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  • Writer's pictureJessica McQuistin

The Roots of My Sustainability Journey

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Where did my sustainability journey begin? This is a tricky question to answer. I could say that my family and I have been making incremental lifestyle changes for about a year, with a focus on reducing waste. I could say that since learning about the environmental impact of eating meat (around 10 years ago), we've slowly tried to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet. I could also say that it began in January of '86 when I first entered the world in the dead of a Northern Ontario winter.

This may be far-fetched, but I do believe that having a birthday in the winter has endeared me to this frosty season. I have fond childhood memories of going sliding (a.k.a. sledding) or ice-skating for my birthday parties, and these outdoor activities made my parties different, as one of the few in my social circle with a winter birthday. But my love of the seasons doesn't end there. I also remember gorgeous fall hikes with my family at Onaping Falls, summer days slipping by as we swam in lakes and ate picnic lunches, summer nights around a bonfire, and running through the back yard in the early spring, excited about the return of skipping ropes and sidewalk chalk. Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside; my parents somehow knew that this was important for our wellbeing. Thanks to my upbringing, my connection with nature and sense of belonging in nature have been instilled in me, going back farther than I can even remember.

Fast forward to March of 2020. I now have two young kids and live in Kitchener, Ontario with my husband Jamie. The global pandemic, Covid-19, has hit and we are suddenly isolated, unable to go anywhere, and unsure of what this pandemic will really mean for us or for the world. Under these stressful circumstances, my relationship with nature blossomed from a sense of appreciation into a reliance on nature as an essential refuge. When we had nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no support available, the kids and I started exploring some of the natural areas in our area, many of which we'd never noticed before. In our own neighbourhood (Bridgeport), we ventured off the walking path and into a strip of forest along the Grand River. In there, we felt held, nurtured, intrigued, in awe. We had space to breathe, to climb, to explore, to be noisy, or to fall silent within the serene soundscape. The dimension of time seemed to dissipate as we experienced our natural world through all of our senses, growing more amazed with each visit, and growing closer to each other through these shared adventures.

The feeling I get in nature is similar to the feeling I get when practicing yoga: a sense of oneness with all of creation. This is the place from which my desire has grown to live in harmony with nature, or more realistically, to at least diminish some of the ways in which we cause harm to the planet.

I would like to share a quote that poetically touches on the connection between yoga and the environment:

"As a yogi, you are an environmentalist because you recognize that the rivers flowing through the valleys and those flowing through your veins are intimately related. The breath of an old-growth forest and your most recent breath are inextricably intertwined. The quality of the soil in which your food is raised is directly connected to the health of your tissues and organs. Your environment is your extended body. You are inseparably interwoven with your ecosystem."
- The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra

(As a side note, I do not consider myself a yogi, and I realize that Deepak Chopra is quite a controversial public figure. I am not a devout follower of his; however, these words resonate strongly with me so I have decided to include them.)

Inspired by this deepened connection and reverence toward nature, I began making small conscious changes over the past year, in order to gradually align my everyday actions with these values. I will share all about these changes in future posts but for now, I would like to leave you with this:

If you are embarking on a sustainability journey, what is your inspiration? Why are you choosing to make the changes you're making, and what keeps you moving forward when you feel overwhelmed or defeated?

Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Instagram so that we can learn and grow together as we aim to make our lifestyles a little greener, giving back to this beautiful planet that nurtures and sustains us on so many levels.

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