Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vegan Simplicity

When I started writing My Face Is on Fire a couple of years ago, I did so with a couple of intentions. I wanted to write about veganism, but I also wanted to write about other issues involving the ethics of consumption that have to do with over-consumption in general. Cheap oil (among other factors) has facilitated a sort of rampant consumerism in "developed" countries, and this consumerism has enabled our becoming disposable societies. Cheap oil facilitated the Green Revolution, which has left us with a hyper-industrialized agricultural system which has poisoned the land, water and air around us, and which has also left global food production--much of the world's actual seed supply--in the hands of a very few gigantic biotech companies. It's also left us eating questionable concoctions out of disposable (albeit sometimes recyclable) paper, plastic and metal packaging--foods whose ingredients sometimes travel halfway around the world to get to the machines used to slap them together before they hit the store shelves.

So along with talking about the ethics of veganism, when I started this blog, I wanted to focus on the things we can do to reduce our consumerism by eating lower on the food chain, relying less on manufactured goods, and supporting agricultural practices that
don't involve tithes to Monsanto (i.e. practices which are instead focused on supporting organic agriculture, and on even growing some of your own food while avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides and frankenseed). I think that with veganism as its foundation, an ethical consumption mindset that also involves consideration for treading lightly can lead to a lifestyle that is healthier for us, for non-humans, as well as for the environment we all share. It can also be a fun and educational process, as you teach yourself methods you can use to simplify your life and pass on any acquired knowledge or skills to others interested in learning more.

I'm sure that some vegans get a bit of a negative knee-jerk reaction to mentions of things like "locavorism" and "small-scale organic farming" because of the emphasis often placed on animal use and exploitation when discussing either--particularly in purportedly hip mainstream articles about either topic. The truth is, though, that there are so many benefits to be enjoyed from incorporating a variety of fresh and unprocessed plant-based foods into your diet and in knowing what's been used to grow them. I also think that along with treading more lightly when choosing what we eat, that we have so much from which to benefit in learning how to simplify our lives in other ways that leave us consuming--and

I've been chatting with a number of fellow vegans (as well as non-vegans) over the last few months, mostly via email or in some discussion forums, about how pricey or difficult to track down certain processed vegan items and personal care products can be. While doing this, I've realized that there are too many instances where veganism ends up deemed "too difficult" because of the expense or scarcity in some stores of items with otherwise readily-available non-vegan equivalents. In many cases, the items in question are, in fact, items that are neither critically essential nor completely unaffordable if consumed in moderation. That being said, while extending the blog's focus to include the exploration of less expensive lifestyle choices for vegans that rely less on manufacturing and instead lean more towards sustainability and voluntary simplicity, that could be an interesting "issue" to tackle. Over the next while, I hope to include tips, tricks and do-it-yourself instructions for a variety of things that may be helpful to those interested. I look forward to getting some feedback on it all in the posts to come.


Kerry said...

Love this blog essay! This subject is VERY dear to my heart. Trying to simplify my life by reducing my consumption more and more, and by making alternative choices, is integral to my own veganism.

Meg said...

I look forward to reading more tips! I'm big into simple living, both in terms of doing less (of the bad stuff) and doing more (of the good stuff) with less.

Becoming vegan has had its ups and downs for my husband and I. Some things are simpler. It's easier to clean dishes without having to deal with bacon grease. All our food is compostable (no picking our bones or meat). Heck, I can make deviled tofu "eggs" now without having to peel eggs (http://vegancrunk.blogspot.com/2009/07/vegan-deviled-eggs-yes-i-did.html). It's the little things, lol. And, after reading about the paradox of choice, I now understand why I find it strangely comforting to go shopping and have *fewer* options.

But, on the other hand, travel and social events take a bit more planning and preparation. And I can't expect to run out and find a vegan version of anything and everything I'm looking for, even in the relatively vegan-friendly city I live in. Thank goodness for the internet, though!

Overall, though, it hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be and I can still be kind to the environment, myself, and my budget, as well as animals. For example, I've really gotten into the habit of going to the farmers' market weekly, grabbing bunches of fresh, local & usually organic veggies, then going home and combining them in all sorts of different tasty ways, often very improvised. Cooking actually seems less intimidating now and I must be doing something right because people are going, "I didn't know you could cook!" and even asking for seconds :D

Unknown said...

Yay! great idea Mylène, looking forward to it. I love to use simpler, more natural products, herbal remedies etc. Looking forward to hearing what works for you :)

Meg, congrats on your happiness at going vegan, I felt the exact same way at the start, still do actually :)

Vanilla Rose said...

Excellent idea!!!!