Dr. Tom Beckley, professor in the Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management at the University of New Brunswick, and his partner Dr. Louise Comeau, Director of the Environment and Sustainable Development Research Centre at UNB, strive to maintain a sustainable lifestyle together. They live on Keswick Ridge, and occasionally take UNB students to visit their property and show them the efforts they make to maintain a minimal impact on the environment.
While expense and lack of access to sustainable alternatives are major factors preventing many people from making sustainable choices, willingness is also an issue. Sustainable choices are often avoided because they supposedly require more effort. Conscientiousness is sacrificed for convenience. Are fast-paced, “easy” lifestyles what restrains most people from reducing their carbon footprint and living more sustainably? Comeau and Beckley provided insights into their lifestyle, and proved that all it takes to make more sustainable choices is a change of mindset.
The couple makes their choices weighing positive or negative implications such as: impacts on climate change, sustainability and ethics of food sources, and amount of food waste.
Comeau and Beckley are aware that they don’t have a perfectly sustainable lifestyle, but they seek to get better.
“It is the striving that counts and the ongoing process of improvement,” said Comeau.
Beckley discussed how finances can affect one’s ability to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
“If you don’t like being part of the consumerist/capitalist system just don’t participate, or try to minimize your participation,” explained Beckley. “I get so much more pleasure from reusing something.” Reusing old items is one of the most inexpensive ways of reducing one’s environmental impact. Beckley says he sometimes goes dumpster diving, and has found things he can use in the house.
Buying from bulk can also be less expensive and reduces the need for plastic packaging when done properly, and reducing meat consumption or choosing certain meats over others can improve sustainability without breaking the bank.
Comeau and Beckley have changed their diet, deciding to eliminate citrus food. They replaced citrus fruits because they are imported and most of the time not sustainably farmed, but they replaced them with fruits available in New Brunswick. They also grow certain foods themselves and they aim for heritage varieties and open-pollinated plants.
Sustainable living is often portrayed as though it entails giving up everything one enjoys—but this is not the case. Beckley explained that there is more gain than loss when one makes the shift to sustainable living.
“People always think… what do I have to give up? And not about what you gain, like self-esteem. [Sustainable living] can totally change your self-image.”
Living sustainably doesn’t mean you have to do everything perfectly, but the important thing is to make small changes when you are able—it will add up to a big difference.