Year for the Planet Week 49: The Myth of Conscious Consumerism (and why I did it anyway)

Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.

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I started this Year for the Planet project primarily to get my life to align with my artistic philosophy. It would be funny to identify as an artist who works on environmental issues if she herself didn’t live by her beliefs.

But despite the gains I wrote about last week, I would be the first to say that I did not save the planet with a year of fixing my eating habits. I might be the crabbiest person around when I’m given a plastic straw or a plastic bag, and yes, my life is so much more streamlined and with a lot less clutter. But let’s be honest, even though I rarely leave the house, the travel I did this year to work in Uganda and Brazil, which are worlds away, ensured that my carbon footprint was a lot bigger than the most ignorant wasteful troglodyte who doesn’t have a passport.

Like most things in life, I regret nothing, and even though there are still a lot of things I’m going to fix about myself, I would still keep doing this. Here’s why:

1. I felt a sense of ownership about what I made.
People are afraid to fail, which made them hesitate to embark on a similar journey. I, too, had felt this way, but making my own meals gave me a sense of ownership and therefore made it way more satisfying than being stuck in traffic and lines to have an expensive meal in a restaurant. If something wasn’t perfect, I was motivated to improve it for next time, instead of wailing at the waiter or giving them 1 star on Yelp.

2. A precarious artistic life should not translate to an unhealthy one.
When I realized I was an artist more than a decade ago, I was in terror because I thought my future meant I was going to stop grooming myself, take drugs, get drunk often, and have a terrible sleeping schedule because this was what I saw in the older artists around me. However, I now realize it was possible to do art while still having one’s shit together. If anything, being an artist with all of its instabilities makes it imperative to have a healthy lifestyle.

3. I conditioned myself to buy nothing at all.
One of the flaws of conscious consumerism is that we end up still buying things such as tote bags and steel straws, leading to a closet full of tote bags and steel straws that are unused. For me, the best thing for the planet is to, gasp, not buy anything at all. And so I have stuck with the same reusable bags all this time, repairing them when necessary. And as you know, I don’t use straws at all no matter the material—straws give you premature wrinkles.

4. Saying no on a daily basis made me practice saying no to other things.
Each year for me will be a Year for the Planet, just with a different theme. Doing this project for food this year makes me feel more confident in doing the same for clothing, skin care, travel, and the many aspects of modern lifestyle that, unsurprisingly, are besieged with the same crappy systems. Resistance is a way of life. Let’s get on it.

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