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Victoria couple using YouTube to help save the planet

Levi Hildebrand, Leah Tidey thrive in city sharing their zero-waste lives through video
Levi Hildebrand (left) and Leah Tidey have been making informational content about sustainability together since 2019. (Tegwyn Hughes/News Staff)

“Hey team,” Levi Hildebrand says into the camera. “Welcome back to another episode.”

This is how the 28-year-old Victoria resident starts most videos on the self-titled YouTube channel he’s been running alongside his wife, Leah Tidey, since September 2017.

The Victoria resident discovered his passion for environmental filmmaking when he created a video on behalf of a campus club asking the University of Victoria to stop handing out paper cup.

Later, after making a handful of videos on exchange in the Netherlands and a few more back home in Victoria, a video essay from March 2018 titled “Is PATAGONIA Worth The Money?” helped Hildebrand’s hard work finally pay off.

“It got shared on Reddit, and in a matter of weeks, I had 20,000 (YouTube) followers,” Hildebrand told Black Press Media in an interview. “That ended up being the niche I fell into.”

The creator has been publishing videos about eco-friendly brands, zero-waste living and climate-focused issues ever since.

Hildebrand’s YouTube audience has reached 135,000 followers and he’s enjoyed success on apps like Instagram and TikTok as well.

Because of the topics he discusses in his videos, Hildebrand gets plenty of questions from viewers about environmental sustainability. They’re sometimes worried about whether they’re doing enough for the planet — something he calls “eco-anxiety.”

“I donate money. I recycle obsessively. We shop zero waste, we shop local, we shop organic and we eat plant-based. Once you’ve done those things, you should at least benefit from a sense of fulfillment,” he said. “If you don’t, then (the stress) never ends.”

Another audience question he gets is a simple one. What can viewers do to help?

“Use the time that you have to go to protests, go to Fairy Creek, and send letters to your local representative or your provincial leaders,” Hildebrand will often reply.

ALSO READ: University of Victoria study gauges young Canadians’ opinions on climate, energy policy

Tidey, who co-stars in most of Hildebrand’s videos, said the couple have built a close connection with their cross-platform audience.

“I feel very fortunate that the followers we do have are interested in our content on multiple different platforms,” she said. “They’re a really amazing group of people – they’re thoughtful and they’re interested. They want to live intentionally.”

While Tidey, who’s 29, was a self-described “side character” on her husband’s channel at first, she’s quickly become more involved in creating content for the brand.

After achieving her PhD in applied theatre from UVic with a focus on sexual education, Tidey began sharing her post-doctoral work on Instagram and in her podcast, The Love Doctor.

Tidey wasn’t initially sure how her eco-conscious audience would respond to her discussing sex online, but has since seen encouraging support.

“When I started talking more about sexual health, I definitely lost a few (followers) who were there for the environmental content,” she said. “But there is still a bedrock of people interested in my life and in our story.”

ALSO READ: Green Team Greater Victoria tackles invasive species removal at UVic

What started as a project has blossomed into a career and source of income. The couple’s combined profits from advertising, sponsorships, viewer donations and affiliate link commissions have allowed them to thrive in one of Canada’s most expensive cities.

Victoria may have a high cost of living, but it has given the duo a perfect backdrop. One aspect of Hildebrand’s content that makes it all the more appealing is the gorgeous city that hosts it.

Their videos feature the best that Victoria has to offer. The couple has a box at the Yates Street Community Garden and visit the Moss Street Farmers’ Market on weekends. Recent videos have mentioned such local businesses as Hands On Clay Collective, Zero Waste Emporium, Phillips Brewing and Dumpling Drop.

In addition to enjoying the businesses and restaurants around town, the couple say Victoria perfectly suits their lifestyle, and they’re able to engage with other residents who feel the same.

Tidey appreciates how easy it is to move around Victoria without burning fuel.

“Victoria itself is such a commuter friendly city,” she said. “That’s a huge thing, especially in North America where there’s such a car dependency – it makes it so much easier to live here and have less of an impact on the environment.”

Hildebrand pointed to the region’s steps to ensure residents contribute less to climate change, citing the abundance of bike lanes, municipal plastic bag bans and sense of community togetherness.

“If you move to Victoria, you have already made a decision that will make your life more sustainable,” he said.

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