It’s not often I’ll write an opinion piece as it can be quite daunting sticking my head above the parapet. I’ve read a lot recently about waste and I felt it was important to discuss this on the website. While it isn’t a vegan issue per se, a lot of vegans like myself are concerned about the environment and looking for ways to minimise our impact on the planet. The food we eat tends to come packaged too, and this is a contentious issue. I even started to make my own oat milk once I discovered we were using 5 cartons a week!
In our family our recycling bin seems to have more in it each fortnight than the standard refuse one. This pleases me as I have worked hard to reduce and reevaluate our consumption habits as a family. It seems like we are conditioned to conspicuously consume with wild abandon, often replacing items before we’ve even had its full wear and tear. We are bombarded with advertising for new cars, clothes, beauty products and household items all of the time. It was around the time I became a single parent I started to think about the items I was purchasing and how ‘essential’ they were. On a limited budget, I also started to consider clothing and whether ‘fast and cheap’ fashion was ethically right.
I’ve made it a goal to replace some of the disposable items we use with more enduring products like bamboo toothbrushes and razor blades. These may seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but the fact they contribute to a larger issue in terms of plastic waste is one we simply can’t ignore. I’ve even purchased a reusable cup for drinks on the go to avoid single use cups.
Shopping in supermarkets makes this mission hard. Everything is covered in plastic and packaged unnecessarily. I decided to start buying fruit and veg from the local store to avoid this as they have paper bags and I can also take along my own canvas bag. Even here I have to battle with staff to stop them using plastic carriers! There have been nationwide events aimed at ‘dumping’ this superfluous packaging back on the big stores like Sainsbury’s in an attempt to force them into a meaningful discourse, but I think we’re some way off yet. Who hasn’t gotten annoyed at seeing fruit or vegetables with protective skin them wrapped in cellophane unnecessarily? Nature gave them that barrier so I’m sure they’ll last in my shopping bag for a bit longer!
We used to have a food warehouse on my local high street where you could buy pulses, cereals, flours, etc. from big tubs. Unfortunately this was seen as a bit outdated and it closed down, but I’ve heard of similar enterprises being set up in other cities recently. I know I can get bottles of shampoo refilled at Alternative Stores and they are working on bulk buying Nutritional Yeast, and the benefit of this is to cut down on packaging and costs. Stores like Lush also have shampoo and soap bars instead of buying plastic bottles. Using Kilner jars or containers that can washed and reused is certainly better than a mountain of boxes or plastic that will be carted off by the local refuse team. It still takes energy and resources to recycle, however, so if we can minimise this there’s another bonus.
Now that veganism is becoming more mainstream there have been so many new products launched I’ve wanted to try. So many are packed in plastic, some of which isn’t recyclable in my area. It would be good to see companies, especially those already ethically minded, to put a bit more thought into this. Ready meals in plastic trays may be convenient, but a compostable material would be better for the environment. I’ve seen takeaways and street food vendors doing this recently so hopefully the tide is turning.
The ethos of reuse, repurpose and sustainability is one that sits nicely alongside veganism, in my opinion. Who wasn’t shocked when we realised through Cowspiracy how much water is used in the production of a single burger? Once we’ve adopted a plant based lifestyle and made steps towards eliminating ALL animal products from use it feels like a natural progression to monitor our consumption habits in other areas of our lives. While I’m not *quite* ready to jack it all in and live off grid in a tent, we have a responsibility at such a crucial time to do all we can to try and reverse some of the negative impact humans have had on the planet. Of course, I’m far from perfect and get it wrong but at least I know I’m trying hard. I don’t know how feasible ‘zero waste’ is, but any reduction is a step in the right direction.
Thanks for reading,