Compassion Files

Meet the Compassionate Team Behind Hair Circus

Hair Circus will be a vendor at this year’s VegFest with their Studio Couture booth and we recently sat down with the team to discuss why offering compassionate choices is so important to them. Their passion for art, and living their values extends well beyond their craft as hair stylists.

Hair Circus is comprised of Danielle Sterling, Arica Hanley and Sarah Ready. We are passionate hairstylists, each with over a decade of artistry behind the chair. 

We believe our work should reflect our values and as citizens of this planet we all share, we are dedicated to offering environmentally sound, vegan and organic services. With continuing education and progressive, compassionate brands, we are able to offer the latest trends and timeless classics without the sacrifice. 

We use certified vegan, gluten-free, petrol chemical-free, sulphate-free, environmentally and ethically sound products.


What’s meaning behind the name, Hair Circus?
We wanted a different and fun name. The original idea of a circus was a traveling family act, that was self-sustained, was set up on the outskirts of towns in the woods, and when they were done they didn’t leave a mark. Making as little of an impact as possible on the environment is important to us. The idea of a circus also evokes wonder, excitement and magic, all things that are important to us as artists.

Offering vegan and compassionate options for people through your hair styling is important; can you share what prompted you to become vegan?

I stay up on information and once you see what’s going on, you can’t unlearn it. I love animals and making sustainable choices and I couldn’t be ignorant to what was happening. Hair styling is my medium where I can both live and share my values, which is why it was so important for us to create Hair Circus. 

I’m also very big on teaching versus preaching. I want people to know they’ll be met with love. With Hair Circus we can break the stigma that you can’t get a good result with vegan/organic hair products. It’s like a hippie doesn’t have to only wear only hemp clothing now, they can wear bamboo and other alternatives. It’s the same with the hair products we use.

At 16 I started dabbling on and off with vegetarianism, but never fully educated myself about where my food was coming from, I just knew I felt better when I was eating that way. Five years ago after watching Forks Over Knives I went vegan, gave away all of the non-vegan food I had and never looked back. I started informing myself about health, environment and ethical issues. After educating myself about where our food was really coming from, the veil was lifted and there was no turning back.

The beauty industry is one of the largest contributors of waste and animal exploitation. We don’t want to be a part of that, which is why we are dedicated to offering alternatives. When I started in the industry working with the most environmentally conscious, cleanest products on the market was priority number one and still is today.  

Working as hair stylists in a mainstream environment and introducing people to the vegan products is a great way to also talk about the products they use on their skin and even their food choices. 

I went vegetarian at 12. I was playing with my dog and suddenly realized there was no difference between her and the cow she’d been woofing at earlier that day. Why eat one and love the other? A decade later I found out what rennet was and went vegan.  It’s been 11 years now and I’llnever go back.. 

What’s the best vegan meal you’ve ever had and was it in a restaurant or homemade?

The Creme Brûlée doughnut from the Cinnamon Snail Food Truck in NYC.

The Onion Bhaji with coriander mint dip from Curry’s here in London.

The Green Dragon Bowl from Aux Vivres in Montréal. It was set up as a food truck at a festival we went to. The bowl had tempeh, sprouts, beets, carrots, purple rice and was organic and fresh - so good!

Where do you get your inspiration from for new hair styles, both personally and for your clients?

Colours in nature and shapes in architecture inspire me. The colours found in nature are amazing and we’re always trying to mimic them in colouring hair. To me it’s not just cutting hair or colouring it, it’s being an artist and helping people express who they are. It’s art and hair is the medium.

My clients inspire me. When someone sits down, I get to know them and learn who they really are.  Time periods and moments in time inspire me. I like to name the styles, like a piece of art, to give it the importance the piece of work deserves. Science is also an inspiration. It can feel like an experiment trying to figure out and develop the right colour.

It’s the best job in the world, you make people feel good about themselves, help them be themselves and really express who they are. 

I’m inspired by classic styles and time periods; I like to combine classic styles with interesting colour placement that looks new and different yet reminds you of something familiar. I draw a lot of inspiration from nature, the colours of ocean and sky, sunsets and dirt… all the bright and soft colours and textures you see outdoors. I love my job, I get to make people feel good about themselves, and work with my hands, play with colours and shapes and texture. It’s incredibly rewarding.

Any predictions on upcoming trends in hair styles?

Hair Circus
People want to go big and bold with their hair, it’s an exciting time for hair styling. The age of the artist is back. There’s a movement of artists online, who are doing hair like us, bright colours, multiple colours, bold styles. Also, texture is big, people want to wear their hair more naturally and are embracing their natural texture. Anything goes really. A lot of people think they can’t achieve these different looks with vegan products, so it’s great being able to show them you can.

Do you have any plant-powered hair care tips?

Hair Circus
Treat your hair like antique lace. When looking at a product, go deeper beyond whether it’s vegan. Find what the ingredients are, how they are sourced, their impact on you and on this planet we share. Washing your hair is overrated. Try to wash every third day if you can, there is nothing better than your natural sebum to protect your hair. Speaking of washing, cold water is your best friend. Not only does it help save energy, it’s also way better for your hair. And don’t be afraid! Dare to be different.

What are you most looking forward to about this year's VegFest?

Hair Circus 
Expanding our village and connecting with more people that share similar ideas. We are looking forward to seeing our clients, introducing more people to vegan hair care and supporting this majestic community. So happy to be a part of this exciting time in London!

We hope you enjoyed the interview. Thanks to Danielle, Arica and Sarah for taking time to chat with us!

If you’re wondering what vegan products the team uses, they use Neuma. From their packaging to how they make their products they are always looking for the most sustainable options. They’re gluten free, vegan, non GMO, biodegradable. For more information on Neuma check out

The team had some great parting words to share, “also be the joy you wish to see in the world, not just the change”.

Want to learn more about Hair Circus? 
Connect with them: 

Compassion Files: Lauren Toyota

After a brief reprise I'm excited to have another compassion files feature for you today. In today's post, Lauren Toyota shares what compassion means to her and why living compassionately is important.

A few months ago I watched a video with Lauren where she spoke about her reasons for becoming vegan and shared a recent experience at a Toronto Pig Save vigil. I was really inspired by Lauren's message in the video and I hope that you enjoy today's interview. 

We are also excited to announce that Lauren and her boyfriend John Diemer of hot for food blog will be speaking at VegFest!

Lauren Toyota and John Diemer, hot for food blog

Lauren Toyota and John Diemer, hot for food blog

About Lauren Toyota

Lauren Toyota has been a television host in Canada since 2005. She’s a music know-it-all and an entertainment junkie whose job has allowed her to travel the world and interview people like Kanye West, Lady Gaga, and Will Ferrell. More recently you may have seen her on MTV’s weekly live show ‘After Degrassi’ where she and some super fans analyze all the drama from Canada’s hit series Degrassi. While her career in television certainly provides enough excitement and stimulation, Lauren likes to spend all her free time in the kitchen cooking! Her life and her hobby cooking transformed in 2010 when she decided to adopt a vegan diet. Lauren found her best motivation to sticking with this new lifestyle was to write about it. She started her blog hot for food at the same time as making the diet change, posting her experiments and adventures in the kitchen. This year the blog has become a bigger part of her life as she now shares kitchen duties and a love for animals and vegan food with her boyfriend John Diemer.

What does compassion mean to you?

Compassion means caring and once you start caring about your physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being you start to see how everything is connected and you realize the profound effect you have on everything around you.  

What motivates you to make compassionate choices in your daily life?

I am motivated to make compassionate choices because I want to remain and sustain health in all ways - physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We’re all trying to be the best we can be and I think that it starts with self-love and compassion for other beings (people & animals) as well as for the planet.

Why is living a compassionate life important to you?

It just makes you a more balanced and grounded person. It opens up doors and opportunities you thought couldn’t exist and it’s a contagious way to live. Other people will see your light and they’ll want to live that way too.

Can you share some examples of how you choose to be compassionate throughout your day?

The way I eat is the biggest thing. Being vegan is the thing that makes that full circle connection. You do it and you instantly notice big changes in your life physically, spiritually and emotionally. I’m also into making ethical consumer choices. What we buy and spend money on is how we have a voice. If you buy ethical, organic, non-gmo etc. you’re sending a direct message through the system. It’s also living every day trying to understand and see the other side, especially in people and their choices and behaviors. Just noticing other people instead of only caring about you is an act of compassion. 

What are some tips you can provide to people looking to practice compassion towards themselves, other people, the planet and animals?

The biggest thing is to not be ignorant. I’ve always wanted to be informed about everything. I’m not just saying this because I’m vegan. The more informed you become the more compassionate you become. It’s automatic. 

Connect with Lauren:


Twitter: @laurentoyota & @hotforfood

Instagram: @laurentoyota & @hotforfood

Facebook:  & 

Thank you Lauren for sharing! We're grateful to have you part of our compassion files. If you haven't checked out the hot for food blog yet, you'll want to head over to see all of the amazing vegan recipes Lauren and John share.

Now it's your turn, what tips would you offer to people looking to practice compassion towards themselves, other people, the planet and animals?

Compassion Files: Katie Van Den Berg

Katie & Gracie

This week I'm excited to have my dear friend Katie Van Den Berg as the compassion files feature. Katie and I co-founded Vegup London and she is the talented designer of our awesome VegFest logo. Katie's compassion and kindness inspires me and I hope you enjoy reading more about her and her compassionate journey. What does compassion mean to you? Compassion can be defined in so many different ways. For me, compassion means embracing, loving and caring for ALL living beings without exception, just as a loving mother feels love and compassion for all her children. No living thing is more or less important then another, they are all important. The teaching of compassion by Buddha, define compassion in a way that truly resonates with me.

"Compassion is a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes to release them from their suffering." - Buddha

What motivates you to make compassionate choices in your daily life?I believe all life is connected, and I strive to live in harmony with all life on earth from people, to the trees, nature, water, and animals. I have always been amazed by how powerful and yet fragile life, nature and our planet is. Since I was a child I have been inspired by the work and words of Jane Goodall. She has helped me learn to grow and become more compassionate, and truly understand how everything is connected, and everything matters and has a purpose. I have the choice to make a positive difference on the planet for me, for my family, for all life and for all life that comes after me. 


Why is living a compassionate life important to you?Living compassionate is important to me because " You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you", as beautiful stated by Jane Goodall. The way we treat ourselves, others, animals and our planet is a direct reflection on how compassionate we are. "The greatest ethical test that we're ever going to face is the treatment of those who are at our mercy." - Lyn White I live with compassion in my heart, for in the end when I leave this world, all that will remain are the outcomes of my daily acts of compassion.

Share some examples of how you choose to be compassionate throughout your day.Being compassionate is an important value to me that I practice daily. Each day I choose to be compassionate, and to make a positive difference to people, animals and the earth.

My daily compassionate acts include random acts of kindness to complete strangers, such as paying for coffee for the next person in line behind me, holding the bus so that someone makes their connection, giving someone a compliment, and offering support to someone in need. I tread lightly on the earth by walking, biking or taking public transit, all the while enjoying the beauty of nature every time I commute.

I am compassionate and caring to all animals, and choose to eat a plant-based vegan diet. I support charitable organizations both financially and by volunteering that protect, conserve and care for animals and our planet. I have planted trees, cared for shelter dogs, collected donations at a women's shelter, and even founded VegUp London a community group that focuses on healthy eating. 

Each seemingly, small act such as the foods I eat and the clothes I wear, all add up to larger acts over time. With I wide range of compassionate, vegan and eco-friendly products, I can still be stylish and look great, while still maintaining my values. I found this amazing hair dye that is made of vegetables dyes, my makeup is vegan and no tested on animals, and I buy most of my clothes used to prevent unnecessary waste from ending up in the landfills. I recycle and even found beautiful cards that are biodegradable that you can plant to grow into wild flowers.

What advice would you share with people looking to practice compassion towards themselves, other people, the planet and animals? A great lesson I learned when practicing compassion is to start by completing small acts everyday to build into many acts overtime, and to always start with yourself first. "If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." - Buddha

Find what resonates most with you and your values, and slowly add it into your daily routine. If something doesn't feel right, then don't do it, and don't feel bad about it. There are no rules to life, and each person is unique, so always do whats best for you.

Be open to trying new things, be curious, have fun and even challenge your old beliefs. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to make changes when you go into it with curiosity and an open positive attitude. Know that in a short period of time your tastebuds do change, and you with love healthy foods that you disliked in past, and even foods you haven't had before.

Another useful tip is to find ways to surround yourself with daily inspiration to keep you motivated, informed and to lift your spirits during rough days. Visit the library, read books, watch documentaries, join local groups that have like-minded people that you can connect with regularly, and subscribe to blogs and newsletters. There are hundreds of helpful phone apps such as 21 Vegan Challenge, Happy Cow, and PETA to provide you daily inspiration.

Quotes the Inspire Me: "The greatest ethical test that we're ever going to face is the treatment of those who are at our mercy." - Lyn White

"By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegan will make a difference in the health of our planet, and all life." - Thích Nhất Hạnh

A special thanks to Katie for sharing! Connect with Katie at @kvdesigns or check out her blog VegUP your life.

Share the loveLike what you've read? Share this post with friends.

Remember, compassion is not about being perfect, it's about making positive changes and being kind to others. I encourage you to reflect on how you can continue to create positive change and express compassion.

Share in the comments below, what compassionate choices do you make or how do you choose to live compassionately?

Compassion Files: Jo-Anne McArthur - We Animals

Story telling is often an important tool to getting your message out. I discovered a video of one of Jo-Anne’s talks shortly after I made the transition to going vegan. I was of course inspired by not only the stories she was relaying and the photos that accompanied them, also her passion and dedication to sharing these stories of the animals she has met along her journey was powerful.

Recently I had the chance to hear Jo-Anne speak in person at an event organized by the King’s Animal Rights Club. It was here that purchased my very own copy of We Animals. The book contains photos from over 15 years of photographing animals in the human environment. I really do struggle to articulate how profound and impactful the photographs are, immediately upon flipping through the pages I’m filled with empathy for the animals and I hope that this empathy fuels and inspires more people to live compassionately.

I hope you enjoy this interview and reading about Jo-Anne’s perspective on living compassionately. If you haven’t checked out the We Animals book or project yet or The Ghosts In Our Machine documentary Jo-Anne is in, I’ve included all of the important links to learn more  below the post.

Photo by Karol Orzechowski

Photo by Karol Orzechowski

About Jo-Anne McArthur and We Animals

Jo-Anne hails from Toronto and is an award-winning photojournalist. Recent awards and accolades include the 2013 Compassion for Animals Award; the 2011 Canadian Empathy Award (art category); one of CBC’s Top 50 Champions of Change; Farm Sanctuary’s 2010 “Friend of Farm Animals” award; HuffPost WOMEN’s “Top 10 Women trying to change the world”, and one of 20 activists featured in the book The Next Eco Warrior.

We Animals is an ambitious project which documents, through photography, animals in the human environment. Humans are as much animal as the sentient beings we use for food, clothing, research, experimentation, work, entertainment, slavery and companionship.

What motivates you to make compassionate choices in your daily life?

I see beyond my own life and needs. The world is being destroyed by greed, short-sightedness and cruelty, and our desire to only look after ourselves. It’s my responsibility to volunteer, help, give, give back. We should all be active in helping one another, the environment, and animals. It actually feels better to give than to receive! There’s a great quote that I’ll paraphrase, along the lines of Volunteering is my rent for living on this earth”.

Why is living a compassionate life important to you?

It affects others. We’re all interconnected and we need to look after one another.

Wade Davis writes in his book The Wayfinders, “A Canadian or American grows up believing that homelessness is a regrettable but inevitable feature of life. The Penan (a tribe in Borneo) live by the adage that a poor man shames us all. Indeed, the greatest transgression in their culture is sihun, a concept which means a failure to share”. Sharing means looking after one another, and I extend that sharing to sentient beings, who are so cruelly and ruthlessly used for food, clothing, experimentation, entertainment. Animals are sentient, and I don’t exclude them when it comes to living compassionately.

Living compassionately isn’t hard; it’s joyous, it’s rewarding, for all. I love quoting the motto from Edgar’s Mission sanctuary in Australia. If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?

Can you share some examples of how you choose to be compassionate throughout your day?

I do my best not to take part in any animal abuse whatsoever. So, I am vegan and have been for about 11 years. I try to use my skills to make the world a better place, which is something that all of us can do. I volunteer a lot of time to animal organizations who can benefit from my skills.

What are some tips you can provide to people looking to practice compassion towards themselves, other people, the planet and animals?

We can take off our blinders and see that we’re a part of a world that needs a lot of help, and that we are all a part of the problem. It’s hard but it’s true! We all contribute to pollution, animal suffering, the destruction of rainforests, the dying of the oceans. We need to consume less. Of everything. The time is now to make big changes in our habits and live more compassionately towards each other, the animals and the earth. As I said above, we can also use our skills, whatever they may be, to make the world a kinder place. If we’re doing what we love and what we’re good at, we’ll do it joyfully. So, do what you can, in big ways and small ways. As Goethe said: Begin it Now.

Jo-Anne & Orlando

Jo-Anne & Orlando

Special thank you to Jo-Anne for taking the time to answer these questions and for all that you do for animals.

Want to learn more about the We Animals project or book or connect with Jo-Anne?

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Learn more about the We Animals project and book here.  Don’t forget to also check out The Ghosts In Our Machine, a documentary that Jo-Anne is featured in.

Now, I would love to hear from all of you.

What motivates you to make compassionate choices in your daily life?

Compassion Files: Niagara VegFest Co-Founders - Keri Cronin & Laurie Morrison

This week I’m once again excited to feature wonderful ambassadors of compassion, the co-founders of Niagara VegFest, Keri and Laurie. Niagara VegFest 2012 was the first VegFest I had ever attended and after attending was really inspired by the community you instantly felt a part of upon entering the festival. This festival was part of what inspired me to organize Niagara VegFest and Keri and Laurie have been kind to share information and insights into their planning process. You’ll want to mark June 1 on your calendar so you can check out this event.

About Keri, Laurie and Niagara VegFest
Keri Cronin and Laurie Morrison are the co-founders of Niagara VegFest, an annual event in St. Catharines, Ontario. Niagara VegFest has grown by leaps and bounds since it first began in 2012, and the third annual Niagara VegFest takes place on Sunday, June 1st.

Niagara VegFest was founded as a way to celebrate and showcase the growing interest in veganism in the Niagara region. We had noticed that more and more people are interested in learning about bringing more plant-based options into their lives, but that they sometimes weren’t sure how to go about doing that. VegFest brings together businesses, not-for profit organizations, animal rescue groups, sanctuaries, chefs, restaurants, and internationally renowned speakers so that people can not only learn from one another but also can celebrate the many benefits of bringing more plant-based, compassionate options into their lives. In addition, Niagara is one of the best growing regions in the country, so it just made sense to us to host a festival celebrating a plant-based lifestyle here!

Niagara VegFest has vendors, exhibitors, speakers, workshops, activities for families, prizes, and, of course, delicious food! This year we are kicking off the weekend with two additional events:

  • Friday, May 30 we will be hosting a special screening of the award-winning documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine. Both the film’s director, Liz Marshall, and the film’s human star, Jo-Anne McArthur, will be in attendance for the film and will be doing a Q&A afterwards.
  • Saturday May 31 we will be having a festival kick-off party featuring live jazz by the Shea D Duo.

More details about the festival and these two events can be found on our website:

Niagara VegFest Photo Credit: Terry McKenzie-Trzecak

Niagara VegFest
Photo Credit: Terry McKenzie-Trzecak

What does compassion mean to you?

For us compassion means making choices that do the least amount of harm. In our daily lives this means veganism. It also means to be mindful about being compassionate to other humans, including those who may not see the world the same way as us.

What motivates you to make compassionate choices in your daily life?

We do it for the animals. Meeting rescued farmed animals at places like Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary and Farm Sanctuary proved to be the tipping point for us. More than reading about the ways in which animals are treated or seeing graphic images of cruelty, it was the face-to-face contact with rescued animals at sanctuaries that really set us on this path.

Keri with Chickpea at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary Photo credit: Laurie Morrison

Keri with Chickpea at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary
Photo credit: Laurie Morrison

Why is living a compassionate life important to you?

We feel it is important to live in a way that is true to our core beliefs, and one of those central beliefs is that, as a society, we need to rethink our relationships with other species. On another level, we have also found that the more compassion we extend to others, the more patient and gentle we are with ourselves. It loops around infinitely. It is one of the first insights we shared when moving to a vegan lifestyle.

Can you share some examples of how you choose to be compassionate throughout your day?

This is an interesting question because as an ethical vegan compassion for all species is what drives so many of our day-to-day choices. Thinking about how our choices are always connected in some way to the lives and living conditions of other beings is compelling — once you start to see the world this way it is really difficult see it in any other way. However, equally important is to extend the same sense of compassion to people who might not see the world the same way we do. We try to think as carefully about our interactions with others as we do about the food we choose to eat or the clothes we choose to wear. This is not to say that we are perfect (far from it!), but we try to be mindful that people are coming from different experiences and backgrounds, and that reacting with hostility and aggression towards ideas and approaches that are different from ours is harmful on many levels.

Laurie welcoming guests to Niagara VegFest Sip & Savour fundraiser Photo Credit: Jill Mitchell

Laurie welcoming guests to Niagara VegFest Sip & Savour fundraiser Photo Credit: Jill Mitchell

What are some tips you can provide to people looking to practice compassion or live compassionately?

I think the best thing to do is to spend time out at a sanctuary for farmed animals, places like Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, or Farm Sanctuary. Getting to know the animals as individuals is a life-changing experience. These are peaceful places where the sometimes abstract idea of “compassion” becomes most meaningful.

More information about Niagara VegFest can be found at You can also follow us on Twitter (@niagaravegfest), Instagram, Pinterest and on Facebook. If you have any questions, you can email us at