In partnership with
Green offices decrease anxiety. Meetings on the mountain put some movement in our days and allow ideas to emerge.
Itâs crucial that nature be an intrinsic element of the world of workâfor environmental reasons, yes, but also because of its increasingly documented positive effects on our physical and mental health.Â Nature also has a lot to teach us on a human level, and thus about our way of being at work: nature encourages collaboration, promotes creative problem-solving, strengthens humility, and helps develop empathy.
The entrepreneurs, chefs, farmers, and architects who spoke at the BESIDE Festival last June all maintain strong daily ties with nature. Here, in five lessons, are the ways in which nature inspires them every day, and how it can inspire us in turn.
– 1 –
Focus on slow time
Slow down, talk to each other, stretch it out: three actions inspired by nature that can be applied to architecture, and other areas too.
A client of architect Pierre Thibault, who happens to be the vice-president of his company, was set on his new house being built for his wifeâs birthday, only a few weeks later. It didnât work out that way, of course. The following year, when the house was finished, he thanked the architect for having given him the chance, finally, to take his time and not rush, like the demands of his work always call for. In nature, Thibault explains, time expands…
âŠ.and our well-being increases: according to a study conducted at the University of Chicago, just living near a dozen trees makes us feel seven years younger!
While completing his masterâs degree in automotive design in Germany, Louis-Philippe Pratte began to define the core values that would eventually inform his company, Ă Hauteur dâhomme [On a Human Scale]. âI needed to do something that would last, something that made sense,â he says. âI knew right away that wood was the material I had to use.â Many people in Germany had spoken to him about Canadian nature. âI thought to myself: âItâs true, why has no company highlighted it before, or used it responsibly?â That was the starting point.â The starting point for a thought process that would evolve toward considering furniture building with ecological materials, and the life cycles of objects; there is a reason why Hh offers a lifetime guarantee on their products. âWe canât start over every 15 to 20 years. Durability is a major part of quality.â
Take the time to talk to one another, to transmit and receive knowledge, and to invite people of all walks of life to the table.
Kim Pariseau, founder of APPAREIL Architecture, remembers her meeting with a forestry engineer when she was working on a cottage project. âI would never have thought he would inspire us so much. On site, he pointed out the trees we had wanted to keep because we found them so beautiful, saying, âNo, but that one is going to die within two years!â As architects,â she says, âwe donât have the solution for everything.â
– 2 –
Do away with garbage
To see value in that which is too often rejected: this is the mission of LOOP, an organization that transforms food waste into delicious juice, beer, and dog treats. More and more chefs are adopting this course of actionâand we, too, can follow in these footsteps by starting to take an inventory of our own fridge.
âThe industrial era made us forget that our waste had value.â
58 per cent of food products in Canada are tossed or wasted, according to the organization Second Harvest.
The act that counts
Chef John Winter RussellÂ also fights against waste and puts the spotlight on local foods. He buys residual salt crystals from Newfoundland producers Peter and Robin for his restaurantâcrystals that donât pass the fleur-de-sel test, because they are too fine, for example.
When it comes to social gastronomy, Russell cites Italian chef Massimo Bottura, who produces feasts from discarded foodstuffs. Those feasts are intended not only to reduce waste, but also to feed people in need, helping them win back their dignity.
To watch: Theater of Life, a documentary about the fabulous âpeopleâs soupâ created by Botturaâin collaboration with other internationally renowned chefsâfrom food waste from the 2015 World Expo in Milan. This restaurant concept, called Refettorio, inspired other smaller ones, for example in Rio de Janeiro, where meals were created from the food waste of the Olympic Games, as well as in Paris.
– 3 –
Redefine thinking big
Architects, chefs, and farmers agree: creating a lot out of a little has nothing to do with limiting our ambitions. Nor our convictions.
Realizing that a sense of wonder is within our reach.
Newness surrounds us, even if weâre not always aware of it, says John Winter Russell. âRemember the first time you tasted watermelon? You thought to yourself, âWhat is this glorious and juicy marvel?â right?â Part of his work consists of reawakening this sense of wonder, both in himself and in his customers. Most of the food discoveries we make as we get older come from other countries and cultures, but there are plenty of things right here that we can discover and savour.
Increasing simplicity, in three different professions
1) âWe donât need a fryer and six grills. We can make great food with less equipment,â says the chef of Candide. The simplicity of ingredients is important to him as well. âThereâs no reason why we canât take something like carrots, and make a delicious dish.â
2) This philosophy is shared by architect Pierre Thibault, who sees too many âgrocery listsâ in his practice. His inspiration? Japan, where places that seem modest at first glance can appear much larger. âItâs as though we could âcreate space,â through clever strategies like the use of sliding panels, for example. The question to ask is this: do we really need to live in a larger space?â
3) At La Fermette, where biointensive market gardening is practised (on a small surface), they also try to maximize spaceâa âconstraint that is also an opportunity,â according to growers Justine Chouinard and Annie-Claude Lauzon. The idea is to âgive ourselves profitability by the square metre,â or to do a lot with a little, such as optimally designing the farm, using very little machinery, and choosing what to grow carefully.
– 4 –
Make tons of friends
Whether youâre trying to cultivate vegetables or a sense of confidence, relationships with others make all the difference.
La Fermetteâs business model is based on collaboration and exchange. First, there are the original partnerships with two restaurants, CafĂ© Parvis and Buvette Chez Simone. Not only do these two restaurants serve vegetables that grow in their Hemmingford garden, they also participate in the planning for the farm. âItâs their farm too. We dreamed it up together,â say the farmers.
Then there are direct sales, in particular at farmersâ markets, where they can present their clients with a variety of products in person. In addition to the pleasure of meeting and serving their customers up close, âit allows us to get beyond the grocery-store model, where you need a large volume and vegetables that won’t go bad. This defines what weâre doing.â
Reclaiming pleasure, together.
âFalling down is funny. It has to be. And itâs funny to start over and experiment at every stage,â says Pascale VĂ©zina Rioux, director of Les ChĂšvres de Montagne. The organization puts together open-air events that give women a chance to play sports in an independent and safe way. No matter what the weather is. âSo what if itâs raining? We still go outside. Weâre the only 15 people on the mountain, and we are really proud at the end. The idea is to find pleasure in each of our activities,â and to enjoy them in the company of other women.
Dismantling the myth
Itâs not good enough that open-air activities have become popularized of late, or that we see as many women as men doing them, says VĂ©zina Rioux. âOur goal is to integrate everyone. To give the impression that itâs accessible to everyone. And it is. But if you donât have the social network around you, it can all seem completely absurd and unknown.â
âMy work is to talk to my friends,â concludes chef John Winter Russell after introducing four of the farmers with whom he âdoes business.â Why the quotation marks? Because he prefers to speak of it as a collaboration. Together, âwe have developed products, ideas, and ways of thinking that make all of our lives easier. And better.â Candide is literally based on these friendships. So itâs no surprise that Russell compares his restaurant to a home.
– 5 –
Contribute to the future of the globe
Because this planet is home to us all.
Social responsibility, in three quotations
âNever before have we had so much access to information. Weâve never been so connected, so easily inspired by people from all over the world. We have so many chances to understand how our voices, our votes, and our dollars have an impact on the world. We can draw upon [that] knowledge in order to act.â
âI try to make architecture an added value, and not a disruptive element. We should always ask ourselves if what we are leaving behind will be a plus for everyone.â
âAll the profits [from the co-op] are put back into development, into social projects. Iâm proud of this fact. Iâll find another way to save up an RRSP! [âŠ] The goal is not to get to professional burnout because we have too many big ideas. But itâs super important to put our shoulders to the wheel.â
Tell stories to create meaning.
âHow can we get people to be concerned about [different ecosystems] if they donât even know they exist?â asks Charles Post. âI think storytelling is part of the answer. You can evoke empathy and interest if you tell stories in a compelling way.â He does this through Instagram, for example, where he has 105,000 followers.
Established by the CoopĂ©rative de la VallĂ©e Bras-du-Nord, En Marche is an initiative that aims to facilitate the social and professional reintegration of marginalized youth. How? âWe use nature and adventure as tools for interventions,â explains Ătienne Beaumont. âFor six months, young people build and maintain hiking trails, and at the same time they reclaim the territory, getting to see it from another angle, and acquire new skills in the process.â Itâs a project thatâs part of the social aspect of the co-op, according to the assistant director: âYes, developing a given area, such that it becomes a tool for sustainable development for a region or a city. But also so that it allows us to develop healthy lifestyle habits.â
Inspired by talks presented
at the Festival BESIDE,
in collaboration with Desjardins.
Businesses of the future
Ămilia Tamko (presenter), David CĂŽtĂ© (co-founder, LOOP Mission), Ătienne Beaumont (assistant director, VallĂ©e Bras-du-Nord Co-op), Pascale VĂ©zina Rioux (director, Les ChĂšvres de Montagne)
Cooking up social gastronomy
John Winter Russell (chef, Candide restaurant)
The influence of nature on architecture
Marc-AndrĂ© Carignan (presenter), Pierre Thibault (architect), Kim Pariseau (architect and founder, APPAREIL Architecture), Louis-Philippe Pratte (designer and founder, Ă Hauteur dâhomme)
New agricultural practices
Justine Chouinard and Annie-Claude Lauzon (farmers and founders, La Fermette)
Conservation through images
Charles Post (ecologist and filmmaker)