Meet Brian Berneman and Kayla Greenville, the duo behind Conscious Action, an online community raising awareness and inspiring meaningful action on topics including climate change, ethical fashion, plant power and more.
So firstly, how did you meet?
Brian and I met through a startup venture in 2016 after an international businessman came to NZ and serendipitously assembled a team of wellness professionals with the goal of opening a wellness center in Parnell. We worked closely together for nine months, only to be made redundant when the investor pulled out, just weeks after we finally opened! It was a really interesting time for both of us as I (Kayla) was going through some personal turbulence and Brian’s visa was tied to the business so we took some time to ourselves knowing that we would surely link up later to create something together.
How did the idea of starting Conscious Action come about?
Brian and I had been to a screening of Plastic Oceans, an emotive documentary that raises awareness about a huge global problem. While it was a great evening, we really felt like there was more to be done in terms of inspiring people into action and empowering them in the knowing that they can and do make a difference. We decided that we could create something that did both.
A day later we caught up for a cup of tea to discuss ideas. We started by writing the word ‘WHY’ on a page. It all seemed to flow from there and within a week we had a name, a logo, a live website and our first event up; appropriately, the event was called ‘Some Inspiring Why’s’.
We hosted Sarah Tanner (wellness entrepreneur), Hannah Jensen (contemporary artist) and Zac Franich (“The Bachelor”) and facilitated discussion about why they do what they do before leading a meditation where people could come up with ways to connect with their own ‘why’. It was such a magical event for us and it planted a seed that Brian and I are now having the best time nurturing.
What are your main goals with Conscious Action? Where do you see it going in the next few years?
Like so many others, we could feel a real shift in terms of people wanting to live more consciously, but we also noticed that many didn’t have the tools or that they were feeling disheartened by the magnitude of some of the issues we’re facing as a society and in our environment.
Our goal is to host events and workshops that raise awareness and inspire meaningful action. We help people to come up with actions, big or small, that they can take in their everyday lives. Our events all have a different theme that is related to a Sustainable Development Goal(s) (set by the United Nations) and we always take a really positive and compassionate approach.
The big vision is to appoint Conscious Action ambassadors around the world who will host events that are culturally and socially relevant in their local communities with the aim of inspiring and empowering individuals all over the planet to take conscious action. We’re just started out so very much focused on New Zealand for now!
Was starting an organisation like this one, always something you wanted to do?
Brian and I have always felt like leaders in terms of wellness were working hard to develop our own respective businesses when Conscious Action found us… I think the thing that’s most exciting about it is that we’re just the facilitators, not the experts, and so we get to learn about topics we’re passionate about, alongside our audience, while also using our skills as wellness professionals as well. It’s such a dream in that sense – while at the same one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!
Kayla, have you found your skills as a life coach are utilised when helping run Conscious Action?
Absolutely. My mission as a coach has always been to “inspire others to inspire themselves” and through Conscious Action I get to do exactly that, just in a group setting. My coaching is about helping people to find clarity and flow by identifying and clearing resistance and it is centered around taking responsibility for the self. Conscious Action is very similar in the sense that we are helping to break down the barriers that might prevent people taking action for themselves, their community or the environment and empowering them to take responsibility for their own actions.
Where do the ideas for the workshops you run, come from?
We draw a lot of inspiration from the amazing leaders in the Auckland community and also from people who have got in touch to share their passion with us.
We also tap in to global campaigns such as Earth Hour or Fashion Revolution Week and the Sustainable Development Goals, set by the United Nations.
Our sights are set on bringing some world-renowned speakers to NZ as well – once we can find a money tree (or sponsor!).
How have people reacted to Conscious Action, what has the feedback been like?
We have been quite overwhelmed and really motivated by the reaction so far! It’s been incredible, and we cannot believe the amazing community that has formed after just six months. Conscious Action seems like its own entity, so Brian and I feel very privileged to be the ones helping to bring it into the world. The aspect that people seem to love the most is the idea of action and accountability through community.
Have you always been interested in sustainability?
K: I have always loved the outdoors and natural environments but my interest in sustainability was really triggered during my time with the startup when I got really involved in the intricacies of a waste strategy! From there I learnt more and more about the different aspects of sustainability, and while I am interested in all of them, my key passion is encouraging others to take a positive approach and to focus on the opportunities.
For Brian, it was a gradual thing. When he was young his mum would tell him to turn of the lights off in any rooms he was no longer in, or to close the water tap while he was brushing his teeth, but it really started to sink in during the time he spent living and working at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat centre in California. There he was more in touch with nature and the elements. Since being in New Zealand, Brian has been more interested in sustainability by way of veganism and living more consciously.
So, Brian, being from Argentina, what are some of the main differences you notice between there and NZ in terms of conscious living and sustainability?
It’s hard to compare the countries but comparing the big cities, Buenos Aires (where I grew up), is like ten times bigger in size than Auckland and alike has ten times more population. The sheer number creates a lot more issues just because of the scale one sees of pollution, rubbish and consumerism. Auckland has so much nature, so many parks, beaches and water – one of the reasons I decided to stay here. At the same time, I started seeing that even though it’s a smaller scale, the mentality is mostly the same – consuming more, buying the new product, not thinking beyond the use one has of the products, etc. One of the main differences I see is that there is a bigger disconnect here because people think that they live and are part of a “clean and green” city and country whereas in Buenos Aires people know that’s not the case. I would love to see changes in both countries, and I’m staring to see a big movement towards more conscious living and consuming but I think that until people acknowledge what is really happening it will take longer than what I’d like to see.
What are your top tips for someone who is wanting to live more consciously?
- Awareness: get connected to your true self and to the beautiful natural environment that sustains you. This will help you to slow down and make more conscious choices.
- Know your why: sometimes it can be expensive to make the best choices for yourself or the environment, so you need to be clear on why you’re making them. This is the only way you can understand the real value of those choices!
- Compassion: understand and respect that everyone is on their own journey.
- Positivity: we have so many opportunities to make our communities and environments better places to live – stay focused on the incredibly exciting future we’re moving into.
- Connection: be part of communities that are creating change and connect with neighbours and family and friends to start sharing resources.
For more on Conscious Action and to see what events are coming up, visit consciousaction.co.nz