Later that day, the kids and I hiked just a bit in Griffith Park with walking sticks to aid us. When leaving, I reminded them that we leave things where they belong–in their homes.
Our conversations about our home, and what will happen to it, are frequent. Climate change is taught in their schools, is discussed on the playground, on book tours, on vacations, in church, and even on the bus and subway. They sense the fragility of the earth with greater understanding and compassion than I managed when I was young. I fear it may be too late for the earth, but I am eternally grateful for all the teachers and my kids’ awareness.
I know sustainability is an important word, but in my own efforts to be a conscious participant of this society, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that sustainability is a term far too nuanced for underserved communities, whose members spend their days counting coins for diapers and can’t possibly think past today. Those of us that use the word “sustainability” regularly, are privileged to do so and to consider it with urgency.
In light of this, I’ve personally taken on a conscious approach, hoping to bring access to sustainability efforts to these underserved communities, creating conversation around practices that are manageable across the board. These choices encapsulate what we consume in our bodies; what we wear on our bodies; and what fills our social media feeds, alerts, and social circles (are they actually inclusive and diverse?); and what we’re reading.
Here are twelve ways I’m living consciously:
- I talk openly with friends and my children about not needing more children. Being under 30 and no longer in a nuclear family, I often field questions about my desire to someday have more children. I always give the same answer: I don’t think so. Not only because I already have two kids I love focusing on, and a career I love focusing on as well; but because the human footprint is so great. I have a son and a daughter, and I am just not sure it’s fair for me to do it again. Especially when I consider their future, how much it costs, how much waste we make, and what their future needs will be.
- I don’t bother with over-shopping or over-cooking. For so long I felt guilty because I don’t like to cook large, elaborate meals; but I trace this back to my desire not to waste. I find that overdoing anything, unless it’s a party or something design-related in the home, is boring. I cook simply and healthily, making enough for just the folks around the table. On party nights, I ask friends to bring dishes. When I eat out, I choose local places because I know they’re making the food for only me and the kids and we clean our plates.
- Speaking of eating out, conscious sustainability includes supporting local cafes, stores, and bookstores. Yes, I probably spend too much, and my friends joke that I keep our local cafe in business. But I’d rather buy and support too much than not at all. When I can’t purchase locally, I try to limit my outsourcing or only buy things in large orders.
- We bring bags everywhere, every single day. Or if we forget, we stuff things in bookbags on the way home from school. I am very vocal and unapologetic about this, and it has encouraged the kids to be the same about things that matter to them as well.
- I am conscious in my work as well. I hire other women of color and mothers. My most recent hire was a bi-racial single mother who helped with the marketing end of the book. I also hired women of color on the creative back end of my book project–photographers, videographers, music, and more. 90 percent of my book sponsors, the designers I wear, and other partners are women-owned business, and many are owned by women of color. The book gifts were sent out plastic-free, and comprised of sustainable (Ace & Jig bandanas (recycled scrap fabric), Kosas lipstick, Brown Butter Beauty hair cream, The Tot wooden toy) and the book itself was printed in the United States.
- We use public transportation, walk, or bike almost everywhere. If I use a car, I often ride share to help offset the environmental impact.
- To develop conscious community, I host meet-ups to bring together like-minded women. I have spent much of the book tour trying to dive in deeper to this. I share my kids nanny with two other single mothers.
- I don’t mindlessly shop, but use a purge-and-buy method. What I purge, I sell it on my Instagram page and donate a portion of proceeds. (I am lucky enough to get a lot of free stuff from amazing local and small designers, who I love and support.)
- I pay fair wages, within New York freelancer laws, and this is big, as I sometimes do not get paid on time. But it’s a give-and-receive process, and I’ve noticed a real difference in my working relationships.
- To conserve energy, we rarely use air conditioner in the summer and unplug chords when not in use.
- I have eliminated my own consumption two years ago and became a vegetarian. When it comes to my children, I try to give them meat a few times a week. New York City has adopted a new law that says one school lunch per week must be meatless.
- We love to visit local gardens, both in our community and outside of it, to see the differences and impacts on the environment. We talk with workers and farmers about sustainability and their own conscious practices within their communities.