University of Calgary

How to be a No Impact Calgarian

UToday HomeJuly 29, 2013

By Sandy Bell

Rather than trying to make too many lifestyle changes at once, focus on one area and gain confidence, suggests University of Calgary chief sustainability officer Joanne Perdue.Rather than trying to make too many lifestyle changes at once, focus on one area and gain confidence, suggests University of Calgary chief sustainability officer Joanne Perdue. Illustration courtesy No Impact Project, an international nonprofit dedicated to supporting consumers in their quest for more connected ways of living.The 2013 choice for the Common Reading Program, No Impact Man, is an inspirational read and may motivate many readers to examine their own lifestyles and make changes to have less of a footprint on our challenged planet. 

On the other hand, choices for change may be found to be overwhelming for some. How does one sort through the many options and decide what to do? How does one find practical local resources and avoid “green wash?”

The University of Calgary is a leader in institutional sustainability efforts, and also supports students, faculty and staff wanting to learn more about how they can make a difference while studying, working and living on campus. SustainabilityON is our university’s centralized space for institutional sustainability plans, benchmarks, resources and tweets.

But how do an individual and family choose what to start with at home? Joanne Perdue, chief sustainability officer for the University of Calgary, offers some suggestions on where to begin. 

Perdue acknowledges that our busy lives influence the choices that we make, such as for convenience. “We can recognize the pace of life and the choices that we make because of it, and know that we don’t have to do it that way.” 

Perdue encourages us to be mindful, start talking to others, navigate choices, set goals and understand the barriers that get in the way of doing something differently. “We can’t take everything on at once, so focus on one thing, get confident at that, then move on.”

Joanne Perdue, chief sustainability officer.Joanne Perdue, chief sustainability officer.Perdue gives a potent example of how the focus on one aspect of personal and family impact “leads into many other attributes of sustainability and has multiple impacts.”

“If we purchase locally, we get to know our community. By keeping dollars in the community, we build up local services for the long term and build a resilient local economy. Along with lower greenhouse gas emissions because of shorter shipping distances, our local products are developed under better environmental and labour regulations.”

Feeling encouraged about the potential for significant change? Some local resources to support individual and family decision-making around sustainability are:

  • Calgary Sustainability for Breakfast is a networking group that meets at various locations to explore a sustainability theme over a free breakfast.
  • EcoLiving hosts tours and events, such as the 11th annual EcoLiving Fair and Workshop tentatively set for Oct. 19 this year.
  • Green Calgary has numerous educational resources, including workshops that will be on campus again this coming October.
  • REAP Calgary ― Respect for the Earth and all People ― is where you can learn about local businesses and their products.
  • Residential Toilet Rebate Program run by the City of Calgary saves water and money.
  • Slow Food Calgary is another way to connect to community and meet the people who produce your food from farm to plate. 

For more stories on how students, staff and faculty are stepping up together to turn SustainabilityON or to learn how you can become involved, visit:


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