The Rural Shift: Balancing Sustainability in Country Living

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Country living is often associated with a more sustainable existence. After all, rural communities are closer to nature and farther from polluting industries and city chaos. You might find yourself considering upping sticks and moving to the countryside.

Yet, it’s just as important to recognize that alongside the sustainable benefits of the rural shift, there can be some challenges. Some of these challenges will be related to quality of life, while others may involve compromises related to your individual needs.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t head to the country. Rather, it’s worth taking a look at both the benefits and challenges so you can identify how to create a balanced approach should you decide to embrace rural existence.

Serving Your Priorities

Living in the country is a great way to put your ethical, social, and environmental priorities at the forefront. For instance, you can minimize your contributions to potentially destructive practices, such as overdevelopment and disturbing natural habitats. You have a more natural forum to maintain a responsible awareness of the world around you and exist in harmony with it.

That said, part of achieving a lifestyle balance is to make mindful decisions. The onset of climate change is already influencing where people choose to live. While there are trends toward making home purchasing decisions based on sustainable living, there’s also an awareness of climate risks. 

For instance, climate-driven soil erosion can affect how healthy soil is. If you want access to local and sustainable foodstuffs, where you buy a home can make a difference.

Similarly, climate change is influencing more extreme and frequent natural disasters — including flash floods, wildfires, and tornadoes. When choosing a rural home, it’s vital to research what challenges you’re likely to be exposed to in that part of Canada. Explore what steps locals in the area take to boost property protection and mitigate disasters.

Increased Self-Sufficiency

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One of the pluses of living in rural areas is that it presents opportunities to be self-sufficient. There are practical and ethical advantages to self-sufficiency. You’re less dependent on industrial commerce which contributes to emissions and overconsumption. You can also be more resilient to disruptions to supply chains.

Some of the practices those living in rural areas can engage in include:

Personal food stores 

If you have enough land, you could grow your own fruits and vegetables and perhaps keep a small amount of livestock. Not to mention that there are responsible foraging opportunities. Many communities also have farmers’ markets in which you can buy sustainably grown produce

As a result, you don’t rely on retailers that cause damage in the transportation and production of goods. You may also find yourself better able to access foodstuffs in emergency situations that see supplies to retailers affected.

Utilizing renewable energy 

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Living in rural spaces often means you’re not necessarily dependent on electrical grids. Indeed, many areas of rural Canada aren’t connected to the grid. You have greater freedom to adopt renewable energy resources in your home. For instance, you can install solar power systems or work with your community to share district heating.

There are significant benefits to solar power. Primarily, you aren’t using power sources that are driven by finite fossil fuels or polluting processes. You can also be more resilient against the blackouts centralized grids may face.

It’s worth noting the government is providing funding to renewable energy projects in rural and Indigenous communities. This means that you may have access to support that makes renewable energy adoption more affordable and accessible.

That said, it’s also important to recognize that being self-sufficient can involve hurdles. For instance, internet access in rural communities is often challenging due to fewer companies laying fibre optic and cable lines in distant locations. Given how important reliable internet is for entertainment, being able to communicate during emergencies, and taking remote work opportunities, finding solutions is important. 

One option is to use 4G mobile broadband through a hotspot device, though this depends on the cellular signal in your location. Satellite internet is an increasingly accessible alternative, giving you a relatively reliable connection almost anywhere. Speeds can be slower than fibre optic lines, but that depends on where you live.

A Calmer Way of Life

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Country living is a way of life that’s separated from a lot of the stresses and environmental pressures found in cities and suburban spaces.

A lack of industry and lighter traffic may mean you have better air quality and less noise. Reduced hustle and bustle tends to make for a calmer atmosphere. Even your community is less likely to be dictated by the restrictive rules and fees of homeowners associations (HOAs).

Nevertheless, it’s also vital to find solutions to the challenges of living away from the crowd, which could include the following.

Amenities

Rural areas tend to have a less diverse range of amenities than urban spaces. It’s important to honestly look at your needs for different types of entertainment, exercise facilities, and shopping. You can then choose your location based around how conveniently you can obtain these resources or replicate them yourself.

For instance, you may be able to create a home gym rather than attend a facility. Remember, too, that access to medical services in rural locations can be quite challenging. Telemedical services for appointments could be a solution, but it’s important to check availability in your intended province.

Commuting

Moving to the country could mean that you have a longer commute to your job in the city. This might not only give you the stress of a lengthy journey, but also have sustainability issues related to fuel use and emissions production. You may be able to mitigate this by discussing with your employer the possibility of remote or hybrid working practices.

If you have to commute, investing in an electric vehicle and planning the most efficient routes can at least cut down your impact. Alternatively, public transportation options are greener travel methods.

Conclusion

With a mindful approach, you can find a balanced rural life that maximizes the sustainable benefits and addresses the practical challenges. This includes steps such as making informed choices about your location and finding alternatives to more limited amenities.

It’s also well worth speaking to people who are already living a sustainable rural life. This helps you get more nuanced views on the process and even access suggestions that are better understood by people with lived experience of the rural shift. 

  • Katie Brenneman

    Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in sustainability, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. She is a graduate of UCR where she discovered her love for health, eco-friendly lifestyles, and writing. When she isn't article brainstorming, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

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