I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. I’m vegan and try to be environmentally friendly conscious however you call it. I’m also finding myself which is probably part of growing up (not age as age makes you sound old) not buying into the hype or wanting so many possessions.
Zero waste, minimalism and fast fashion kept popping up on my YouTube feed as I’ve been watching tiny houses. I don’t even know if it was tiny houses or how I found tiny houses on YouTube rabbit warren trip that lead me to them. However they kept popping up and YouTube made me realise I’m not that environmentally friendly. I use a huge deal of disposable items, namely plastic: beauty products, razors, bags, food packaging, internet shopping in the form of packaging, dental floss, disposable items you use once and toss. So much unnecessary waste that either ends up in land fills or the oceans and seas. While cardboard, paper, metal and glass can be recycled fairly easily if the structure is in place, plastic’s way more tricky. Often different plastics are used in say one product making it hard to recycle. Other times it’s fused to paper (take away cups) making both recourses almost impossible to recycle. So get yourself a drink as it’s going to be a long one working through the why’s and how’s.
I know I’ll never be a mason jar filled with waste in 2 years person, I know I can reduce what I currently get through. I’ve done and follow the Kon Mari Method of tidying. Only keep what gives you joy automatically reduces what you have and makes you think twice when shopping if you really need something. First step’s though are understanding the difference between veganism, zero waste and minimalism. Many aspects of each cross over and I find one or the other naturally leads to a combination of all three. For example not eating meat can lead to understanding more how our environment works leading to wanting less waste, just as wanting to reduce waste leads to how the livestock industry works wanting to not to eat meat, or wanting to eat healthier can lead to less waste and eating no meat. All that’s needed is a bit of willing to research and educate yourself. Corporations are linked to our consumption and governmental lobbies. I’m in no way an activist, but I choose to vote with my money when I can. Bottom line it’s always about money not matter which side you’re on. For example in the dairy industry calves are taken away almost immediately so the heifer can continue to produce calves therefore milk. The female calves go back into the system, male calves are almost sent straight to slaughter. Money. As for whey, P recently mentioned he read that they (dairy industry) wanted to do something with the excess whey so they marketed it at bodybuilders as a protein supplement. I’ve no idea if it’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. As for palm oil, I like orangutans more which has vastly reduced what prepackaged foods I can eat and make up I can wear. For me some aspects of being vegan with zero waste clash, some are non brainers.
Veganism: “Is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”* No consumption of any animal product or by products such as meat, fish, milk, eggs, honey (I do eat honey, so unless it contains bee venom I’ll use/eat it), wool, silk, leather, fur, feathers, gelatine and the non use of products containing any animal ingredients or have been subjected to animal testing. Think cochineal for red dye (it’s squished cochineal insects. The dye’s used as food dye and in cosmetics – carmine, carminic acid, natural red 4 or E120), lanolin, fat, other animal oils in beauty and skin care products. Paint, photography paper can contain animal parts as do some beers and wine. Animal cruelty is also included, the no buying beauty products that have been subjected to animal testing. And yes there is the moral dilemma of saving drugs. You can eat all the plants in the world but you don’t know what’s going on inside. There is huge evidence showing eating meat and consuming dairy are linked to all sorts of illnesses and by switching to a plant based diet your body can function better. Forks Over Knives is a great documentary highlighting this and those corporations at play. A plant based diet however isn’t be confused with begin vegan. Plant based diet is just that eating plants only. Followers are free to wear leather, wool etc.
Zero Waste: Not producing the waste in the first place. Few items thrown out that can’t be reused or repurposed. Normally this involves minimal or zero waste at home targeting deposable plastics or one stop use items. Things used and tossed with no second thought. “Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water, or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”**. Zero wasters think out side the box shopping: taking cotton grocery bags and small cotton bags for buying bulk items from bulk shops and storing in mason jars, using mansion jars shopping for meat and cheese, seeking alternative to plastic such as metal drinking straws, razors, bottles, own bamboo cutlery when out, bamboo toothbrushes, mason jars for shampoo from bulk shops, non nylon floss, you get the picture. They also advocate non synthetic clothes as they release plastic fibres during washing which ends up the water system (first clash with vegan), buying second hand clothes, using clothes already in the system avoiding fast fashion (ethics). Saying goodbye to cleaning products as water, vinegar and castile soaps can clean just about anything. If you have to buy plastic the idea is then to research the source, is it ethical, is production good for environment. My head’s spinning, but zero waste and vegan aren’t the same thing.
Minimalism: Having less
shit possessions period.
Bill Burr says you only need one plate, one cup, one fork, one knife or as I found searching what is minimalism; “is the intentional promotion of the things we value most and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”*** It brings freedom from the all consuming passion to possess. It seeks only to keep the essentials. Minimalists choose to embrace life at its foundations and in its simplicity.
It’s easy how all 3 can lead to a mix of each other. By having less waste, you have less items. Being a vegan you live with less food groups, less cruelty, less choice of clothes, shoes, bags, beauty products which requires initially thinking outside the box.
I know I’ll never be a 100% zero waster or 100% minimalist. I love my beauty products too much. I am open to having less belongings which equals more feeling of space. I have started to make some or my own products which cuts out a few plastic bottles, tubes as I reuse the pot but the ingredients have arrived themselves in plastic containers. Many cruelty free beauty brands are environmentally friendly so will have less packaging or an empty that can be recycled easier (only if the systems in place).
Reusing and repurposing isn’t anything new to me. My Mum did it all the time growing up, more for financial reasons than anything else. Cereal boxes became shopping lists, she saved jars to make her own jam, she reused sandwich bags, I remember she used to wash them out every night replacing them every week. My bother, sister and I had sandwich boxes, but my Dad has his packed lunch in plastic bread bags. This was probably due more to my Dad’s skill of misplacing. She made soap from all the little pieces at the end of a bar, I remember she used to melt all her lipstick ends into little pots. She saved many things because you never know when you might need it (something I’ve managed to stop. Thank you The Life Saving Magic of Tidying Up for there is a thin line between when you might need it and hoarding), she made many of our clothes until it was no longer cost effective or we were old enough to say Mum, please! Everything had a second use if you thought outside the box.
Some aspects clash with being a vegan or things I’m not sure will work for me such as:
Some zero waster’s advocate avoiding wearing clothes made from man made materials such as polyester, nylon etc as during washing the fibres break off and work their way into the water system. Tiny fibres can be just as bad as huge bits of plastic (micro beads) in the oceans. Instead they say wear natural fibres, but if you’re a vegan you avoid wearing leather, wool. cashmere, mohair, fur, silk etc. Viscose and rayon are plant based so they’re okay. However then you have to look at the ethical source: the dyes, manufacture, etc. It’s like an onion when you start peeling away the layers. I workout daily whether it’s a run, in the gym or yoga and there are somethings man made fibres can do which cotton can’t. It’s a rob from Peter to pay Paul moment.
Zero waste promote second hand clothes. Maybe this is because I wore hand me downs, maybe it’s because some second hand and vintage shops give me the creeps as the clothes have the previous persons energy, I’m not keen on second hand clothes. Which leads to fast fashion.
Fast fashion is like fast food, wear a season, throw out. That means the clothes have been produced very cheaply, fall apart after a few washes, use cheap labour, which leads to working conditions. Fast fashion can be expensive enough. I’m all for buying classics, better quality of clothes, I’d love to, however a good quality classics can be out of my price range and there’s that thing of boredom.
Paper towels replacement. I use tea towels, I use micro fibre towels to dust, I have old towels for emergency floods and I also have 2 cats who love to pee outside their litter box. Their current box is a storage box with high sides to prevent over shoots, but they still miss aim. Anybody who’s had to deal with cat pee knows the smell’s hard to get out even with washing. Paper towels and ecological cleaning spray clean it up.
Plastic is almost unavoidable in Spain. In the supermarkets produce has to bagged even loose produce, weighed, sealed and priced or if just one piece of fruit unless a corner shop as they don’t want shoplifters. Even before entering supermarkets especially the larger stores, all other plastic shopping bags have to be sealed in a supermarket plastic bag to prevent shoplifting. The organic stores are better providing biodegradable food bags, but rice, flour, dry beans still come in plastic bags. There are a few bulk shops but I don’t use enough always for it to be cost effective. Plus I’m not sure how open they are or the supermarkets are to small cotton bags. There’ll be some health risk as to why I can’t. By law shops apart from clothes shops have to charge 5-10c per plastic bag. Most do, some don’t. Eating what’s in season reduces waste. If I ate what’s in season right now I’d be hungry. A twist of irony, my cats are on a chicken and dry food diet vets orders. So now I have to buy chicken which is a whole other vegan vs my cats health dilemma vs the Peter Paul situation vs no butchers anymore even in supermarkets, everything plastic wrapped.
It’s cheaper to buy at times online, somethings I can only get online, some of those items I can only get online to reduce less waste as Spain’s slowly growing to the idea of it. Cardboard boxes can be recycled, it’s the plastic packaging. I’ll add here in Barcelona has 5 types of street bins: paper, plastic and metal, glass, organic and non organic trasto things which can’t be taken to your local punto verde or recycling centre like cat litter, cigarettes, broken crockery etc. Batteries can be recycled in supermarkets or local punto verde. Cooking oil you can get punto verde containers for recycling and the punto verde’s take in electronics, furniture etc. This only works if people use them and the items are recycled once in the system.
Over the next few months I’ll be posting the transition to less waste. At the moment there’s not much point switching out as many things as possible just because creating unnecessary waste. It’s easier to do the research now so when the time comes to replace an item I know what to look for. While being a vegan has enriched my life, it does take away the joy sometimes when it comes to cheese, a gorgeous bag, make up, zero waste has a boring vibe to it. If I think outside the box and others are too coming up with non crunchy brown paper bag alternatives it’s gonna be fun!
Do you think we should recycle less or more? Do you reuse and repurpose items?
* excerpt from vegansociety.com
** excerpt from zerowasteeurope.eu
*** excerpt from becomingminimalist.com