On Becoming a Conscious Consumer

Sustainability is one of those broad terms that gets thrown around a lot. In short to be sustainable means that you're not depleting resources and maintaining balance in an ecosystem. The further I became immersed in the health and wellness world, the tighter the knot in my stomach got thinking about my choices and what sustainability meant to me. 

I started taking this big idea of sustainability thing kinda seriously over the last few years. I made the choice to become a more conscious consumer. It didn't mean I gave up all my possessions and rejected all belongings overnight. That would have been extreme. It was a process like anything else but here I am more mindful than ever of my choices. Being a conscious consumer affects everything from the clothes I buy to the food I eat and this shift brought about a few great things: 

  1. My consumer choices now support others who likewise care about sustainability 
  2. I have (and knowingly need) less things in my life 
  3. I'm eating more aligned with the seasons 
  4.  The age-old quality > quantity motto means a lot to me 

I'm making a wholehearted effort to rid myself of consumer habits and items that aren't taking into account the welfare of the environment and others. It's no small undertaking. It has also been tough to deal with the fact that not every choice I make can have a net-zero impact on the environment. Every choice has a consequence, and it's the mark of a powerful person to take ownership of their choices and choosing to continue toward a goal.*

It's neither linear nor perfect. All you can do is your best in the process of attaining a goal. 

So I figured out how to take ownership of my choices, great. A knot in my stomach then existed when I thought about my wellness practices. I get hung up on my own wellness a lot because that's the only one I can control even as I work toward becoming a practitioner. I couldn't manifest wellness without considering where it comes from. The food I eat is only as good as the soil or water it was grown in, the herbs I take are only as good as the process by which they were harvested and processed. 

Wellness journeys tend to focus on the self. But it all comes from somewhere. The earth provides, but she is not without limits. I had to recognize how my choices impact the earth, my only resource. It begins with the soil, the air, the water. The pain of figuring out how to have a relationship with the earth where I give back to my resources led me to make and make an entire thesis about it. 

Turning tension into a manifestation. 

I don't love to talk about my undergraduate experience. I followed a scholarship and ended up at a school doing something I wasn't passionate about. My department was small, and when I figured out I could graduate early the environment became uncomfortable. I was also unsettled by the authoritarian tone of how printmaking should be done because it was blatantly wasteful. So I spent from August until December of 2017 creating a body of work with zero waste or chemicals. My thesis was called, "There Aren't Plenty of Fish in the Sea Anymore". I had a lot to say about consumerism and aquaculture and no patience for traditional practice. 

Being a conscious consumer or fostering sustainability of any resource or practice is only effective with parameters set in place. In the spirit of needing boundaries to sustain and protect resources, I set boundaries for myself to make a toxin free and zero waste thesis. I had a lot to say about aquaculture with my future plotted in health but the biggest knot in my stomach for this project to start came from the wastefulness I saw in the way resources are treated in visual art. 

Sustainability of any resource or practice is only effective with parameters set in place. In the case of aquaculture, human involvement in taming wild systems has existed for too long without parameters. Wild systems innately maximize their resources and care for natural waste without interjection. The laws of nature foster a functional wild system that no scientist can tame without negative consequences.

My thesis was about sustainability, specifically regarding aquaculture. Water has a special place in my heart and the point of me sharing my thesis isn't to show you my work. The point is to share in how I worked with barriers and came out on top. I made the damn thing exactly how I wanted to make it. All paper and board was recycled or found, the ink was non-toxic, and I cut stencils into compostable newsprint for every pull through a silkscreen matrix. It was a frustrating labor, and all the while I felt enormous tension that this was the last obstacle to having a life where I'd be studying something I found purpose in.

The value of my thesis wasn't in the physical pieces themselves as they're not archival and meant to be recycled. The value of this thesis was in my process and the conversations about resources it sparked with others. If even one person becomes more conscious about the kind of wild fish they buy or decide to be less wasteful in their visual art practices, my heart is full. 

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It's about the process toward the goal.

Being a conscious consumer is not a perfect state of being on an ideal that must be fostered with utmost precision and mindfulness. It's a goal to work toward. I'm working toward the goal of creating a connection to the earth, my resource, through the ownership of my choices. 

*This is a bit of a tangent but I never thought I'd read a book about love or human relationships. Never say never because Danny Silk's book, Keep Your Love On, downright changed who I am as a person. Particularly, how I make choices and take ownership of those choices changed after finishing the book. Silk writes about what it means to be a powerful person. A powerful person doesn't try to control others, they can only control themselves on a good day. Conscious, powerful people aren't looking to inflict their choices on others. So this journey has been very much and "I" thing with the exception of talking to those who choose to listen.