It all started with hiking.
I wasn’t truly cognizant of my own consumption until I met my partner, Edmund. Before him, I wasn’t much of a hiker either, but he had such a strong affinity with the natural world that I became one practically overnight.
When I had gone out on the trail by myself, I enjoyed the quiet rhythm of the walk. Walking with Edmund is different. In the beginning—and if I’m honest sometimes even now—I found it almost maddening having to constantly stop to wait for him to pick up a scrap of derelict plastic or a stray tissue. Every few steps, it was a perennial refrain of “Oh, here’s some scrap,” and another and another. We’d return home with pockets full of trash.
Almost immediately, I realized that my irritation had less to do with our continual pauses on the trail, and more to do with the fact that, without Edmund’s diligence, the trail would be littered with packaging and debris.
What eventually struck me was how much litter and packaging surrounded me, my family, and my community, and how much of it ended up in our environment. I started to notice the plastic sandwich bag containing my lunch, the socks I'd throw away instead of repairing, the plastic wrapping around my granola, and so on.
All of these excess materials started to add up until eventually, I felt the need to confront my own consumption and re-evaluate what was necessary versus what was consumed.
Over the years and many shopping trips later, I’ve developed a framework of mindfulness toward sustainability and reducing waste. I’ve discovered three tiers of “effort” when it comes to mindful consumption, ranging from the simple, everyday act to efforts requiring me to reimagine how I live my life. Here they are: