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Veganism Reasonism or How Sustainable is Your Life?

In my first post on eating a WFPB diet, I visited the reasons why a person might choose to live this lifestyle. I focused on health.

There are other reasons for choosing this way of living.

To consume only plant-based products while continuing to wear leather shoes, jackets etc. makes no sense (for me). The same problems are inherent in raising animals whether it is for food or clothing and decor. I want to avoid killing an animal for my pleasure. It is no longer necessary for our survival.

People will argue that humans were meant to consume animal products, as hunting for food was a way of life. Most of us are no longer hunting for food, foraging maybe. The people I do know who hunt at least use every part of the animal they kill and are hunting in the wild, very different from eating beef, pork or chicken raised in an industrial facility. I don't want to kill my food, I want to harvest it and let it grow back. The same can be said for fish. Again, humans' desire for "anything I want" and "if it makes money let's do it" has caused overfishing and species of fish have either died out or are endangered. There are ways to fish sustainably so that they thrive along with us.

Goose down is another good example. I always thought wearing leather and down coats meant warmth. Funny how your perspective changes. I am a person who is always cold so down jackets and coats were my salvation. There are alternatives now that can provide equal warmth and protection from wet weather without killing geese.

In no way am I proclaiming perfection. I have succeeded in removing most animal products from my life but using alternatives has sustainability issues as well. Plastics like polyester have become a popular clothing material and we all know what plastics are doing to our environment and our bodies.

Everything is a tradeoff. If we all wear nothing but cotton clothing, which is sustainable and plant-based, it would be a positive step but how realistic is it? If we buy only previously worn clothing, shoes etc. or redesign what we have in our closets we are also decreasing our carbon footprint.

What about wood we use for so so many things like paper, furniture, building materials, and on and on ... this list is very long. Wood comes from trees which are sustainable but not the way we have been harvesting them. We are clearing forests at alarming rates which has a horrible impact on every aspect of the environment. Trees are a life-blood for the health of our entire ecosystem.

It is easy to become frustrated with these dilemmas if you are a person who really cares about your health and the health of the environment. No single person can solve all of these issues alone. It is hard enough to convince one person to change their habits. To change the minds of 8 billion people on the earth is less likely than winning the lottery.

Once again, as a vegan, you have to decide how far you are willing to go. I have one friend who is a meat eater but follows the principals of veganism in her personal life. Others are WFPB eaters but draw the line there.

I am somewhere in-between. I am a strict WFPB eater and do my best to remain true to veganism in other areas of my life. I have been buying from used clothing and book stores, and buying vegan leather goods (which unfortunately, also have environmental impacts). I try to only use scrap paper for any informal communication. However, I just received a beautiful new hardwood cutting board so who knows how the tree it came from was harvested. Hypocrisy yes, but I think it is a part of life.

One thing I know I can do better and others can as well is to pay more attention to companies' claims of their sustainability goals and make sure they really are.

Wikipedia describes sustainability as a goal for all living beings to co-exist on Earth over a long time but experts' definitions vary. Not to mention this is vague and could be interpreted as suits you.

Sustainability, like veganism, has layers - social, economic and environmental. I bet if I asked 10 people to define sustainability for themselves, the emphasis would vary depending on the person's socioeconomic level, their health status, their environmental awareness and how much they have been impacted by climate change, loss of biodiversity, and/or pollution. For example, if you ask a birder to define sustainability they might tell you that we have lost many bird species which is not a sustainable trend without severe impacts to society. The same might be true for someone living in a coastal community who has experienced flooding, hurricanes, fires, rising ocean temperatures, etc. I am also guessing many people would have no idea what it means. It is a global topic that has no single definition.

The idea of sustainability can guide decisions at the global, national, and individual levels and most likely you will pick and choose those areas that are most important to you, your family, your interests, and your general lifestyle. The term can be vague or very specific. Sustainability in a particular area, for example food, is not just the measure of how sustainable the meal on your plate is. You must also consider the inputs and outputs for producing that food - land impacts, needs for water, transport, temperature, spoilage, waste disposal, where the food came from. It becomes overwhelming to consider all of these factors - easier to give up!!! A book I read by Mike Berners-Lee, How Bad are Bananas, The Carbon Footprint of Everything gave me a perspective on the complexity of calculating the actual carbon footprint of an item.

We all know that a proven strategy for something one day can be touted as horrible the next day. An example of this is cooking using gas vs electric. Those of us who love to cook prefer (for the most part) cooking with gas. In the past electric cooking was problematic. Today that trend has completely reversed. Induction cooking is now regarded as the cutting edge for cooking and electric ranges are second best. Gas is the worst for the environment and for our health. Go figure!

Don't give up! Find your niche and work to make that area of your life a little better.

Sustainability, if positioned correctly, can be contagious. I have made a game of it - always thinking about a more sustainable option when making decisions. Finding that special piece of clothing or furniture in a second-hand store feels like a triumph. I have definitely adapted my buying habits. One very impactful change I have made is to stop and pause before I buy anything. Now, I assess whether I really need what I was shopping for and I can walk away more easily. I try to think about animal and landfill impacts of my decisions. I have also repurposed many things in my house, closet, and garden. I may choose the "dirtier"option but I won't do that lightly (the cutting board is an example. )

A major pet-peeve of mine is packaging. Everything is about marketing. How pretty is the packaging? How useful? Things such as cosmetics and other personal care items as well as online purchases that are mailed are often overpackaged. Another problem - clamshell packaging for produce like berries (clamshells cannot be recycled in my area), shrink wrapped items and other items packaged in a mix of cardboard and hard plastic inserts. I am paying attention to how many layers of cardboard and plastic I am discarding before finally getting to the product itself. I am now paying attention to companies and products that are considering these things.

I recently had to purchase a new ceiling fan/light. It wasn't shipped. I went to a big box home good store and bought one in the box. Here is what I found when I unpacked it( 2 independent layer).

This is anything but sustainable. Several thick molded styrofoam inserts which should be eliminated. It also has a lot of plastic protection, extra parts and pieces. I did not research before shopping, bad decision. If I had to do it again, I would research I would research before buying. What I will do is correspond with the store/manufacturer to express my displeasure with the packaging.

It's more difficult if you buy online as everything is then packaged for delivery. I am very guilty of this. Of course I recycle all cardboard and boxes I don't need but that is only a minor pacifier. How much confidence do I have that recycling is being handled correctly - very little.

. Here are some of the things I have been able to do easily:

  1. I do not buy water in plastic.

  2. I take reusable bags to the grocery store and farmers markets. I also take jars I have saved to the store and buy grains and beans in bulk, filling the jars instead of using plastic bags.

  3. I work on my township's Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) . We are working on passing a single use plastic ban for our township. Many townships have already enacted such bans.

  4. I take my reusable mug everywhere for my coffee.

  5. I recycle all of my paper. I shred a lot of paper and use it in my compost.

  6. Some locations near me collect single use plastic bags to be recycled so I save mine up and take them to such a location.

  7. I recycle my alkaline batteries. Our EAC offers this service free to anyone.

  8. I recycle and compost. My area is lucky to have composting companies who will take your food and garden waste and compost it for you. There is a fee so again, choices choices. My sister recently gave me a Lomi indoor composter and it is fabulous!

Takeout food is an area where I need to improve. I don't get takeout food very often but when I do it is usually packaged in non-reusable plastic. When I go out to eat I try to get my food on real dishes rather than disposable material.

There is much more I can be doing. I am sure if you objectively look at your lifestyle, there are changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint. Pick one thing and try to evaluate what you could do differently.

One additional note: I want to acknowledge that cost is a major factor in most people's purchasing decisions. I get that. It is for me as well. Getting a bargain feels like a victory so it is pleasurable to indulge. However keeping costs low does not equate to increasing waste. There are many ways and helpful websites for managing your budget so purchases are a win for you and for the environment.

Ending on a humorous note, last Thanksgiving was my first ever not eating turkey. I cannot lie and say it was easy. It is a homey wonderful tradition in my family. I still cooked a turkey for everyone else so had to smell and watch the carnivorous activity! What are my chances of convincing my family to have a totally vegan Thanksgiving? As I mentionned before, probably a lower probability than winning the lottery. You win some and you lose some but I will keep trying.


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