Bernard O’Shea and Dr Colman Noctor: Easy sustainability and life lessons from young people

To mark the Irish Examiner’s annual Sustainability Month, columnists Bernard O’Shea and Dr Colman Noctor chat about their environmental habits and how their families have cut down on waste
Bernard O’Shea and Dr Colman Noctor: Easy sustainability and life lessons from young people

Dr Colman Noctor and Bernard O'Shea speak about sustainability on the latest episode of the Moments That Made Me, the Weekend podcast from the Irish Examiner

Bernard O’Shea and Dr Colman Noctor have been making little changes in their lives to benefit the environment.

Comedian O'Shea has written about his quest to become sausage flexitarian after he realised how much food waste his family generates.

“One thing that really caught my attention was this idea of flexitarianism,” he told Esther N McCarthy on The Moments That Made Me, the Weekend podcast from the Irish Examiner.

“People who never would have had vegan foods or non-meat options before are thinking about their food differently and they want to see if they can buy a more sustainable item.

“When ‘flexitarian’ came up, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that's what I am. I'm a flexitarian’. I am one of those people now that goes into a shop and buys these vegan options and these other options. Now I'm choosing to buy these sustainable foods.” 

He adds he feels like a fake advocate for flexitarianism sometimes as it’s an easy lifestyle change.

“I'm not a fantastic advocate for sustainability in a way because I want it to be very handy. I want sustainability to easy.” 

Noctor, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, says this is human nature and the best way to encourage any positive change is it to make it easy.

‘’I think there are still ways in which we can adjust our habits but to get a culture going it just needs to be consistent, reliable and predictable. I do think this is where the young are teaching the old a bit on this. What they have done, which is very good, is they've kind of made it cool.

I think we need to engage in it, but if it's not easy as Bernard says, or if it's not possible or it's too much hassle, it won't be sustainable, and sustainability has to be manageable.

Another area impacting the environment that both men have tackled is how we wash our clothes. O’Shea recently wrote about not washing his jeans and says it was an eye-opening experience.

“I Googled it, and found the CEO of Levi's doesn't wash his jeans at all,” he says.

“They don't wear as quickly [when you don’t wash them often]. We have them for longer. The science behind it is showing that they're actually not that dirty.” 

O'Shea says he avoids ‘fast fashion’ and bought an expensive pair of boots a few years ago that he gets resoled each year for €35, saving him money on new shoes and helping the environment to boot. Noctor says fast fashion is something he was taught about by young people.

“The fast fashion thing is interesting because it was young people again that taught me about that,” he says.

“They sat me down and talked me through the ethics of fast fashion and it was eye-opener for me, it just never crossed my mind.” 

O’Shea has some simple, if unusual advice for anyone interested in sustainability: “Do a little experiment on yourself.” He suggests everyone tries some small changes to minimise their impact on the environment and Noctor agrees, adding “it's these gradual small little things that will make the difference.”

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