Veganism is sustainable living in action, so let’s take it a few steps further
In the last few years, veganism has started to undergo a shift where it was first seen as an extreme joke to the masses, and is now regarded as the best way to reject the harm of animals as a person and as a consumer. With the ethics of veganism also comes the way that we view our environment, and with veganism now being recognized as the single best way to combat climate change, the lifestyle is undergoing a new kind of scrutiny. Non-vegans, famous for their “gotcha!” moments, where they are gleeful to point out everyday products that aren’t cruelty free, have added sustainability to their list of things they’ll drill vegans on.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone drone on and on to me about the carbon footprint of a box of pasta while ignoring the laundry list of problems that come with their burger or milkshake. It’s led me to consider ways in which I can “walk the walk” of sustainability apart from just being a vegan, and using my local recycling program. Sourcing our food and everyday products as ethically as possible can be taken a step further, for both the good of the animals we wish to protect and the environments they live in. Distancing ourselves from those angry claws of capitalism can go beyond being cruelty free. Here’s a few changes I strive to make myself that go beyond just turning off the water when I brush my teeth.
Purchasing more of my goods secondhand. From couches to clothing, hopping on Craigslist or peeking through a local consignment shop is an excellent way to cut back on wastefulness. While factory made clothing is cheap and affordable, guess what is every more affordable and better in the long run? A visit to your local vintage store! Now, I’m not suggesting that you start buying socks and undies from complete strangers (bad, bad idea), but for heavier staples such as sweaters, jackets, t-shirts and jeans, secondhand can be a real lifesaver. After visiting some of Toronto’s thrift stores during January and seeing what kinds of gorgeous items I could find, I decided that for the next year, I wanted to buy at least half of my clothes secondhand.
As for fixtures around the house, chances are, you can obtain a prettier piece of furniture in a vintage wares shop than you will at IKEA, and of higher quality as well. Antiquing is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend, and makes for a very cool experience when you can give back to a local shop.
Taking advantage of buying local. Listen, I know just how lucky I am that in every town I’ve lived in for the last few years, there has been a farmer’s market available. I lived in small town Virginia all through university where it was a community staple, and in DC, tons of neighborhoods have developed their own farmer’s market weekends. If you have access to the freshness of a farmer’s market, take advantage of it. Supporting local produce and bolstering that economy sends a message that we want our food sourced in a particular way, and just as importantly, we want it to be accessible to any person who wishes to buy it. Even the chain supermarket across the street from me has an entire produce section off to the side that lists and describes exactly where it came from, how it was grown, and how to reach the farm from where it came.
Look, I’m not the type who gets freaked out by GMOs and the like, but it’s awesome to be able to meet and see the people who want to put food on the tables of others without the support of subsidiaries that corporate farms are privileged to have. It makes me feel more connected to my geographical area.
Opt for reusable, and do it yourself. This one is especially big for cleaning products that are often tied to larger companies that are guilty of animal testing. Making your own cleaning products can be quite simple, granted you have some kitchen staples like vinegar, baking soda, citrus fruit, and running water on hand. Google is your best friend in this situation, and I have memories as a college student looking up how to DIY in my dorm room to avoid a visit to Wal Mart. These are habits I want to prioritize in my adult life. Nixing trash items like paper towels in exchange for reusable cloth keeps your trash level low, as well as investigating items such as reusable water bottles, snack bags for the kids, shopping bags for you, and even menstrual cups for those tired of filling up the trash can every month.
Look, I used to be the kind of person who read about going green and found it repetitive, useful… and maybe a little boring. I admittedly care a lot for the environment, but until I thought long and hard about the industries I was supporting when placing mass orders online for items I could obtain locally, it didn’t cross my mind as much as it probably should have. If the environmental aspects of going DIY don’t raise up passionate feelings for you, consider how being attached to capitalism as an economy has hurt people and animals alike, and use that to fuel your fire.