Commerce professor unearths Queen’s sustainability

Professor says ‘it’s important for students to know how the world works’ 

Moore’s Earth-sheltered house lies facing the Salmon River in Tamworth.
Supplied by Steven Moore
Sustainability Professor in the Smith School of Business Steven Moore wants Queen’s to be a moral and sustainable leader through their actions and investments. Moore sat down with The Journal to discuss sustainability on campus.
According to him, Queen’s should do more than the “absolute minimum possible” to divest investments in fossil fuels. He said the University took the “weakest possible steps,” after “years of pressure” in response to the divestment movement on campus, which was spearheaded by students. 
“That just shows a lack of education and awareness on the part of the Queen’s administration,” Moore said.“[The University is] deadweight dragged along behind students who have a much better idea about what their future is going to be if we don’t get off fossil fuels.”
Moore said Queen’s should create more gardens on campus. He believes lawns are “ecological deserts” despite being important places to run and play.
The University piloted an Employee Community Garden in May, planting two large communal plots near Jeffery Hall. It’s a shared garden space open to all registered gardeners and will contribute to a “more sustainable and vibrant community,” according to a press release.
Moore models sustainability through his own lifestyle, living in an earth-sheltered house in Tamworth, facing the Salmon River. 
Earth-sheltered houses are built below or embedded in the ground. In Moore’s house, natural light seeps into each room from windows facing the south side of the house. The house naturally regulates its temperature, at around 12 to 16 degrees Celsius underground year-round. 
“It’s nice and snug. Cool in the summer, and warm in the winter,” Moore said. 
The house has many other sustainable features, including a “green roof” with wild-seeded grass, milkweed, and monarch butterflies; no lawn; and interior post and beam construction repurposed from a 1920 aircraft hanger from Uplands Airport in Ottawa.
The most sustainable house is the one that isn’t built, Moore said. In his Sustainability Strategies and Practices course at Queen’s, he teaches the most basic path to being more sustainable individually is to “reduce, repair, rent, refuse, reuse and repurpose” items. Reducing demand looks like having smaller houses, fewer vehicles, and less stuff.
“We have a $600 billion a year marketing machine globally that tries to convince us to buy stuff because our economy is based on buying stuff. Well, that simply will not work,” Moore said.
According to Moore, even if we found energy supplies to last hundreds of years, they wouldn’t be able to keep up. 
“It is really a change in mindset. We won’t invent our way out of this. If we—humans—don’t change the way we view the world as something we can dispose of, then we will not survive.”
Moore started Repair Cafés in Stone Mills Township before the pandemic, by gathering “handy people” who can show others how to repair things. The cafe idea started in Sweden and similar spots have sprung up all around the world, including in Kingston.
He believes starting a cafe would be of interest for students at Queen’s, especially because it’s fun and models the importance of repairing broken items.
According to Moore, demand and consumption are a large culprit in the climate crisis, and our society believes certain things to be essential. He said individual awareness is the first step, but action happens in groups. 
“The idea is not to convince them first and then do something—the idea is to do something and then people will be convinced,” Moore said. “There are very smart people who have figured out how to mobilize large groups for a social good.”
Despite being critical sometimes, Moore is grateful for Queen’s.
“I’m thrilled to be back teaching in person. This is the best job in the world—talking to young people about ideas that really matter for their future. It’s just an absolute privilege to be able to do it.”

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.