Interview Series: Eco-conscious Educator Marie-France Boissonneault
Sometimes the time just slips away from us. Add projects, deadlines and events to the equation, and a month will disappear with a blink of an eye. May was super busy for Benevolent and Enlightened Beauty, and because of that we had to skip the interview series. But, we’re back with a June interview and it’s going to move you! I promise. I can only imagine our interviewee, Marie-France Boissonneault, an accomplished & multi-talented woman, can relate to having busy schedule and wishing there were more hours in the day.
According to Marie-France’s bio: “Marie-France is an Adjunct Professor in the online Masters of Anthrozoology program at Canisius College in New York and an Instructor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. She has a PhD in Communications, Media Arts, and IT as well as a BSc (honours) in Marine Sciences from the University of Newcastle, Australia. She completed her BA in Psychology and Film Studies at the University of Victoria, BC, and Diplomas respectively in Professional Photography and Creative Arts from Dawson College, Montreal. She also has a Diploma in Multimedia Design and IT from the International Academy of Design in Montreal. Author of Nurse or Nemesis (a book about Australia’s endangered Grey Nurse Shark), her second book Every Living Being explores the historical bonds between nonhuman animals and human lived experiences.” I told you she’s accomplished a lot!
Marie also had a brief fling with modeling as a teen, which is why I thought she would be a perfect candidate for the interview series. I’m grateful for the insight and wisdom she has shared below. I hope you enjoy it!
1. Tell us about yourself. What do you do?
In addition to being able to follow my passion through my creative writing and teaching at Canisius College in their Masters of Anthrozoology program, I also work full-time for an eco-responsible school nestled in the woods on an island off the west coast of Canada. In the last four years, I have spent my days with children in an elementary school (kindergarten to grade 7). While it would be lovely to be able to have my own class, as I had in my home province of Quebec, I delight in those teachable moments that I have experienced outside the classroom.
2. Did you have a specific “aha” moment that led you to a sustainable lifestyle?
I don’t know that I would say if I had a specific “aha” moment. I grew up with parents that were relatively conscious of the footprint they left on the earth, and so elements of their beliefs trickled down to me. My father grew up on a farm and so he had an inherent connection to the land and respect for it. He has since returned to his roots in retirement by way of a hobby farm after his career as a dermatologist. I also remember as a young child that we always had a lovely garden. He would grow both flowers and vegetables as he does to this day. There are little emotional memories that remain in me from my youth that I don’t always have the realisation of their meaning at the time when they surface. However, sometimes when I revisit the moment, I can uncover the origins and deeper meaning of such triggers. A charming little recollection is related to my love of marigolds. They have always been one of my favourite flowers. Their tight blooms, bright petals and distinct scent brings me back to a moment in time that is much like a dream. When visiting my hometown of Montreal last summer, I realised why marigolds left such an imprint on me… My father always had tomatoes in our suburban/city garden, and marigolds were his pesticide of choice to deter slugs from his little crop. I have a vivid memory of my brother and I by the tomato plants that were peppered with marigold blooms at their feet while he and I explored the various creatures that lived in our backyard oasis. I am lucky to have had a childhood rife with these unadulterated moments; the chance to experience the simple beauties of nature through exploration, touch, smell and adventure. I think these are the ways in which I was guided to aspire to live a sustainable lifestyle, and to recognise the value in kindness, involvement and thoughtfulness for the world around me.
3. What advice would you give your teenage self, if you could talk to her today?
This question makes me think of a bumper sticker I saw a few years ago. There are variations on the theme, but it essentially said “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” Throughout my high school years, I was a relatively quiet soft spoken person. I was the one who friends sought out for advice. But when it came to my own wellbeing, I often overlooked some of the detrimental consequences of my choices. However, hindsight’s a hard thing to explore as the change in actions or choices we make do not necessarily result in better outcomes and we really have no idea how a different path may bring us to a new self today. I think the general quote I began with encompasses the idea of maintaining one’s values and so, I would underline to my teenage self that realising that those moments when your voice shakes are most likely those when you should speak up.
4. What makes you feel beautiful?
I’ve never been a materialist and I’ve struggled with self-image since my teenage years. My modeling career was short lived because I abandoned it soon after I was recruited by an agency. I was a healthy, fit teenager ever so slightly underweight at the time and being told I had to lose more weight. The industry played with my self-concept and I didn’t like the feeling of judgement based on my outward looks. It had a major impact on my life choices at the time by making me aware of how my appearance would play a role in how people would respond to me. I learned this lesson in a deeper way as years went on. And so, while I’ve never equated beauty with “looks”, it resonates even more profoundly today. I think that beauty comes from within. The shell that houses us of course fades with time, but the core of our being does not. I feel beautiful when I know I’ve touched or inspired someone and brightened their day or when I run through the forest with Mino (my husky), and soar through the air jumping over roots and rocks. The feeling of freedom and connection, of strength and agility, of confidence and joy are how I feel beautiful.
5. Have any extra tips or tricks?
I guess this one comes from growing up with a father that was a dermatologist. Take care of your skin. It’s the only outfit you cannot change. The only day I wear make-up is on Halloween (I work in an elementary school after all). My tips and tricks are basic in that you don’t need fancy creams and beauty concoctions in your daily routine. It’s also important to recognise that what you put into your body and how you treat it will outwardly reflect your health. So taking care to eat healthfully, being active and turning off the constant ding, swish and buzz of notifications from our phones in today’s world helps to eliminate the disruption to sleep cycles and stress levels. We ought to turn our phones off and not cuddle them in bed. It’s better to reach for someone you love instead.
6. Any favorite sustainable/ethical fashion or beauty items you’d like to share?
In this instance, [Benevolent and Enlightened Beauty’s] work is fabulous in bringing these ethically responsible players in the industry to the forefront. I’m a very basic girl in this regard. I’m not a fashionista or one to follow trends. I may like something that happens to be stylish, but I tend to gravitate toward comfort and thoughtfulness. What I mean with respect to thoughtfulness is in relation to my choices to maintain being ecologically responsible to the best of my ability. The pull away from sustainable choices or an attachment to traditional destructive routines are a huge challenge for Western society. I’ve always thought that education is the key and unfortunately we definitely fall short on recognising the true cost of the lives we lead. So while I don’t have a specific fashion or beauty item, I can share the notion of being conscious of one’s choices. The ability to discern between want and need is at the crux of overconsumption. I think it’s helpful to be aware of the resources of what truly goes into the manufacturing of goods be they material, chemical, natural or human, and so, it would be remarkably exciting if labels itemised the reality of the product in addition to care instructions.
I can’t thank Marie enough for her incredibly thoughtful and inspiring responses to my questions! With every interview, I’m moved by a sentiment shared by the interviewee. Marie’s point in the third question, “What advise would you give your teenage self,” that “hindsight’s a hard to explore…” has allowed me to feel more grateful for any past misfortunes. My teenage years we’re very difficult at times, but those experiences led me on a path to who I am today — a person I am thrilled to be.
If you are a teen reading this, and currently going through difficult times, know that life’s ups and downs are what make us unique and beautiful. That doesn’t necessarily make living in the moment any easier when times are rough though. So, please, always feel free to reach out for guidance in our Contact Form. You are beautiful and deserve to feel that way.
PS. If you loved what Marie-France Boissonneault had to say, follow her blog: http://beastlyvirtues.blogspot.ca/