The flair q&A

Amelia Legare

How can you make a difference in the world? Is it possible to alter how we live and build an earth-minded community, to actually make change for the present and far into the future? If you're a young entrepreneur who puts a mission into action like Amelia, you can!

Tell me about your business or specialty.

I'm owner of the O Zone, the low-waste sustainability center in Red Hook, NY. It is home to a bulk-refill market, a community composting service, a learning center and an assortment of recycling initiatives that help us keep hard-to-recycle items out of the landfill! For instance, you can come here with your preexisting laundry detergent container and fill it from our 55-gallon drums. You can come recycle your food scraps, learn how to make your own toothpaste and recycle your old worn, torn and stained shirts.

How'd you get to where you are now?

The evolution of The O Zone came out of my background in nursing and gardening. I wasn’t interested in working within today’s western healthcare system, but I still wanted to carry on my role as a nurse. After taking on the position as a Garden Educator at the local elementary school, I realized that education could be a path in the right direction. By teaching children the benefit of growing their own nutritional food, the importance of pollinators and the how to compost and “upcycle” waste, I realized that I was marrying these two passions of mine. I later went on to open my own learning center and shop - The O Zone!

How has pandemic affected your work or business? Any new ideas or approaches…or lessons learned?

Having never opened a retail business before Covid, I didn’t have any other personal experience to compare it to. But I do know it’s been a full time investment these last few years, adapting the business structure as needed, to fulfill the needs of the community as well as make ends meet. By the way, I opened The O Zone just before the pandemic…so, in some ways, it allowed me to carefully build the business and be ready for now.

What surprises you in your work, now or in the past?

That half of the world’s plastic ever made was produced in only the last 18 years. That every minute one million plastic bottles are produced. That if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind the U.S. and China. The list goes on.Chewing gum! Chewing gum may contain plastic…Yikes!

What drives you crazy?

There’s a lot environmentally that could drive me crazy, but I try to maintain an even keel and instead take that energy and allow it to push me into creating a more successful initiative at The O Zone. We have a lot of work to do, and I try to encourage my fellow community members to live out their environmental values by making small lifestyle changes such as reusing their plastic shampoo bottle, choosing a bamboo toothbrush and composting their food scraps. By supporting a local environmental business, you are encouraging the growth and development of environmental initiatives within your community.

Who inspires you? (it can be anybody you know, or don't know)

Anyone who is open to sharing in conversation and wants to bring about positive change. I get excited by hearing about people’s experiences, knowledge and pursuits. I am fueled by filling in a gap/being a liaison between a need and a service within my community. I am also driven by collaboration.

You're a trailblazer - what are some highlights in your career to date?

The main highlight for me is that The O Zone is growing… Although, growth requires more energy, it means we are making a larger impact. And when it comes to environmental sustainability, we definitely need to make a larger impact! Growth provides me with hope.

Words of wisdom or thoughts?

Support your local value-driven businesses and be conscious consumers. Think about your waste and where your dollars are going. We live on a breathtaking planet - let’s try to leave it better than we found it!


Amelia Legare discovered that her passion for healthcare is rooted in the realms of preventative medicine soon after graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Nursing. She then began her journey into the field of garden-to-institution education, fulfilling the role as garden educator at Mill Road Elementary School in Red Hook, NY. Alongside this, Amelia has also been owner and operator of Avant-Gardens since 2015. Through this horticultural design and maintenance business, Amelia has hoped to instill gardening inspiration into her community by revealing the vast benefits of creating and maintaining a productive home garden. From planting fruit trees that are supported by a community of green manure crops, to establishing a compost system that returns fertility to the soil, it becomes apparent that the home garden can serve not only as a beautiful sight to look upon, but also as a means of food production, environmental enhancement, and promotion of physical and emotional well-being. In order to relay this message further, Amelia has decided to establish a base of operations, where workshops can be held and services can be offered. The O Zone is where this part of her sustainability journey begins.

(published 2022)