Community·Q&A

CreativeMornings Ottawa celebrates 8th birthday with speaker Jay Sinha

Jay Sinha is the co-founder of Life Without Plastic and this month's CreativeMornings speaker on the theme of nature.

CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with CreativeMornings Ottawa

Jay Sinha, co-founder of Life Without Plastic, will speak on the theme ‘nature’ at the CreativeMornings Ottawa virtual event in May. (Submitted by Jay Sinha )

If you're an early riser and a creative thinker in the Ottawa area, you might've heard of the CreativeMornings breakfast series. 

With chapters in more than 200 cities around the world — from Oslo to Ottawa — CreativeMornings hosts free, monthly events for the creative community, featuring a short talk and a bite to eat. Each month's talk has a global theme, such as: courage, honesty or tradition. May's theme is 'nature.' 

Ottawa has been hosting gatherings since May 2012 (Happy 8th Birthday to CreativeMornings Ottawa!), welcoming speakers from such varied occupations as psychologists, architects, artisanal sign painters and brew masters. 

This month's event, which will take place virtually to help stop the spread of COVID-19, starts at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 29. Registration will open here on Friday, May 22.

CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with CreativeMornings Ottawa to share creative Q&As and conversations with the community. 

CBC Ottawa was on-site for CreativeMornings Ottawa's birthday last year at the Ottawa Art Gallery. This year, the birthday festivities will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (John Finnigan Lin)

The speaker for the month of May is Jay Sinha, co-founder of Life Without Plastic. The company's vision is a world without fossil-fuel derived plastic. We asked Sinha to answer a few questions by email about creativity in his life and city. 

His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?  
Creativity is that imaginative energy or force that flows from deep within us to form original and innovative thoughts and ideas. Of course, it's up to us and our free will to be open to, foster and use our creativity to bring something new into the world.

My creativity pops up constantly all over my life, whether it's combining tamari and the leftover juice from some Juniper Farms kimchi in my scrambled eggs (it works!) or writing a book on how to live with less plastic. 

My career has been a constant experiment in creativity, as I could never have predicted that I would end up doing what I do now. In my day-to-day work, a creative approach is crucial and enables me to think outside the box while also considering what the box is made of, where it came from and where it will end up. Creatively, I most identify as a writer, and when I am in that creative flow of writing, that is a feeling of pure joy and satisfaction.

Q: What does this month's theme 'nature' mean to you?  
To me, nature is the natural world that surrounds and includes us — air, water, land, plants, animals, insects...all living beings and matter. I consider nature to be sacred —  worthy of great awe and respect. I think there is so much more to nature than we can possibly comprehend with our five senses alone. Nature taps directly into that sixth sense.

I understand nature as a network of energy that interconnects us all, whether we realize it or not. I've heard it described in some Indigenous cultures as "the spirit that runs through all things." Yes, for me there is definitely a fundamental, all-powerful spiritual element to nature and its sacred powers. I also think nature is the epitome of creativity, and hilarious. I mean, just look at the peacock or rhinoceros. 

A creative approach is crucial and enables me to think outside the box while also considering what the box is made of, where it came from and where it will end up.- Jay Sinha

Q: Why do you think 'nature' is important to talk about in Ottawa?
I think nature is important to talk about anywhere and everywhere because it needs to be better respected and protected globally. It is suffering. 

In Ottawa, we are blessed with some stunning natural surroundings that are pristine and able to flourish in their "natural" state, such as Gatineau Park. The more we talk about nature, the more its importance for sustaining all life is front and centre in the public psyche —  and in the minds of decision-makers, of which there are many in Ottawa. It can be as simple as using a conversation about the beauty of the Ottawa River watershed to highlight the problem of microplastics or the impact of climate change-induced flash seasonal flooding. 

Q: When you get stuck creatively, what's the first thing you do to get unstuck?
Go for a walk in nature. And I'm not just saying that because this month's theme is nature. That's what I do, and it always works, especially a walk among trees. And, if I can't access nature, I just go for a walk period, or move in some way. Moving my body shakes up my mind, changes contexts, shows my brain new colours, sites, smells, sounds — it exposes all kinds of details that can trigger a new creative direction or a funky twist on an old one. 

Q: What makes Ottawa a creative city?
Ottawa is a real mix of cultures, styles, neighbourhoods, artistic and community-based activity, public service and corporate innovation. Then there is Ottawa's widespread entrepreneurial spirit, which I directly equate with a creative approach to meeting needs and solving problems. 

I live in Wakefield, which I consider part of the Ottawa region, and here the creativity is especially palpable to me because many of my friends are visual artists, musicians, farmers, builders, writers, poets and activists. They are people living fundamentally creative lives.


Visit the CreativeMornings Ottawa Facebook page or creativemornings.com/cities/ott for further details.