Why They Call it a “Lifestyle”

So you’re making the transition to a plant based diet. Here’s the part perhaps no one has told you yet – Being aware of where food comes from raises the level of consciousness and suddenly you begin to wonder where other things come from too. Day by day tiny new revelations seem to pop up out of nowhere. Your thoughts go from regular ol’ you to hyperconscious-obsessive-worry-syndrome. Maybe they sound something like …

In the grocery store: Wait, where did this produce come from? Should I buy organic? I just read an article about how pesticides pollute our waterways… Is it fair trade? Were the farm-workers paid a living wage or are they suffering in poverty so that I can save at the store? Is it local, or is it out of season in my area and therefore picked while unripe and flown in from another country? Talk about a waste of fuel and energy! Hold on, I wonder how many of these plastic bags for fruits and vegetables I’ve used in my lifetime… Hundreds? A thousand? I should buy reusable ones… I recycle them, but reusable bags will help to reduce the demand to create more. Hmmm and what else… Oh My Goodness look at all the packaging! I’ve never thought about it before! Plastic bottles of juice and salad dressing, plastic bags of cookies nestled in little plastic trays, all of the jarred and canned convenience foods… I recycle but not all of it is recyclable, maybe I should reduce my consumption of processed foods…

In restaurants: Why did the server give us so many napkins? They’re just going to be thrown out. I should take them with me. And the straws! I have never considered straws before! I need to start asking them to hold the straw. Styrofoam containers?! This place is a mine field! Will they allow me to bring my own containers? And these plastic wrapped forks, what a waste, I have silverware in my house.

In the home: Excuse me, my Tide laundry detergent is carcinogenic?! Holy crap ALL off my cosmetics and soap and moisturizer and shaving cream are made by companies that test on animals! And they contain poisonous ingredients too?? And these cleaning products, and my palmetto bug spray… I guess that stuff can’t be good either. I haven’t been minding my water or electricity usage, I’m going to have to start paying attention to that. While I’m at it, I think I should start an organic garden in the yard. That will save some of that waste from getting things at the supermarket.

It sounds stressful, right? Don’t worry there are solutions to all of these issues. What is really depressing is NOT knowing that the problems exist. These questions are just a few examples of the countless realizations that will come to mind as you continue on a path of becoming conscious of the world around you and the impact of your choices. The best part of all of this is being able to change your choices, one at a time. It takes years to shed the old habits that we have known our entire lives. Stay strong and keep at it. You are making the world a better place, just do the best you can.

It’s easy to start by just going to the closest health food store and looking to see what kind of household products are sold. Maybe after buying Seventh Generation or Meyers detergent you can work up to making your own household cleaners. Here are a few links to eco-friendly websites and products for living out your newfound awareness:

http://www.treehugger.com/

http://www.to-goware.com/

http://www.healthybitchdaily.com/cat/what-the-hell-do-i-buy

http://www.divacup.com/

http://www.happyheinys.com/

These are just a few ideas, I highly encourage that you harness your Google powers and click around to discover more. Do your own research, and the internet is the best place to start because it’s the freest information exchange that exists. You can find a website or a blog that sheds light on information because it’s real and vital and true and honest, not because their advertisers are paying them. CNN, FOX, and NPR simply cannot give you unbiased information because of corporate advertisers. Be your own reporter, heck start your own blog and document your discoveries. Please comment and add a website here that you think can help others just beginning their journey. Now get out there and change the world!

To wear or not to wear?

So you’re experiencing a vast expansion of consciousness about all things due to your moves toward a plant based diet, and one day you decide to stop buying leather. You feel great about this decision! You’re doing good in this world! Then you pause to glance around your home.

Belts, shoes, bags, couches, car seats – these once beloved possessions suddenly become confusing. Your favorite shoes that you wear every day, that belt that makes you feel so stylish… what are you going to do now? Should you be expected to trade in that car or get new furniture? It feels unfair and frustrating to be duped for your entire life and now, awakened to the truth, you’re stuck with a collection of stuff and not sure if you can continue to use and feel good about it.

As far as my Google skills can tell, the resolution is a matter of personal preference:

  • Keep and use the items for now. Taking the step to stop buying any new leather products is an amazing choice, and you still feel comfortable using the stuff you have. Eventually everything will wear out and you will be leather-free.
  • Ditch all leather products immediately. You are feeling creeped out by the idea of having to even touch that stuff again. Ideally donate everything to thrift stores that raise money for an animal shelter, women’s shelter, homeless shelter etc. You could also give them to friends and family. Big ticket items like furniture or cars will be sold or traded as soon as possible.
  • Combination of the first two options – keep one or two items and get rid of everything else. Maybe a couple of things have sentimental value and you choose to neither part with them nor wear them.

I fall in the third category because I have a pair of sandals I have worn almost daily for 4 years, and a pair of boots I don’t want to wear or give away. Eventually I feel like the right thing to do will be to part with these possessions, but for now this is where I’m at. I think everyone has a right to make choices about what to do with their old stuff, the most important fact being the decision to not buy it anymore.

A big issue for society to me is that the word “leather” is not descriptive of what it actually is. It sounds like a high quality, expensive and fashionable material to make durable items because we have been conditioned our entire English-speaking lives to believe this. (Similar to how the words “bacon” and “meat” belie the true origins of what they describe.) Leather is actually the skin of a dead animal, no different than the skin on your arms, neck or stomach. Of course it’s a high quality material for holding our cellphones and keychains in a purse, because it’s an incredibly strong and supple material for holding in our organs and protecting our bloodstream from bacteria and disease.

We also casually think that the skin being used for shoes and purses is cow skin, but that is not always the case. Cat and dog farms in China provide cheap skin and fur so we can buy $10 “leather” shoes and purses in America. If you’re reading and you haven’t actually made the decision to stop buying animal products yet, this fact alone should be enough to start thinking about this issue.

This post was prompted by a Facebook friend of mine posting this video with fashion designer Stella McCartney explaining why she uses no leather in her designs. A warning – I couldn’t watch all of it.

Susan Nichole is a popular vegan handbag and wallet designer, and I enjoy wearing vegan TOMS.

Do right by these beautiful cows – together we can decrease the demand for these products until there is a tipping point.