Anything is possible, isn’t it?

“I think I want to start being ‘Zero Waste'” are the words that I want to say but that I don’t quite feel ready to. I’m inspired but daunted, motivated but scared, at the bottom of the learning curve but ready to climb.

“Zero waste” wasn’t a term I was familiar with until I became vegan and even then, it’s only been recently I’ve really started to take more notice of it. In essence, living zero waste means trying to live a life that minimises disposables (waste) by refusing single use plastics and recycling and reusing as much as possible. It means trying to never throw anything into the bin, unless it’s a compost bin! How is that even possible I hear you say. Well, me too. I hear myself saying it too. How can you eat a packet of crisps without throwing something in the bin afterwards? Surely some waste is an inevitable part of modern life?

Food storage goals, plastic free!

When you look around though, you will see that disposables and plastics are absolutely everywhere. From the bag of pasta you innocently buy in the shop, to the toothbrush you just threw away last week. From cotton buds to a sandwich packet, from wrapping paper to baby wipes, from takeaway boxes to washing up bottles and from a Starbucks coffee cup to a party balloon. Almost every single thing we (me included) purchase, is in some way disposable and a huge majority of things come with some form of plastic packaging, labelling or bag. What I’m starting to learn since delving into this world is that just recycling our plastic bottles isn’t quite enough and there is a hidden environmental footprint behind almost everything we buy.

Every bit of plastic ever created, still exists

When I became vegan I suddenly became hyper aware of the extent to which we exploit animals for our own use and I would start to notice animal products everywhere I went. Now, I’m starting to see it with plastic and again, it’s a huge awakening. Not only that but I’m struck with the fact that if I don’t take responsibility for making more conscious purchases, then who will? I’m as guilty as the next person at buying disposables for convenience and enjoyment, for ease and for saving time. I take advantage of instant purchasing on Amazon and order a takeaway when we’ve got an empty fridge because all those things just make a life a little easier sometimes.

In the vegan movement, there is a saying, “there’s no excuse for animal abuse,” and perhaps the same can be said about waste. What is our excuse for throwing so much away and is our excuse good enough?

So just as I decide I’m ready to start making some changes, there’s that age old question that comes to mind….how would I make a difference? Me refusing plastic won’t stop plastic being on the shelves. Me switching to cloth nappies won’t stop nappies being produced. Me trying to buy as much second hand as possible won’t reduce the production line on new products. The plastic will still be there. But then I remember that surely refusing it, recycling it and reusing it is still the better option? One less piece of plastic actually making it to landfill is still better for the planet. Plus, if I let the fact that despite me being vegan, meat is still everywhere I look, bother me, I wouldn’t be doing very well. The vegan movement has grown hugely in the relatively short amount of time I’ve been vegan. None of this would happen if people’s decisions didn’t start to have an influence so I’m hopeful this may be the same for plastics.

“If only bananas had robust, natural, biodegradable packaging on their own. Some sort of peelable skin, perhaps”

Can I really do it though? I’m going to have to sacrifice so much!¬†When I first went vegan I was asked a lot how I could live without certain things I had become accustomed to and enjoyed. How would I live without cheese and steak and eggs? But I do, and I’m happier for it. Now I’m faced with similar decisions like what to do if I just fancy a takeaway but don’t want the wasteful containers. How do you still enjoy crisps if they are always sold in non recyclable packaging? What do you do about gifts and presents? How do you fit into a society that isn’t yet zero waste and what to do if you are going to alienate yourself even further for trying to further align your beliefs to your actions.

Let’s be honest. I’m not going to become a Zero Waste superhero overnight. I am a Mummy to two young girls who take up the majority of my time (quite rightly) and I don’t live somewhere with easy access to bulk buy stores or fresh food markets. The reality is that the supermarket is round the corner and if we are out of bread and veggies, that’s where I’d be headed. What I can do though is start to learn, stay open minded and make some immediate changes now.

I’m here on this planet with a purpose. I want to evolve, continue to learn and improve. I want to take responsibility for the world in which I have been gifted a place. I want to protect the Earth for my children and their children too. I believe that one person can make a difference but collectively the difference can be huge.

Watch this space….

An important note about being vegan

Dear Jasmine,

As you will probably know by now, Daddy and I are both vegan and we are also raising you not to eat animals, because for our family, that is what we believe in. Just recently, your Grandma asked me what we would do if you ask us why some people in the family eat meat. She was worried you might think she was evil for eating meat if we are teaching you that it is our belief that eating meat is not ethical. She was worried it would impact your relationship with her and it got me thinking that there are a few very important things I want you to know about being vegan and about people who aren’t vegan….

Firstly, being vegan is a great thing to do but it doesn’t automatically make you a good person. We are vegan in our family because we don’t believe in eating animals. (No doubt we’ll get into this more deeply another time!) It’s also great for the planet and for your health and contrary to popular belief, it’s also good for people! Being vegan is a core value at the centre of our family. It’s what connects us together and is a huge part of our daily life, identity and something that we really want to teach you all about as you get older. We love being part of a strong vegan community and we hope you will love that too. Daddy and I weren’t always vegan though and we didn’t always know what we know now. Your journey will be quite different to our own!

As much as we advocate for being vegan and whole heartedly believe in its importance, there are certainly people who are choosing a vegan lifestyle, albeit for all the right reasons, who may not be living with compassion in other areas of their lives. As I said before, being vegan is always a good thing but it doesn’t make you a good person. You have to work hard to be a good person and that means extending the practice of compassion to all animals, humans included. Sometimes, this can be the hard part and writing you this letter today is my own reminder to do better here.

Living an ethical and compassionate life can take many forms and let me tell you, there are plenty of people in my life who I love dearly and admire greatly who aren’t vegan. Most of my friends and family aren’t vegan but I love and respect them all for the people they are and the good they are doing for the world. There are many people, both past and present, who inspire me to be a better person or make better choices, who aren’t vegan. There are many people doing other amazing and important things for the world, who aren’t vegan. Animal rights is a hugely important cause to stand for but it’s not the only thing you can choose to care about.

So yes, it may be a little sticky if one day you ask me why Grandma and Grandpa eat meat or why your friends at school eat animals when you don’t but the thing you must remember is to see the good in everyone you meet and you will find so much about people that you love, whether they are like you or not. Non-vegans, like many of your family, have other passions, other things they love and want to change about the world, other ways they are helping make the world a better place and I’d love you to learn about all of those things too.

Being vegan is a practice of non-violence, of compassion, of empathy, of peace. It’s a fantastic way to live your life but it’s not the way for everyone and the reasons for this are very complex! Of course I want to see a more vegan world. A world where animals are free and don’t suffer but the journey to that world isn’t straight forward. So as you grow up, I’ll happily try my best to answer your questions when you ask them, if you do, but I trust that your heart is big and wide open and that you will love wholly and fully those who are important to you, in spite of what they choose to eat.

If you decide to stay vegan too, of course you can be an activist and of course you can shout from the rooftops if it means the world to you like it does to me. Of course you can help to save animals’ lives by having conversations with people who aren’t vegan and I will encourage you to do so. Of course you can go to animal rights marches and find your passion but don’t judge others unkindly along the way if they don’t share your beliefs. Always maintain a sense of understanding and love for your fellow humans. The spiritual practice of veganism isn’t simply not eating animals. It’s non-violence and compassion and empathy in all walks of your life. It’s trying to be the best person you can be, both for the animals and for everyone you encounter. It’s extending compassion to the homeless, to the poor, to the vulnerable, to the mean and seemingly terrible people in the world. For loving those it’s easy to love and difficult to love. If you can live with peace in your heart, you’ll be doing a fabulous job.

So if Grandma still eats meat when you’re older (you never know, she might not!) then don’t judge her for it. Love your Grandma for all the amazing things about her, all the things she can teach you and all the ways she shows compassion for the world.

Love from, Mummy