Previously I’ve discussed how as well as being vegan I shop locally, supporting local businesses. It’s been a whopping four years since I last addressed my buying habits on this blog! These days veganism and eco-living have become much more mainstream issues. People are a lot more savvy about what they’re eating, and what kind of an effect their choices are having on the environment.
It feels like recently a lot of other issues have seeped into the general conciousness. Cruelty-free. Zero-waste. Slow fashion. Low impact. For Average Joe the list of social justice causes seems to have multiplied overnight. I quite often hear people saying there’s “too much” to care about now. Where are you supposed to buy from? How are you meant to shop for anything at all? ARE WE JUST ALL DOOMED?!
Look, I get it. I understand how it can seem overwhelming. All your life you’re trundling along and suddenly you’re supposed to feel incredibly guilty about everything? One minute you’re browsing “New In” at ASOS and the next you need to start using nettle soap and wearing pre-washed burlap sacks? What is this? There’s a lot of misplaced guilt, a lot of misplaced praise and a lot of people preaching because they’ve managed to compost their whole house or something.
When you get down to it, it’s not a competition and it’s not about oneupmanship. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I want to live an ethical life. I’m aware of the amount of shit that goes on in the world and if I can avoid that, why wouldn’t I? However, switching to a completely eco-friendly, vegan, guilt-free lifestyle overnight isn’t practical for anyone. Personally, I think having all these different strands of activism can get confusing. The happy truth is that most of these different movements overlap. If you’re trying to live an ethical life it makes sense that you would apply that logic across your whole life. It can be easier to think about your beliefs rather than feel like you are subscribing to a load of fads.
Ok, well I’m not sure “craparations” is going to catch on but it is kinda true. I’mma break it down for ya. There’s a lot of shit that goes on out there and most of it gets covered up. Issues include: abusing animals. Harming the environment. Wasteful business practises. Destroying land. Underpaying workers/not respecting their rights. Misogynistic views. Being homophobic. Avoiding taxes. Funding war. Employing children. I could go on.I don’t think anybody actually wants to contribute to any of the issues mentioned above, but unfortunately most of us are unwittingly. When I encounter a company that doesn’t match my ethical beliefs, I avoid them. Why would I support something that I don’t believe in?
Unfortunately, most companies value profit over ethics. Why, those swindly money-grabbing hacks! In our profit-driven world, we have very little say in what goes on in big business. Money talks louder than words. By “we”, I’m referring to the 16-35 yo, mostly female readers of this blog. How many shareholders do you know? Exactly. A company is more likely to respond to a million pound loss in profit than a thousand angry tweets. I’m careful with who I give my precious pennies too – I don’t earn a lot, so every purchase is considered. You can stay aware of what you’re funding; sometimes a quick google check will tell you who a parent company is or who is a major shareholder.
I see a lot of blogs these days with titles like “Is *insert social cause* a *insert activism* issue?”. The answer is almost always yes, why yes it is. If you love animals, you probably don’t want to harm their environment, eat them, wear them or kill them. That’s a low-waste, sustainable, cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle on the cards then. If you’re a feminist, you probably don’t want to buy clothes from sweatshops, support male-dominated businesses or purchase from stores who use anti-feminist marketing. That ties into avoiding slow fashion, supporting independent brands and shopping fairtrade.
I could go on, but my point is: all of these issues are linked. “Intersectional Ethics” isn’t a particular catchy blog title, but essentially that’s what I’m on about here. Once you’ve decided what’s important to you, you can come to your own conclusions on the kind of actions you want to take. I did this a long time ago before most of the notions and beliefs I hold had a name and a hashtag. It’s been bizarre to see most of my longheld beliefs be broken apart into separate strands of activism. Often, I feel like bits of reason and passion have got lost along the way in favour of competition, trends and SEO-optimised branding.
Without sounding like a total twat, many of the key talking points today are things that have been issues in my own life for quite some time. Personally, I’m really happy that so many of these issues are coming to light. During my teens I first started acting on my love for animals and the environment. At the time I was a “hippie” and “treehugger” – I was a Jughead-style teenage weirdo. These days, a lot of the issues that I cared about have become topics up for discussion in everyday life. Small changes I made as a teen (avoiding Topshop, giving up meat) have grown into larger choices as an adult (no high-street shops, vegan). So where exactly am I now?
So, purely for the record, I am 100% vegan and cruelty-free and around 95% secondhand (including objects, clothes, everything except food). Around 95% of my wardrobe is vintage. I buy secondhand or very occasionally independent, UK-based products. My food is mostly locally sourced and I haven’t bought food from a high-street supermarket in years. My ethics apply to all parent companies; if it’s owned by a corporation I don’t agree with, I’m not buying it. I’m not knowingly supporting any sweatshops or problematic practises. Overall I try and buy from small businesses that have a diverse range of staff. Where possible, I prefer supporting female-led enterprises or businesses started by people of colour. I’ve been recycling/re-using/composting my waste for years before I heard the term “zero-waste”. I suspect I am living a zero-waste life and just didn’t have a term for it.
This probably sounds extreme to some of you. You may be thinking “what the hell does she buy? how does she live?”. Thing is, if you read my blog and follow my life you’ll know that it’s hardly a shut-off existence. My real life friends can attest to the fact that I don’t live in a tent or make my own hemp bedding; actually, I have a pretty full and rich life. It’s a lot easier than you think to live ethically. Think of it like starting a new job, or moving to a new house. Sure, there’s a couple weeks of adjusting and getting into a routine, but normally things slot into place quickly. For me it’s been many, many years of adjusting my choices gradually. I’ve rarely tried to have a complete overhaul overnight, but I’ve also never reached a point where I’ve “well, this is enough, I’m doing more than some, this is ‘my bit’ and I’ll stop trying now”.
This is the start of a new series on this blog which I’ve called “Going Green” because “Intersectional Ethics, Equalism And Holistic Practises: As Applied To Various Consumer Areas” sounds like a university essay. I’ve started off with this post just so we can all be clear as to what I mean. I’m going to look at areas of life; i.e. “hair care” or “kitchen” and go through how I make my choices. From time to time I’ll offer suggestions. I figured this makes more sense and is more practical than looking at things issue by issue. But I am HERE for your suggestions so holler if you’d like to see something in particular.
The main reason I started investigating all these issues years ago was to be true to myself. That sounds cornier than a box of uncooked popcorn, but honestly, that’s all it is. I’m not going to do something if I don’t agree with it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. My Dad often refers to this as the “noble life”, a variation of “the kind life” (aka being vegan) plus ethics. I actually think a huge part of this is self-respect: I want to be a person I can admire. This sentiment has been said many times by many people and it’s nothing new. Lead by example. Be the change you want to see. If you wanna make the world a better place takealookatyourself-and-make-a change. I care about myself enough to honour my own ideas and thoughts; to do right by myself. To try and live the most positive life I can. And at the heart of it, that’s what going green and eco-living is all about.