the test in correctional facilities. One program, called Knitting Behind Bars, has found great success in a Maryland minimum security prison, where inmates can attend a weekly knitting class. The program has reportedly helped to alleviate stress and tension among inmates while empowering them with a valuable skill.

Rivka echoes this idea. She says that knitting helps soothe her nerves when she’s feeling restless. “It’s repetitive,” she said. “You barely have to think about it once you get used to the motions of it, and I think there’s something really nice about the texture. The wool feels good in your hands.”

Like many young women, Jenna, Monika and Rivka have embraced the same ‘domestic skills’ that their grandmothers likely practiced at their age. Since the turn of the 21st century, a revival in the practice of knitting, cross-stitching, embroidery, sewing and weaving has been steadily growing, largely supported by the rise of social media. Often guided by online tutorials and forums, a number of women are using platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Reddit to share photos of their finished creations. It’s a curious thing—though the roles for women have changed drastically in recent decades, these traditional forms of ‘women’s-work’ have prevailed, finding space even in 2020 by adapting to our modern lifestyles and social networks.

Just last fall, a Chicago woman named Shannon Downey made headlines after stumbling across an unfinished quilt at an estate sale. The quilt, which displays an embroidered map of the United States, was the work of an elderly woman named Rita Smith. Smith sadly passed away before she could complete it, so Downey took to Instagram in search of needleworkers to help finish the project. Over a thousand volunteers offered their services and the quilt is to be exhibited this spring at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.

Stretching 143 metres long, the Great Tapestry of Scotland is one of the largest tapestries in the world. Made up of 160 embroidered panels, the tapestry chronicles the history of Scotland from as early as 8,500 BCE. Constructed by over a thousand volunteers, each panel took at least 500 hours to complete.

Jenna, who began embroidering a couple of years ago, believes that so many women are gravitating towards the medium as a means of redefining what it represents. “I think it’s about reappropriating something that was traditionally considered a woman’s role,” she said.

Not too long ago, a woman’s knowledge of these various skills was born more out of obligation than desire. In the 19th century, for example, women of every class were expected to have some knowledge of textile craftsmanship. Proficiency with a needle and thread was paramount, because it meant women could elevate their homemaking skills and increase their employment opportunities. The select women who had access to schooling would often acquire these abilities through their formal education; and those who didn’t would usually learn from the other women in their families, just as many do today.

Many early examples of embroidery come from the tomb of good ol’ King Tut (Tutankhamun), the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who ruled from roughly 1333 to 1323 BCE. He was buried with a sizeable collection of clothing items, including tunics, gloves and socks. Many were heavily embroidered with intricate designs and beads.

Although, in some ways, this emphasis on domestic craftsmanship can be seen as oppressive, it did create an avenue into the art world that women previously didn’t have access to. While women struggled to find a place in the realm of sculpture and painting—‘high art’ as some textbooks like to call it—they did gain some notoriety in the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century. A reaction against mass industrialization, the movement emphasized the importance of handmade artisanship. It is here that decorative arts produced by women found some visibility, although their works were still largely overshadowed by those of men.

Susan Surette, Ph.D, an art historian who studies the history of craft and decorative arts, said that many women have since experimented with textiles as a means of connecting with these feminine roots. In the 1970s, a number of feminist circles partook in the resurgence of embroidery. Stitching colourful designs into blouses and denim jackets, they produced those iconic staples of seventies fashion we know so well today.

You’ve probably heard of William Butler Yeats, the famed 20th century Irish poet. It turns out he was far from being the only artist in the family: his sister, Lily Yeats, was a successful embroiderer. Lily Yeats ran the embroidery department for Dun Emer Industries, an arts and crafts cooperative that she established alongside her sister, Elizabeth Yeats. Dun Emer was run entirely by women and the cooperative aimed to teach craftsmanship to other working-class women and girls.

“It was [about] getting acquainted with these textile skills that our grandmothers or mothers would have used, these techniques that were part of the absolute necessity for gender construction,” said Surette. “The difference now is that we have the choice to participate.”

Today, textile artworks have become increasingly welcomed into the fold of our major institutions. Toshiko Horiuchi-MacAdam, for example, is internationally celebrated for her playgrounds made entirely of crocheted fibres. Other artists, such as South African embroiderer Danielle Clough, have gained huge followings on social media. Clough has even been commissioned to do hand-sewn portraits of iconic celebrities like David Letterman and Tina Fey.

Surette said it’s unlikely that women will stop experimenting with textiles any time soon, especially as the appreciation for decorative arts grows. She believes that the practice of knitting, weaving and sewing are important extensions of our need to create. “Textiles are so embedded in our history,” she said.

The Arts and Crafts movement began in the 19th century as a response to the decline of craftsmanship in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. William Morris, an English reformer and designer, along with interior decorators and manufacturers, founded the Morris, Marshall, Faulker and Company. It was dedicated to trying to recapture the spirit associated with medieval craftsmanship.

Sure enough, Jenna, Monika and Rivka plan to continue working on their craft and improving their skills. While they haven’t amassed thousands of followers on Instagram, for them, that’s really not the point.

“It’s an outlet of creativity, you know?” said Jenna. “It’s nice to put your time into something and create something out of it.”


Graphics by Kayla-Marie Turriciano, Main photo by Britanny Clarke

Student Life

Yum or Yikes: Café Chat L’Heureux

Last week, I paid a visit to Café Chat L’Heureux.

Located in the heart of the Plateau, it’s one of two cat cafes in Montreal, where guests can enjoy their cup of coffee in the company of some feline friends. Café Chat L’Heureux opened in 2014, and has since become a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

The first cat cafe can be traced back to Taiwan in the late ‘90s. The concept was picked up by Japan shortly after, and spread across the rest of the world throughout the following decade. Now, many major North American cities have opened these cafes, their popularity supported by the growing influence of social media and a growing support for the adopt don’t shop movement.

Café Chat L’Heureux is currently home to roughly 10 cats, some of which were adopted from local shelters, and others which the shop foster. Upon entering the cafe, I was confused: where were all the cats? It took me a few moments to realize that the cats were, well, everywhere. Nestled in between cushions, curled up in corners, and perched on the beams overhead, the cats were camouflaged with their environment. Eventually, a few came out of their nests to say hello and—not to be dramatic—it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen and the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

The cafe’s ambiance was homey and mellow, with soft music playing overhead and guests chatting quietly, some of them relaxing on the couches, often with a cat resting beside them. I had the pleasure of enjoying my food while a tiny kitten rested on my lap, so it’s safe to say that I was pretty happy with the atmosphere.

Ambience: 7/5

The menu is entirely vegetarian, with a few vegan options as well, offering a selection of sandwich melts, salads, soups and smoothies. I tried their popular menu item dubbed “Cat Lady,” a grilled sandwich with goat cheese, cheddar, caramelized onions, fig jam and honey. The sandwich was delicious and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys rich comfort foods.

The cafe also offers a variety of lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, so I enjoyed my sandwich with a super tasty hazelnut latte. This was followed by a piece of cheesecake and a brownie that I shared with a friend. Unfortunately, the desserts didn’t live up to the main course, as I found the cheesecake a bit bland, and the brownie to have a texture closer to cake.

Food: 3.5/5

Price wise, the menu was a tad expensive—on average, sandwich melts cost around $14 each, coffees around $5 and desserts about $6.50. However, considering the fact that keeping cats alive is a costly affair, I could understand the need for higher prices and didn’t mind paying a little more than I normally would.

Price: 4/5

The employees at Café Chat L’Heureux were really nice, and you could tell that they really loved working with the cats. My only teeny-tiny complaint is that the service was slightly slow, but considering the relaxed atmosphere, I didn’t really think it was a big deal. I was in no rush to leave, that’s for sure!

Service: 4.5/5


Photo by Laurence B.D.

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