As I near the end of my first week of learning about and partaking in all things vegan, I’ve had a whole new perspective on things. I’m not talking about some greater mental clarity as my body is detoxified or any of that garbage; I’m referring to the back and forth that I’ve had with myself regarding perfectionism.
Whether in the workplace or amongst friends, I’ve been engaging in discussions either about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, or seeking advice from those with experience. Everyone has their own opinion; some have called this mission of mine stupid, others admirable, but mostly I’ve faced intrigue from friends and colleagues that had never considered it themselves.
A big lesson that I’ve learned this week is that I’ve got to be careful where I draw the line with my lifestyle. Some of you may know that I partook in the Marine Conservation Society’s #Lifewithoutplastic challenge earlier this year. Essentially, I tried to live without one-use plastics for a month. It was very eye-opening and challenging and I must admit that whilst I tried to continue with a life free of waste after that month, I reverted somewhat, simply because I felt like I was missing out on some things that I truly craved. I had to compromise on going in a direction that felt a tad bit too restrictive to me – restrictive and isolating.
It’s really easy to become obsessed with wanting to do more and more because you feel an overwhelming urgency to save the planet; before you know it you’re living in the jungle amongst the wildlife, foraging for your own foods and totally isolated from all the people you once knew; all in a quest to be the perfect human and live harmoniously with everything else on the planet. This, however, does not equal happiness necessarily.
If I were to continue with my veganism and try to live a life void of waste, I’d be restricting myself in a way that I really can’t see me being comfortable with right now. Some of the products that I can buy with ease which aren’t derived from animal ingredients happen to come in plastic packaging. That is just how it is. Now, I could look at buying as many products as possible loose from markets, however not all food groups are going to be covered here necessarily and it is really important as a vegan to ensure that you’re getting adequate nutrition from your diet. I feel like I can’t do both.
It’d be really different if all product packaging was biodegradable. That would mean that I could go to any of my local shops and purchase all the foods that I need to maintain a balanced diet, without having to worry about the repercussions of the packaging that I’ll be taking home and throwing away, adding to landfill. And changes like that have to come from our ‘leaders’. It has to be the only option for manufacturers. Business is business at the end of the day, and the figures have to work in a way such that profits are maximised – at least in the society we currently find ourselves in – and thus if plastics are the cheaper packaging option, that will be the choice.
If it were law that all product packaging must be biodegradable, the consumer would not need to concern themselves with the repercussions of what they buy. They would be able to focus purely on buying the ingredients they desire to make the meals they pine for. Real change, it seems, needs to come from the top down.
I’ve realised that I can’t do everything right. And it frustrates the hell out of me, because I know I strive for perfection, as many of us do. I can buy fair trade and support that market, but the product may be packed in plastic which pollutes our environment. I can buy apples that are loose, but may have been doused in pesticides that are killing our bees. I may be rejecting leather, but then the easiest alternative might be a man-made, non-biodegradable option. You can’t win at everything.
There’s still so much to learn and I see this whole process as trial and error, because I’m human and that’s really all I can do. I’m leaning heavily on researching the consequences of various choices and friends who have experienced the things that I’m debating. I have to accept that striving for perfection at the cost of all else is somewhat narcissistic and probably definitely won’t make for a life I can look back on and truly be proud of. I don’t have all the answers right now, but I know they’ll come with time; I’m on the road to somewhere and that’s better than being left curb side.