Naomi Krogman, Associate Professor at Faculty of ALES

Sustainability has always come naturally for Dr. Naomi Krogman, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Agriculture, Life, and Environmental Sciences, and Killam Award for Excellence in Mentoring recipient. As an environmental sociologist, her work delves into many issues surrounding sustainable consumption.

As a young girl living in Java, Indonesia, she was impressed by how people lived in that society compared to North America. The impressionable twelve-year old Krogman noted that the people around her consumed less, but had a greater sense of community.

“I was humbled by seeing how resourceful people can be and the joy that people have in self-reliance,” said Krogman.

This impactful experience stirred Krogman’s current interest in sustainable consumption.

For a number of years, she worked on Reclaiming consumption: Sustainability, social networks, and urban context with Dr. Emily Huddart Kennedy. The project looks at how neighbourhoods shape one’s life and consumption habits.

Thirteen families were interviewed throughout Edmonton, and 491 households were surveyed in Millcreek and Terwillegar Towne. The results showed that people would like to take more personal actions towards sustainability than they can easily do; this is significant, especially since consumption in northern countries is one of the most important drivers of environmental sustainability worldwide.

“The challenge,” says Krogman, “is designing neighbourhoods to make it easy for people to consume less. Take for example, many suburban neighbourhoods where homes and services are spatially separate. If the closest grocery store is a 30 minute walk away in Terwillegar Towne versus a three- minute walk in Mill Creek, it is more likely that a Mill Creek resident will walk or bike to the store”.

Working on a project so close to home is important for Krogman, who has done a lot of work overseas.

“While [my overseas work] was rewarding,” said Krogman, “it is much more powerful when you are informing policies and practices where you live, and creating avenues of hope right out [your] back door.”

This passion for her community is something Krogman passes on to her students in the classroom. Her goal, she said, is to get people to think about the interconnections of their own lives—how their individual decisions affect the environment and society.

As such, Krogman tries to incorporate experiential learning experiences into many of the classes she teaches. Past examples include a project-based course she worked on with Dr. David Schindler, in which students chose a new sustainability challenge every week, and reported on different outcomes, such as energy savings or waste savings.

The students found that individually the impact was small, but with the entire class taking part, it added up to make a significant difference.

These types of projects may be unconventional, but they allow students to make connections and allows for critical thinking. It also means Krogman finds inspiration from the students she works with.

“I see tremendous energy and potential in the students I am teaching right now,” she said.

Currently, Krogman is working on the next phase of her consumption project, speaking to Albertans of different genders, communities, and income levels about their environmental values, concerns, and sustainable practices.

She is also hard at work preparing for the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM), taking place at the U of A June 17-21, 2012. For more information, or to find out how you can be involved with the conference, click here.