I think it’s safe for me to assume that most of you reading this post are striving to live as ethically as you can. Or, at the very least, you’re interested in learning more about how you can better live in harmony with the planet, your fellow humans and our non-human animal companions. I mean, if you’re into intentionally causing harm to the environment, animals and other human beings, I’d recommend closing your browser tab now, because the primary aim of this blog is to promote conscious living in all areas of your life.
Joking and assumptions aside, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my journey as a conscious member of society; specifically, about all the aspects of my routine that have come under scrutiny as I try to lead a more ethically minded life. What started off as a foray into vegetarianism and cruelty-free makeup has evolved into me following a vegan lifestyle, eating 100% plant based, cutting out fast fashion and striving to produce less waste wherever possible. The more conscious I’ve become of everything that needs fixing in society, and of how I can contribute, the more issues I’ve sought to address. These include:
| Reducing my carbon footprint
| Buying locally sourced produce
| Buying organic produce
| Buying seasonal produce (no Strawberries in December!)
| Buying ethically produced homeware, electronics and clothing
| Cutting down on plastic packaging
| Relying less on processed food, because packaging
| Vetting food brands and corporations
| Relying less on big food brands and shopping independently more often
| Reducing my consumption of palm oil
| Reducing my consumption of GMOs
| Switching to a less awful bank
As you can see, I’ve ended up with rather a lot on my plate and, to be honest, it’s gotten pretty exhausting. I know that there are people like me who are doing all of these things – eating a vegan diet, living a zero waste lifestyle which in turn means they are buying less processed food with less packaging from less evil corporations. It’s encouraging to see people doing it. It makes me that much more confident I’ll get there one day.
That said, I feel like I am making a lot of effort right now to make a positive impact in the world. I feel tremendously happy, and grateful, that I have been able to cut all animal products from my diet, and from my lifestyle generally. I am proud of my investment in leading a less wasteful lifestyle, and have grown much more conscious of plastic packaging, attempting to avoid it where I can, particularly when purchasing food. Whether you’re cutting down your meat intake, have just switched to a vegetarian diet, are learning about making more conscious fashion choices or are striving to reduce or cut out all packaged/processed foods, you should feel very proud of yourself for caring enough to give it a go.
As pleased as I am with my ethical progress, I can’t shake the feeling that I could be doing better. I could have decided against buying that packaged makeup. I could have skipped buying that tub of hummus on a whim on Friday night, and made a batch myself over the weekend. I could have decided not to give that new vegan cheese a try, given that it’s wrapped in plastic. I could have, I could have, I could have.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran to the closest McDonald’s.
I fear that, when we try to cover every base at once, we risk becoming disillusioned with them all. If someone approached me looking to go vegan, and I told them the only way to really make it a worthwhile endeavour would be if they were to only eat organic, locally sourced produce and make most of their food from scratch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran to the closest McDonald’s. They’d be much more likely to stick with their lifestyle change if I encouraged them to go into it slowly, and enjoy the many accidentally vegan goodies (most of which are processed and packaged) that make the transition less scary.
The same logic applies to the zero waste movement. As much as it might seem counterproductive, for example, to learn of an omnivore living a zero waste lifestyle (given that animal agriculture is one of the most wasteful industries on the planet), who are we to assume that this person is even able to go vegan? And isn’t it more supportive and productive to encourage their efforts regardless, in the hope that they will make a positive impression on other people in their lives?
I was recently reminded that some of the things I want – non-packaged cucumber, coffee beans in recyclable bags, etc. – are simply not widely available enough for me to be able to easily access yet. Sure, I could spend my weekends traipsing to Whole Foods or a farmer’s market with jars and bags, making all my food from scratch, but right now, my lifestyle doesn’t quite allow for me to dedicate so much time and energy to that. This will be different for everyone but, for me, I’m unable to prioritise buying all my food in bulk, for example, and I want to work on feeling less bad about that reality.
Ultimately, as participants in capitalist society, it is going to be hard for us to lead fully ethical lives. All we can do is to try our best within our means, learning as much as we can along the way, and adapting when we can without restricting ourselves. We’re doing the best that we can, and that’s great.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Let me know in the comments!