What is “conscious consumerism” and how V-Side fits in the ethos.

“Conscious consumerism is driven by making purchase decisions that have a positive social, economic, environmental, and political impact.”

Through the years watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, talking with factory workers and reading in the newspaper when a company was outed by a whistle-blower the defenselessness I felt was overwhelming to the point of choosing ignorance. ‘If I just don’t think about where my yoga pants come from or what happens to them when I wash them and when they are no longer of use, I’m just one person and it’s only one pair of pants. I teach and need to wear pants…’ However, as a naturally curious human, choosing ignorance was the most difficult thing to do - I couldn’t keep focus on maintaining my ignorance. So I stopped trying…

In 2013 I transitioned my diet from vegetarian to vegan. Why the distinction between seemingly synonymous words and why bother? “Vegetarian” colloquially has come to mean someone who doesn’t eat animal flesh, but animal products are acceptable: eggs, dairy, honey, wool, mohair… and “Vegan” as someone who not only doesn’t eat animal flesh but also refrains from animal products. Although in our human history we have relied on fibers like wool and the convenience of poultry laying an egg, farming practices today have become absurd and often grotesque. Force-feeding sheep to become so obese the bones in their legs are not strong enough to hold them up. The purpose is for one sheep to have the skin mass to produce at least twice the amount of wool of a regular sized sheep, the ones we fantasize about bounding through Irish meadows. Chickens naturally don’t produce an egg a day, let alone 2 or 3. Now, not all farmers participate in these objectively unethical practices. But when we have the benefit of more accurate science and better technology, why not use it to the best of its’ advantage? Moleskin (not made of moles but a way of processing cotton) instead of wool, for example. And hemp…

Hemp textiles would be even better! Why haven’t we encouraged… oh wait… Minnesota once had a booming hemp industry with over 13 textile mills in the state? What happened? After WWI, in 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was passed which was the real beginning of the end for our booming hemp textile industry. A versatile crop and industry decimated by politics.

I’m roping myself back in from going deeper into a rabbit-hole... Back to topic, the definition of “conscious consumerism” has been given but how does V-Side fit into the ethos?

V-Side is a company to be a metaphorical magnet of ethical and vegan products for consumers to feel comfortable with their purchasing choices as we do. As we grow, each product, each artist, each company is researched to meet our own ethical standards. There are a lot of companies who sell “locally made” items, but where do the ingredients come from? The distance to ship African harvested shea butter to Minnesota is more miles than I’m willing to bicycle. Are there any carbon offsetting initiatives they are involved in? Are they personally connected to the farm? We at V-Side believe that if a manufacturer is not able to answer these questions (and more) we will not sell their product. There are also many companies that sell vegan products alongside their non-vegan products. Now, yes, the product as a single entity is vegan, but the company is not. While the vegan product is produced over in one room, the room next door may be processing a milk, leather, crushed beetle products. We will only partner with companies that tick all the boxes, vegan, locally sourced (as much as can be produced in local capacity), locally manufactured. As we grow our “featured artist” list the artists are also representative of the V-Side ecosystem: local, vegan (plant-based, herbivore… choose the preferred label), and the items sold are with regard to it’s entire life. Although prints may be on “archival” paper with archival inks they are also printed at ethical printing facilities. Materials safe for collectors to have in their homes, and when the artwork has reached the end of it’s life it too will return without harm to the earth.

There’s a lot to think about, and we’re not perfect. But, we are continuously learning and seeking to be more informed and also continue to ask questions of others. Those questions we ask may already have a known answer of ‘I don’t know’ but it starts a conversation and a seed has been planted. We also understand not all seeds germinate, but even those little idea seeds that don’t germinate doesn’t mean the crop won’t grow.

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