Your sustainable future starts today
You recycle (of course!). You walk, bike, and take transit instead of driving, when you can. You bring your own bags to the grocery store. Now it’s time to step it up a notch. Let’s call it “Eco living 2.0.” Here’s how one family did just that, and how you can too.
Father, husband, advocate, and speaker Nick North is dad to a queer, blended family of seven. In the summer of 2020, he and his family swapped manicured lawns for West Coast trees when they moved from suburban Alberta to rural Salt Spring Island in BC. One of the reasons they moved was to live more sustainably, for example, by gardening and raising chickens. “We wanted to relate to the earth differently,” he explains.
It turns out that buying a house on an acre, unseen, comes with a few challenges! Some of their initial plans worked out, such as raising chickens. But others weren’t possible in their new environment.
North and his family soon realized that the heavily treed area made the land much cooler and shadier than they expected. “There was no way we could grow tomatoes, but mushrooms and huckleberries thrive here!” he laughs. “The experience changed my preconceived idea of what living off the land looks like.”
Rather than fighting against the land, North’s family decided to listen to the natural environment around them and assess what it needed. Instead of cutting down more trees, for example, they worked to help build the trees back up and make sure they were healthy. “We have a responsibility to act as stewards of the land,” he explains.
Working in harmony with nature can sometimes look different than we first envision. Just like North’s journey, one of the most important things we can do in our own environmental journeys is to be flexible in our approach and determine what works (and what might not work) for our area and our lifestyle. It might take some trial and error!
Another challenge that North and his family encountered was that they weren’t able to shop as easily as when they lived in the suburbs. “Because we are so remote, we can’t just go out and buy a new thing,” he says. Doing so often means leaving their island.
Instead, they work to make use of what they have, which creates less waste and uses fewer resources. For example, the kids made their own Halloween costumes using materials from home. And when it came to vehicle shopping, the family opted to have their van repaired rather than buying a brand-new car.
You, too, can opt to repair rather than replace. In addition to vehicles, consider having your clothes, shoes, furniture, and appliances repaired—or learn to repair them yourself.
One of the top pieces of advice that Nick has for those wanting to rev up their sustainability game is to connect with food. Involve the kids, too, to help teach them the value of food and where it comes from. “Understanding how plants work is like understanding how life works,” says North.
It’s okay if raising backyard chickens isn’t for you. Even a balcony garden of herbs or snap peas can be meaningful. Also consider connecting with nearby farmers, who may sell fresh eggs or veggies.
Living sustainably isn’t always easy. “It’s important to do it even when it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient,” says North. As with everything, there is an adjustment period. But as North’s family shows, the result can be a rewarding adventure!
Do you bring your own water bottle everywhere? Us too. Here are some Eco living 2.0 actions to help inspire you to take your environmentalism to greater heights:
According to some estimates, the average Canadian family spends just shy of $1,000 on Christmas gifts each year. This year, consider giving homemade gifts, non-material experiences, or ethical purchases.
Research your “plant hardiness zone” (planthardiness.gc.ca) or chat with experienced gardeners near you to find out.