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Zero Waste Festival – Frequently Asked Questions, and more!


The first ever Zero Waste Festival is less than one week away!

We are incredibly thrilled to be putting on the first ever Zero Waste Festival in Guelph, Ontario! As the recipients of a 2018 Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed Grant, we have been privileged to offer a whole year of exciting and engaging workshops and sessions with a focus on low-waste living and sustainable practices. These workshops have been held in our tool library, and at offsite spaces like the Guelph Farmer’s Market, the Guelph Public Library, 10C Shared space, and even in the neighborhood tent at Hillside Festival. The Zero Waste Festival came together as a way of culminating what we have learned and shared, and presenting is to as many community members as possible, at a thrilling one-day event.

If you haven’t RSVP’d yet, head on over to Eventbrite, and let us know you’re coming. The day will boast a jam-packed schedule of repairing, sharing, and learning at a whole host of ticketed and drop-in events.

Got more questions? Check our FAQ Section!


What are the festival hours?

The Zero Waste Festival will open to the public at 10 am, and will remain open until 5 pm. The lobby will open for registration purposes at 9:45 am, to allow guests to confirm the time and location of any workshops or sessions they are attending. 

The Repair Cafe will run from 10 am-1pm, and the CSA Bike Centre Repair Station (located outside) will run from 10 am-2pm.

Is the Zero Waste Festival Free? 

The event is by donation. There is no cost to attend the vendor fair, or any other events taking place in the outdoor areas, or in the arena, including drop-in workshops, or the Repair Cafe.  Donations will always be happily accepted by our volunteers (look for the bright green aprons!). Ticketed workshops are by donation, and should be purchased ahead of time to ensure adequate space is available. 

What’s the difference between “ticketed” and “drop-in” sessions?

Ticketed events have a limited number of spaces available per session. Pre-registration for these events is required, with admission by donation via Eventbrite, or in person at the Guelph Tool Library during our regular hours. Guests are asked to make a contribution in exchange for a ticket (suggested donation of $5-$15). This helps cover the cost of the workshops held for this event, and any additional funds acquired will aid our workshop budget in the upcoming fiscal year. Any remaining spots for these classes will be available first come, first serve on August 10th at the Guest Services table, located at the main entrance.

Drop-in sessions take place in the arena, and pre-registration is not required. Guests are accepted on a first-come, first serve basis, and all workshops are while quantities last.

How do I sign up for a ticketed workshop or talk?

When you select an Early Bird Ticket ($25), Golden Ticket ($35) or single workshop or talk (by donation) on Eventbrite, you will be sent a survey to fill out with the session(s) of your choice. Please fill one out for each registrant in your party. In the days before the festival, we will send out itineraries to each attendee – check your spam folder for any incoming communications from our festival organizers. We will also inform everyone if any workshops or sessions become more than 90% sold out. 

Do I need to print my ticket?

No! In an effort to keep this event as low-waste as possible, please don’t print your ticket. You can download your e-tickets and schedule to your phone if you are bringing one. All attendees for ticketed sessions should check in at Guest Services, right at the upper-level main entrance to verify the time and location of the session. Site maps and schedules will be available on-site, printed on rescued paper!

What should I bring?

Guests should bring their reusable water bottles (no packaged water will be sold on site). The Water Wagon will be located outside offering free water refills, and there are water fountains located in the arena, and on the lower level. Please also remember to bring a reusable bag to take home your purchases and projects, and reusable containers for food and bulk refill purchases. We will have spare containers for bulk refill available if you’re looking to start your own Zero Waste home. All food vendors are provided with reusable dishes, cutlery, and cups (generously offered from Hillside Festival). We have four food vendors on offer, but it’s always a good idea to pack some snacks or a picnic. There are plenty of spaces indoors and outside to stop and have lunch or a snack. 

Most importantly, bring a positive attitude and an open mind! The Zero Waste Festival is designed to be a learning experience for all involved. 

How early should I arrive if I have signed up for a workshop or talk? 

Please arrive to the location of your workshop or talk at least five minutes early. This will allow the assistant to take attendance, and give everyone time to get settled so that the workshop can begin on time. 

Is the space accessible? Are there gender neutral washrooms available? 

The Victoria Road Rec Centre is fully accessible. There are accessible parking spaces located at the upper and lower entrances. The upper entrance, where guest services is located, is adjacent to the elevator that will take guests up to the second floor classrooms (Willow and Cedar rooms), and down to the Oak Room. The arena is on the same level as the upper entrance, and the arena doors are equipped with ramps for accessibility. 

Gender neutral, accessible washrooms are located on the lower level, near the lower entrance doors. Other washrooms are located on the main floor. 

What’s the parking/transit situation?

The Victoria Road Rec Centre is equipped with ample free parking. Due to the nature of this festival, we encourage guests to use public or active transportation, or to carpool where possible. The VRRC is located on the #13 bus route which departs from Guelph Central Station, and is a short walk from the #17/#18 routes that services the North, West, East, and South ends of town. There is ample bike parking on site, and free bike maintenance, safety checks, and advice will be available from the CSA Bike Centre and Repair Cafe Volunteer team from 10 am-2pm, on the lawn by the lower bike racks.

Is the space family friendly?

YES! There will be hands-on games and activities at the Water Wagon and the City of Guelph booths, as well as many kid friendly vendors and drop-in sessions. Our ticketed workshops may run a bit long for young ones, and all ticketed workshop attendees must be pre-registered, regardless of age, due to the size constraints of the classrooms. On the front lawn of the Victoria Road Rec Centre, there is a large play space with room to run around and blow off steam!

What about my dog/cat/gerbil/bird/snake etc?

While we love all critters – and we want pets to live sustainably, too, only humans and service animals are permitted at the Zero Waste Festival. Please leave your furry/feathered/scaled etc friends at home.   


If you have any other questions regarding the Zero Waste Festival, please contact us at 

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Beeswax Wraps


You might have heard the buzz about beeswax wraps. The little fabric squares are taking the world of sustainable living by storm. These wraps allow you to eliminate plastic wrap, produce bags, and sandwich bags in your every day routine. They are made from cotton fabric that has been coated in a waxy solution made from either beeswax or any other natural, food grade wax, blended with a shelf-stable, food grade oil, and sticky pine resin. The wraps become pliable when handled, and can be formed around jar lids, over plates and bowls, or folded around produce, cheese, or sandwiches. The wraps can be cleaned by rinsing them with warm water and mild soap. They can’t be exposed to heat, harsh substances or raw meats, but when cared for properly, wraps will last about a year before they need to be “re-seasoned” with a bit of extra beeswax.

There are a number of great local vendors who sell these wraps, but if you’re in to DIY, they are easy to make! Last weekend we set up demo stations at the Guelph Farmer’s Market and the Guelph Public Library. We were able to make over 65 wraps with community members, while talking about the sustainable initiatives at the Guelph Tool Library and beyond.

We’d like the share the recipe and technique we used. All of the equipment required for this method is available in a kit from the Guelph Tool Library.

Tools required:
Crock pot (or double boiler – but it’s tough to keep the temp consistent)
Heat gun (optional, but helps keep the wax melted)
Tongs and/or tweezers (2 pair)
Cheese grater
Pinking shears (optional, regular scissors work fine)
Parchment paper
Iron and ironing board/pad


Beeswax or other food-grade wax 100 grams
Oil (coconut, almond, jojoba, flax, apricot kernel oil all work well – must be shelf stable and food grade) 10 grams
Pine Resin (optional, but helps make the wraps extra sticky!) 25 grams
100% Cotton, lightweight woven fabric (old, clean bedsheets are perfect!)

The recipe can be scaled to any amount using these ratios. This will make about 10 medium sized wraps.

Begin by grating the beeswax in to the crock pot and letting it melt. Add in the oil and pine resin. To speed up the melting process, use a heat gun on low – keep it moving around so that the wax doesn’t melt to quickly. When everything is melted, give it a stir to incorporate. Cover your work surface in parchment paper.

Cut your fabric to the desired size. 6×6″ is good for small snacks, ends of cut produce, or pieces of cheese. 9×9″ up to 12×12″ is ideal for herbs, sandwiches, or over the end of bread loaves. Larger sheets are difficult to handle in the crock pot, but we’ll provide an alternative method below.

Working with one piece of fabric at a time, use a pair of tongs or tweezers in each hand to submerge the fabric in to the wax. Lift the fabric out of the pot, allowing excess wax to drip off. Carefully transfer the wrap over to your parchment-lined ironing board.

Lay another piece of parchment on top. With an iron set to low, smooth out the wrap with a quick pass of the iron. Lift up the top sheet, and transfer the wrap to a spare piece of parchment to cool. Scrape the excess wax back in to the pot with a spoon. If you end up with a lot of un-melted wax in the pot, reheat it quickly with the heat gun on low. Repeat the process until you run out of wax!

For large wraps, use a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Pre heat your oven to a 200 F. Lay a single piece of fabric down on the cookie sheet. Carefully pour the wax over the fabric, and spread out in to a thin layer with a heatproof spatula. Place the tray in to the oven for a few minutes, or until the wax soaks in to the fabric. Carefully remove from the tray using tongs, and hang it to dry. Wraps can also be “re-seasoned” by using the oven method, just sprinkle a little extra grated beeswax on each wrap. Alternatively, to freshen up your wraps, sandwich each one between two pieces of parchment paper, and use an iron on low to redistribute the wax.

If you use this recipe, be sure to let us know in the comments, or tag us in a post on social media.

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Take-away the waste

fresh city farms

When trying to reduce waste, one of the hardest things to give up is convenience foods. Tetra Paks, the dreaded black plastic, styrofoam, and so much cellophane stand between the consumer and a quick, convenient meal. Even at many fast food and carry-out places, there’s single use cutlery, condiments, and containers to contend with.

Recently, many local takeout places and chains have been opting for low-waste packaging or a bring-your-own-container system. A&W has cut plastic straws from their offerings, and has a limited amount of plastic in their packaging. They use post-consumer recycled paper on their takeout bags and tray liners, and in-house, their food is served largely on reusable plates, with drinks in their quintessential frosty mugs.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a meeting with all Guelph Tool Library coordinators, and we wanted to order in a lunch. As if on cue, Kirtida Kitchen announced a Bring Your Own Container program. We were able to get a delicious meal for 6 people with no plastic or paper waste. When I asked the owner of the store about the new initiative, he said he had several customers that already did it, and he felt it just made sense to make it part of their regular offerings. Since the launch of the program, many new and old customers have come in with their own containers.

My experience with BYOC has been pretty limited so far, mostly to coffee shops, bakeries, and bulk food stores, all well received. I decided to ask the members of a local Facebook group what their experience had been. Here’s one members thoughts:

Most places are fine with it! but won’t offer discounts. I bring my own container to Boon Burger, Crafty Ramen, and anywhere I go out to eat for dinner, nobody has complained with me packing my food myself in a container for leftovers… going to bigger takeout chains poses a problem because employees are required to follow company standards, but anywhere that’s small scale has no issue!

Another member says, “As a person who works at chain restaurant, we wouldn’t have any issue with you bringing your own container. This is Fionn MacCool’s. Whatever floats your boat.”

In the group conversation, members also suggested that The Greek Garden, The Hungry Ninja, and Na-Ha Thai’s Kitchen all allowed some form of a BYOC takeout practice, and no group members have reported any hesitation or resistance from the restaurants they propose this to.

One member brought up that for every good initiative like this, takeout places still contend with a lot of food loss and waste, and if they offer delivery, whether through their own service or a third-party company, the amount of carbon offset by patrons who opt-out of disposables would be doubled by those having food delivered to their home or office.

What about for those on the go with no container? A program that offered an “on-loan” reusable would help you get the food you want now, without contributing to plastic waste later. Toronto based meal-delivery service Fresh City Farms offers ready-made meals  and grocery items delivered in reusable cooler bags and containers. Customers pay a deposit for the bags, and containers are returned and sanitized for reuse. They also have two storefront locations for local pickup, and much of the food is grown at their Downsview Farm location, which has a year-round greenhouse.

In a recent announcement, 25 major brands have committed to selling products in returnable, reusable containers. This “return of the milkman” system could allow consumers to enjoy the convenience foods they love, while putting the responsibility on the manufacturer to care for the packaging in a circular way. Loop is being piloted in Paris and New York this year, but is expected to reach Toronto by 2020.

The University of Guelph Icon Classroom will work over multiple semesters to audit, eliminate, and replace single-use plastics on campus. In a unique approach to thinking and learning, students will assess the use of plastics campus-wide, and work to provide solutions for their removal.

What can we do in the meantime? As consumers, we can continue to challenge the status quo by saying no. When we are prepared to say no, and keep our own reusable solutions handy, we reduce our need. By refusing single-use cutlery, plastic bags, and packaging wherever possible, we send a message to manufacturers and disrupt the way corporations think. If companies find themselves needing less single-use items in their daily operations, it is likely that they will order less, and by extension, manufacturers will produce less, or begin producing other still-needed, but more sustainable items. This is one way to promote sustainability without a major economic shift, or risk of collapse. 

How will you cut down on your single-use waste this year?


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Zero Waste Holiday Guide

all three gifts

At this time of year, it can be hard to stay focused on waste reduction and making sustainable choices. Our time and wallets are stretched thin, and our desires can often outweigh our needs.

In October, we already covered many ways to entertain while keeping zero-waste practices in mind, and you can refresh your memory here to help plan your holiday get togethers. 

When it comes to gift giving this season, here are a few ideas that put waste reduction and sustainable practices at the forefront:

Upcyled produce, bulk and bread bags:

You can save thousands of plastic pull bags per year just by making this simple switch. You can easily craft your own out of thrifted materials, or pick them up from a local source like HedgePodge on Etsy. The best thing about these? No gift bag is needed! You can use them to wrap other items like stainless steel mugs, a travel cutlery set, and more!

Sustainable bath and beauty products:

Many beauty and hygiene companies are producing package free or plastic free items that use sustainably sourced, natural ingredients. Ditch the cello-wrapped bath bombs and plastic bottled lotions in favour of options like this , or come to our workshop on December 11th to create a custom facial toner and reusable cotton rounds.

Time and experiences:

Our most precious commodity is a non-renewable resource. Time is the one thing we all have in a finite amount. One of the most valuable ways to show someone you care, both during the holidays and year-round, is to share your time with them. This could mean taking someone to a concert, play , or workshop.

Time may also be something as simple as preparing a loved one dinner or helping a neighbor clear their driveway after a big snowfall – and it doesn’t hurt to throw in a homemade mason jar hot chocolate as a sign of appreciation – you can pick up the ingredients using your newly crafted bulk bags!

Fix it First:

You may also have an item in your household that is in need of repair, and our “Santa’s Workshop” Repair Cafe is arriving just in the St-Nick of time for holiday gifting – have an item repaired for free and keep them going for the holiday season and beyond. 


At the Guelph Tool Library, we believe in allowing everyone access to tools, supplies and information. A tool library membership is a gateway to over 500 tools. This season, we are offering memberships and packages at a special rate through our Indiegogo  campaign, a crowdfunding platform that is helping us fundraise for an exciting new project. In 2019, we will be purchasing specialized creator kits for video production, podcasting, robotics, and even backyard chicken hatching! By supporting this campaign, you are allowing us to broaden both our community reach, and our inventory.

Supporting local:

The Guelph Tool Library is taking part in two local, last minute Holiday markets this season. We will have memberships and limited-edition swag available at the Merry Maker Night Market, at the Guelph Farmers Market on Wednesday, December 19th from 5 to 9 pm. We are hosting our Holiday Open House on Friday, November 21st  during the Two Rivers Last-Minute Shopping Market, on-site at Tytler School, 131 Ontario Street, which will feature all local vendors selling food and handmade products. 

We will be closed for the Holiday Season from December 22nd – January 7th. All tools borrowed within the week of December 17th will be extended until we reopen on January 7th! We hope you have a safe and happy holiday full of sharing!

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Zero Waste Living – What works for you?

Ref   Rs of Recycling graphic

Growing up, I am sure many of us heard “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” on repeat. These days, it seems there are 5 or more “R’s” to put in to practice when it comes to living zero waste.

Zero Waste Home author Bea Johnson has been sharing her ideas regarding waste reduction for over a decade. She carries around her famous “trash jar” to conferences and events, and she has inspired countless others with her theories and methods.

We had the opportunity to hear Johnson speak at an event at McMaster Innovation Park on October 20th – to a standing room only crowd of attentive listeners. Johnson kindly asked at the start of the event that we put away our phones and cameras and simply enjoy the talk for what it was.

She and her family follow a “5R” principle: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. The principle is to be applied in that order exclusively. Bea claims that the adjustment to zero waste can be easy, by finding trial and error methods that work for you. She lives a plastic-free, package-free life that creates very little waste…

But what if that doesn’t work for you? What if your job or lifestyle has byproducts that can’t always be repurposed, recycled, or composted?

In all honesty, Johnson did not have a straightforward answer, short of telling one to change professions. I am more inclined to think that a larger group of people doing the best they can to reduce their waste is far better than a handful of people reducing almost all of their personal waste.

Artists, tradespeople, and other types of creators shouldn’t have to give up what fuels them because it isn’t strictly “zero waste”. If you are in one of these types of fields, audit yourself to see where you can reduce waste, and repurpose and reuse the things you can. Avoid purchasing products that come in hard to reuse containers, such as plastic.

Whether you elect to build your canvas stretchers out of pallet wood, swap for supplies on a trading zone, or share your tools through a tool library, you’ll make a positive impact while continuing to do something meaningful to you. When supplies or materials can’t be diverted through reuse and repair, try using an alternative recycling program like TerraCycle.


Remember that when it comes to creating lasting habits, they must work for you! If you force yourself in to an unrealistic lifestyle, you might not stick with it. Methods like the “7 Rs” = offer a few more ideas when it comes to what to do with all that “stuff”

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Zero Waste Entertaining


As we enter a long and potentially hectic Holiday season, it can be easy to get carried away with convenience foods, excessive decorations, and elaborate gifts. Approaching this time of year from a zero-waste perspective can have a huge impact on your personal footprint (and your budget!)

Most of us love festive holiday decor, but plastic glitter and confetti aren’t typically biodegradable, and crepe-paper decor doesn’t last. Visit the thrift store and pick up a set of cloth napkins and a sturdy linen tablecloth and create a festive banner out of upcycled and scrap fabrics that can be used throughout the season.

Create a festive tablescape with found objects like fallen leaves, acorns, pinecones, or colourful produce like gourds and kale. You can even use leaves and a hole punch to make your own confetti! Borrow a catering kit for those extra place settings, and avoid using disposable cutlery, stemware, and dishes.


When it comes to prepping food, skip the saran wrap. Opt for airtight reusable containers for raw meats and saucy foods, and stick to a reusable beeswax wrap to cover odd-size dishes, wrap cheese and cut veggies, and to store loaves of bread.

Borrow one of our crock pots for preparing and serving hot foods, or sign out our roasting pan and skip the single-use foil. Take home a blender for the week and get a jump-start on those soups and sauces.

Rather than visit a crowded grocery store on the weekend, take advantage of the final Two Rivers Market of the season. Pick up fresh produce from a local farm,or a hosts’ gift from one of the many handmade vendors. For your bulk and grocery essentials, opt for package free, BYOC (bring your own container) options where possible. Most bulk food stores will allow you to bring your own jar if you get a tare weight first.


Lastly, while it can be tempting to over prepare, keep in mind that food waste is one of the largest contributors to waste in North America. Skip some of the extras, and try to make only what you and your guests can consume. Encourage your guests to bring a reusable container for leftovers, and try to prevent food waste wherever possible.


The Guelph Tool Library will be staying open until 6pm on Friday, October 5th to give everyone a bit of extra time to pick up their entertaining essentials. We will be closed Monday, October 8th for the holiday!