Intro to Sustainability

Since the end of 2019 and through covid times I’ve been taking the opportunity to fall in love with myself again and to reconnect with why I started lenspeace while we renew our process. It’s been healing in many ways and has helped to define the future of lenspeace. In honor of Earth Day I want to talk about the area of design that started my practice and integrates my lifestyle, sustainability. My design career grew out of my love for the natural world, our place in it, and how the practice of sustainability helps us to understand our connections to all of life. I have always been a lover of the rationality of science, and Spock was my first TV crush as a baby Lennie, so science is my starting point.

When I was in high school, I was involved in advanced courses as early as my freshman year because my aptitude testing was off the charts for science. I joined a program called STT, Scientific Tools and Technology, which was run by the county education system in a partnership with Fernbank’s Science Center and Natural History Museum. As a freshman I was bussed off campus early in the morning before school started for the other students to Fernbank to study 12 different science disciplines from working professors and was returned with just enough time to get the bus for swim team practice. I had so little time to switch I often wore my team suit so I didn’t have to change for a swim meet. For a quarter of the year all I studied was science and math. This one quarter covered all of my science credit for my high school education with the exception of chemistry. When I was back at my regular campus, I often got passes to join the AP biology classes to partake in dissections of larger animals—yes, I was this interested in biology when I was 15. I’m fascinated with how all of life organizes itself into systems, from natural systems into human systems. I’m equally fascinated with the people who choose to understand these relationships to make sense of our life experience and even improve upon it. My interest in life sciences led me to an inquiry in philosophy, which originally emerged out of a study of the phenomena of our natural world. Historically, natural philosophy and science were synonymous ideas and disciplines until modern science separated itself from an exploration of the esoteric and left ambiguous thought experiments to philosophers in favor of the physical evidence of the scientific method. I am a firm believer in the need for both of these areas to remain integrated. Without philosophy, scientific & rational exploration can lose both meaning and ethics, which are essential in making sure the world we create is a world we want to live in.

My fascination with the many systems of life itself has led me on an amazing adventure of experience and study over the last 20+ years. I’m the kind of person who reads anatomy & physiology books for fun. I became an arborist to learn tree biology and how humans and forest ecosystems sustain each other within urban environments. I have worked as a migrant farmhand alongside immigrant workers on organic farms and nurseries to understand our relationship to food and agriculture. I have lived without a car for many years of my adult life, utilizing a bike only for transportation to invest in my self-sufficiency, however society makes that hard to maintain all the time. I am an avid backcountry camper and value my time away from social constructs to experience the planet on its terms. All of this has taught me that I can get anywhere and do anything I choose to under my own physical, mental, and emotional power, and have defined my sense of self-confidence.

My first ten years as a graphic designer were spent supporting sustainable small businesses, non-profits, and community development giving me insight into various industry practices and concerns of each of them, which broadened my view of the issues we face considerably. I crave to know what the world looks like when we live in harmony with it and only take as much as we need from it to foster a life experience centered around reciprocity. As a result, I have been involved in the cultural development of sustainable movements for over 20 years in some form or another—usually behind the scenes. I started my design career in the health and wellness world and helped bring green smoothies and raw veganism into mass culture. I have spent my life encouraging self-actualization processes to engage in a conscious relationship with life, outside of the fabric of our inherited capitalist patriarchal social constructs. My 20+year lifestyle of plant-based eating is rooted in my respect for and love of all life on this planet, including my own. I do not engage the idea that I am superior to any form of life, and I seek a balance within our existing systems that encourage the least amount of harm and violence to the world around me. Plant-based eating is more than a diet to me, it’s a spiritual practice of non-violent action that grounds my creative energy and holds me within a space of reverence I can mindfully extend to others because I engage these ideas as a lifestyle.

My love for sustainability isn’t about “tree hugging” or “saving the earth” as much as it has always been about our shared understanding of our relationships to ourselves and the world around us. How we relate to nature is often reflected in how we relate to each other. Nature is rich in diversity, symbiotic relationships, nuanced communication, and reciprocity. It has so much to teach us about what it means to be human, the flow of time, how creativity can be engaged without waste, alongside the many lessons of the universe. Yet, the human systems we are socialized within often do not include this understanding. We left the earth and its processes out of our framing of modern reality. American culture is quite disconnected from the natural world and that division is rooted in white supremacist ideals of dominion over life and others as opposed to being in a relationship to and with all of life. I have come to the conclusion in my own work that in order to live sustainably with life, or as a society, we have to reassess our relationship to our existing white supremacist capitalist culture. Design is how I learned to express myself in a way that inspires and empowers us to create new and better systems of engagement rooted in respect for ourselves, each other, and the natural world together, by using what we already have in front of us. Everything that has ever been created by lenspeace as a studio has been a strategic and artistic expression of this core design philosophy, and I am personally excited for the growth we’re experiencing now as we move into facilitation sessions.

Three aspects of natural designs that inspire me the most are regeneration, diversity, and symbiotic relationships, and I want to take time to explore these relationship ideas in depth. As you all have been told, I’m creating new content centered around My Impact. We are so grateful to everyone who has been showing up and signing up for My Impact on Myself, and My Impact on Community. We’re revising this content to make it even better and will be launching sessions here again soon, but I want to provide context to these other two series so we understand how complex the problems we have in front of us are, and how the other two courses can help us define how we wish to take our power back for the sake of our collective healing. I am excited to announce the last installment in this course series, My Impact on The Planet, centered around unpacking where unsustainable ideas come from, how we have internalized and perpetuate them, and how we are each empowered to choose a life that reflects our shared values of love, creativity, respect for life on earth and independent human expression. Combined these sessions are integrated strategies that bring us together to manifest the world we want to live in, by way of conscious and intuitive community design.

We know Zoom fatigue is real, so I’m trying to produce this content in a variety of ways. Written articles will be released that are my conceptual starting point for the decks and workshops centering these principles. I’m going to share with you how I get my head around myself. Every article will come with a video in case some of you just can’t with all the reading, my cute face will tell you all about it in a short vid. If those teasers get you interested, we’d love for you to join us for our online sessions for My Impact and become a part of our community bringing these integrated ideas into focus. Check out our new sessions in our workshops.

All love. All ways.