Conscious Living with Karissa Sparke

In light of World Vegan Day, we slow down for a thoughtful conversation with one of our all-time favourite conscious influencers @karissasparke to discuss all things vegan wellness and mindful living.
Karissa is a passionate advocate for conscious, plant-based living and serves as an inspiration to many; educating and encouraging others to make considered choices for the planet we share and its inhabitants.
Karissa shares helpful insights into the lifestyle as well as her top tips on where to find the best vegan food, fashion and more.
I grew up in the Byron Bay area, before moving away to university. I studied Occupational Therapy (not fashion related at all) and starting my blog and Instagram as a creative outlet during that time. I worked as a pediatric OT for a year after graduating, but then decided to take the plunge and do my creative work full time. My husband and I met in high school, and have moved back to Byron Bay to settle down after a few years of moving around and travelling.
I now do content creation full-time, also working on occasion with different brands - styling and assisting on photoshoots just because I love fashion and creativity SO much.
Besides work – I surf, run, do yoga, occasionally paint and mother my two fur children Peanut (a golden retriever) and Bean (our ragdoll cat).
I’m also passionate about using this crazy little platform I’ve found myself on, to talk about mental illness and my personal struggles with anxiety and depression in the hopes that I can maybe help breakdown some of the stigma and taboo of mental illness and make people that struggle with these things too feel less broken and alone.
Three words to best describe yourself
Honestly, I can be anxious, perfectionistic and emotionally-drive.
But I am also deeply caring, thoughtful and I’d like to say creative.
What does beauty mean to you?
I think real beauty is acceptance.
 I think when someone accepts themselves as they are it’s so beautiful. It doesn’t mean you don’t work on yourself or might want to make things better. BUT that it’s coming from a place of acceptance
One #EOHbeauty product you can’t live without
Obsessed with the Dual Brow Perfect. Even if I don’t wear makeup, I still do my brows. 
I love how effortless this product makes it. 
Favourite self-care ritual
I love getting facials. I do them at home too. But I love that allocated time where I can go – switch off from the world for a bit (and my phone) and just be indulged a little.
Treasured quote or words of wisdom
Progress not perfection
 I’ve been vegetarian since I was like 11, it was a very gradual thing as a kid, I just remembered not liking meat. Then gradually didn’t have milk, cheese etc. It wasn’t a very conscious thing, to be honest, but was obviously about the animals.
But then when I was in my early 20’s husband, then fiancé,  and I decided to go 100% plant-based together (he wasn’t vegetarian before then, though obviously ate a lot of vegetarian meals). For us, it was largely the environmental impact of animal agriculture as well as the health and ethical factors.  From memory, Tom had done some research and decided to trial Veganuary. Then we watched a bunch of documentaries and his favourite was Cowspiracy, which came out that same year.
Why you’re passionate about vegan living
I am passionate about this lifestyle because I know it is probably the single most significant change you can make in order to reduce your environmental impact.
When did you make the change?
Like I said I was vegetarian, then practically vegan since I was 11-ish. It was then in 2014 that my husband Tom and I became plant-based.
Have you noticed and physical/psychological health changes/benefits?
I just love how much easier it has made it to eat a healthy diet. I mean, now there are actually a lot more options for “junk food” which makes it harder. But generally speaking, our diet has improved because we just eat so much fresh produce.
Also interestingly, Tom tracked his blood results and his iron actually improved significantly after being on a vegan diet.
Most challenging aspects of this lifestyle?
The challenging aspects are honestly fading away every day because now more than ever it is easier to follow this lifestyle. There are so many substitutes and specific products in your grocery shop and most restaurants actually have decent options now. But previously it was the social aspect.
However early on Tom and I did make the decision to prioritize social connections and trying to make this lifestyle seem accessible. So when we would eat out, we would always do our best to make a meal vegan, but we’re never going to say to friends “we’re not coming because that place doesn’t serve vegan food”. They always had something vegetarian we would adapt to our best. For us, it was being flexible when we were out to ensure we could show people that this lifestyle is “doable”.
Most rewarding elements of this lifestyle?
For me, it’s like this little win every single day. Knowing that even if I feel like I’ve had a bad day, or haven’t been that productive… that I have done something every single day to be kinder to the planet.
Your stance on beeswax within beauty products?
Ethically sourced honey and beeswax have always been okay in my books. Our bees are SO important to the life of everything. So I definitely think we need to be taking care of them, and their population. Hence I think bee farmers that are doing things well are crucial.
Also personally, I’ve always looked at sentience as an influencing factor, so as far as we know at this stage, the bee’s capacity for suffering is certainly different than pigs, cows etc.
Favourite vegan brands?
Obviously Eye of Horus.
Others are RMS, Drunk Elephant, REN skincare, Summer Fridays.
We are lucky to have 2 entirely vegan restaurants here in Byron Bay – No Bones and Yulli’s. Both are amazing. Plus we have Greenhouse Canteen just up the coast – I had these amazing guys cater my wedding and it was epic.
Also, we ate RELIGIOUSLY 1 x week at Soul Burger when we lived in Sydney – you have to go. 
I’m obsessed with LOCO LOVE and PANA chocolate. Ben + Jerry’s vegan ice cream is insane. Also if you haven’t had Sunfed Foods chicken-free chicken, you have to! It’s made in NZ and its amazing.
Stella McCartney (obvs). 
Accessories brands like Poppy Lissiman and Sans Beast are amazing too.
The best piece of advice you could give to someone looking to explore a plant-based lifestyle?
Educate yourself and feel empowered with knowledge. Watching some of the documentaries that really inform you can make it easier to make the shift. I love Cowspiracy, Game Changers was an interesting take too. Dominion and Earthlings are HEAVY, but it’s reality. So I think anyone who watches these, even if they don’t go 100% plant-based will definitely make more conscious and intentional choices in how often and what kind of meat they eat.
Having those bigger reasons behind your choice – whether it is environmental, ethical or health reasons will make it easier on your journey.
And then I’m definitely all about progress, not perfection. I think the more people that can follow this lifestyle, even imperfectly (like me), the more difference it makes.
We hope this Journal piece inspires and encourages you. If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you! You can reach us through email, Instagram, Facebook or Live Chat.