Exploring Daiya alternatives

 

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I have been a fan of Daiya products for many years. I was proud to support a Canadian company that was committed to producing cruelty-free vegan products. Now that Daiya has been sold to the Japanese company Otsuka, a large pharmaceutical company that engages in animal testing. Many vegans like me are not at all happy about this development, as we do not wish to support a parent company that conducts animal testing.  It is for this same reason that I don’t buy products from  Tom’s of Maine, for example, which is owned by Colgate, a company that has been conducting tests on animals for decades.

Many vegans have decided to stop buying Daiya products because of this change in ownership. It’s always difficult to know how far up the chain of ownership to take one’s ethics. Daiya products continue to be cruelty-free, as are those made by Tom’s of Maine. The question of parent companies is vexing, since so many companies are owned by larger companies which may, in fact, be owned by even larger companies. Again, how far up the chain does one go?

My approach is to use products made by companies that do not have links to animal testing. If these alternatives do not exist, then I will buy from a company if its products are vegan and cruelty-free, even if its parent company has some links to animal testing.  In the case of Daiya, I have found a number of good alternatives made by companies with no ties to animal testing. My favourites are:

  • Earth Island (in Canada), whose parent company, Follow Your Heart, makes its products in a solar-powered factory, and is firmly committed to cruelty-free products.  The shreds are much better than Daiya’s and the price is comparable.
  • Sheese, made by Bute Island Foods, which does not test on animals, and does not use palm oil.  The Sheese line is incredibly good, but rather more costly than other vegan brands.

I make my own cashew-based cheese, but I do use commercial vegan cheeses if I want something a little firmer, and especially if I want to put shreds on my pizza.

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Bikinis, vegan desserts, and PETA

In this article, Phoebe-Jane Boyd, who is vegan, discusses the latest publicity-stunt-gone-wrong by PETA at Wimbledon. This time, PETA had bikini-clad women serving strawberries and vegan cream.  According to PETAthe tennis fans loved our vegan version of the classic Wimbledon snack, which helped prove that there are delicious plant-based alternatives to every dairy-based food you can think of.  Boyd questions the efficacy of these tactics: My own interactions with promotional models at these things have never ended in increased brand awareness, but rather with a feeling of discomfort at the expectation that I’m to treat the women like walking, talking product shelves with boobs instead of human beings.

I gave up my PETA membership a number of years ago, mostly as a reaction to their tasteless publicity stunts, such as this. I am so tired of PETA parading mostly women in scantily-clad costumes to promote animal welfare and veganism. PETA’s pat response is demonstrated below (this was in reaction to its tweet about the Wimbledon event):

PETA’s response is facile at best. The fact that the women in question chose to participate in this publicity stunt does not address the notion of exploiting women’s bodies. Exploitation does not presuppose or require consent (or lack thereof), but is the use of tactics for the sake of profit, marketing, and so forth. These tactics are outdated at best.

There is a long list of reasons why I cannot support PETA: The tasteless publicity stunts, the cloying pandering to celebrities, the sexist and tasteless “sexy vegan celebs,” the aggressive attacks on people (e.g., those wearing fur coats), and their association of the killing of animals with the Holocaust. Many people object to PETA’s euthanasia policy; I am less troubled by this, as euthanasia may sometimes be the only humane solution for animals who are severely ill or injured, and who are not candidates for adoption. At least, I very much hope that PETA does, in fact, use euthanasia as a last resort.

Some tipping points for me were PETA’s attempt to exploit Detroiters’ lack of water by offering to pay their water bill if they promised to go vegan for one month. I was so incensed by this crass attempt at publicity at the expense of people who were suffering, that I phoned PETA and expressed my utter disgust. Besides taking advantage of people who were at a low point, “veganism under duress” is hardly going to produce long-term commitments to veganism, so it was nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Another spectacular low point was PETA’s suggestion that a prison serve a teen, who had practised cannibalism, vegan meals, arguing that we are all made of flesh and blood, that we are all animals, and that the violent acts that Harrouff has been charged with are similar to those commonly inflicted upon billions of farmed animals in the U.S. each year. I can’t even begin to imagine how the friends and families of the two people that Harrouff murdered were impacted by this crass suggestion.

There is no doubt that PETA has been successful in pressuring governments and organizations into improving the welfare of some animals, but I’ve never believed in the adage that the ends justify the means. I would much rather support organizations that use compassion, intelligence, and kindness, and whose focus is upon animals and their welfare, rather than on self-promotion.

The role of social media in the proliferation of fast fashion

This article discusses the role that social media has played in the growth of fast fashion, which is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends (Wikipedia). Popular retailers such as Zara and H&M are excellent examples of companies that promote fast fashion.  The article posits that social media accounts such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and so forth, have encouraged fast fashion, as people do not want to be seen wearing the same item often, or even more than once.

I know that some people who read this article will say “well, that’s certainly not me,” but is that actually the case? How many of us have closets bursting with clothes? How many of us buy items of clothing, shoes, or bags, for a “special occasion,” even though there are perfectly adequate items in our closets, because we want something new, or because we don’t want to be seen wearing the same outfit for the occasion? How many new items of clothing, shoes, and bags do we buy every season, even though we already have so many clothes? How many of us buy something because it’s on sale, even if we don’t need it? How many of this think that we’ve scored a big sale: “look, it was 50% off,” even though its money wasted because it’s adding to the mountain of clothes we already own?

I am the living embodiment of this attitude. In my student days and earlier in my career, especially when I lived in very small accommodations (I was living “tiny” before it became a thing), I didn’t have all these possessions. As my living quarters and pay cheque grew larger, so did my purchases. My Achille’s heel has always been handbags. When I travelled, it was always with a suitcase large enough to accommodate the purchases I would no doubt make. Shopping became a hobby; this was particularly true when I lived in Detroit, where the large variety of shopping malls beckoned me every weekend.

I’ve been committed to environmental causes since I was a child. I have always done what I could to reduce my carbon footprint. I remember me as a child lecturing my no-doubt exasperated mother on the need to shut off lights, to not let the taps run, to wear sweaters in the house in winter to stay warm, and so forth (I still do this. Sorry, Mum). My shopping and accumulation of stuff, however, was a hurdle that I did not overcome, or even acknowledge, until a few years ago.

I have made significant reductions in the items that I buy. My wardrobe has been pared down considerably, and I buy at most 2-3 items of new clothing a year, and now only to replace something that I can no longer use. I’ve slipped once or twice, I will admit it, but I see a vast improvement. I no longer care if people see me in the same clothes, as I rotate a small amount every week. Frankly, most people neither care nor remember what you wear. Men have been getting away with wearing the same items for years; it’s about time that women stopped this ridiculous obsession with not being seen in the same outfit every month or, heaven forbid, every week.

Fast fashion has many negative impacts on the environment, not the least of which is the sheer waste it generates. In our narcissistic world of selfies and posting daily updates (of which I plead guilty), we tend to be guilty of greenwashing. We congratulate ourselves on using travel mugs, recycling, composting, and so forth – all of which are excellent things to do, of course – but our rampant and increasing consumerism is causing far more damage than using bottle water or disposable coffee mugs. I have been appalled by my own consumerism, as it has crept up on me insidiously; I think so many of us equate possessions with success. I have been blessed – or is it cursed? – with a love of beautiful things, and I have indulged in this love far too many times. I applaud the growing movement of minimalism amongst younger people in their twenties and thirties; they have come to this realization far earlier than I. I think we have a lot to learn from this movement, and I, for one, am enjoying embracing it in incremental steps.

I have found owning fewer things to be liberating, not limiting. I smile when I see empty cupboards in my home, extra storage containers I no longer need, rugs that I no longer need to vacuum, and clothes that I can actually see in my closet. Travelling with a small carry on for a two-week trip with no more than four dresses that I rotate makes decisions about what to pack so much easier, not to mention negotiating airports so much faster. Not feeling the need to buy souvenirs for other people that will simply add to their clutter (hint, please don’t buy me souvenirs) saves so much time when I’m travelling; time that I would much rather put towards visiting museums and art galleries. It has been a most enjoyable journey, and one I look forward to continuing.

My love affair with walking

I have been involved in a number of sports activities in my life and, in particular, three different forms of martial arts, and extreme weight lifting. I have also suffered a number of injuries as a result of these sports, most particularly in my knees and ankles. These injuries have forced me to give up these activities. Since my injured joints don’t allow for activities that involve much impact, walking has become my favourite activity. Swimming is an option as well, which I have done in the past, but it’s very time consuming, particularly with hair that can’t handle blow drying (think Poodles).

I gave up car ownership 10 years ago this month. I could no longer justify owning a car, considering that I was taking the bus to work (parking is a huge hassle on campus), and using my car only on the weekends. Owning a car made no financial sense, not to mention the guilt I felt about all the carbon emissions. Once the lease was up on my car, I made a clean break and bought a bus pass. Now that my employer participates in a discounted monthly bus pass, my fixed transportation cost per month amounts to about $55.

The freedom of not having a car – for this is how I see it – allows me to spend more time walking. At first I walked only for occasional exercise, but I now incorporate walking as part of my desire to go from point A to B. I try to walk a minimum of 8 km a day, seven days a week; I average about 95 minutes of active walking a day.  Rather than do the 95 minutes at one stretch, I normally divide the walking into sections. On a typical weekday, I take the downtown bus to work, but get off at the terminal, then walk about 25 minutes to the office. I walk for another 50 minutes or so at lunchtime, then after work, I walk part way home (about 45 minutes or more), then catch the bus to finish the journey.  The routine changes over the weekend, where I walk to and from my errands, such as the library, farmers’ market, local coffee shop, and so forth. Weather is, of course, a factor to be considered. Halifax gets quite a lot of rain (normally heavy) and wind, and winters can be gruelling. I don’t mind walking in the cold, but it’s the sidewalks covered with thick ice and snow that can cause problems.

Discipline is the key factor, as with all forms of exercise. It’s easy to make excuses, saying that it’s too windy or cold to walk; before you know it, those excuses turn into days of not walking, which can turn into weeks. For me, the most important aspect of walking is the mental break it gives me. When I walk, I don’t listen to music, and I avoid using my smartphone. I do carry my phone in case of emergencies, and I’ve used it on more than one occasion to report sightings of missing cats, but I will not use it for any other purposes. Walking is a time for me to simply let my mind wander. I am an urban walker, so I enjoy looking at houses, front yards, and so forth. Music simply adds to the busyness of life that we all seem so eager to embrace; in fact, I think busyness has become a competitive sport.  We all seem so afraid to simply be, as though we fear being judged for being unproductive. I relish the opportunity to take time for myself to just be, and walking appeals to my reserved and introverted nature because I don’t need to talk to anyone, except to every dog and cat I may encounter.

A book that reflects well my attitude to walking is Frédéric Gros’ book A philosophy of walking, which discusses the role of walking as part of the thinking process, and charts the impact walking has made on philosophers such as Rimbaud, Rousseau, Narvel, Thoreau, and Nietzsche. I don’t count myself in such heady company, of course, but I can fully appreciate the role active walking has in my intellectual and psychological well-being.

 

Halifax Forum Farmers’ Market

I am lucky to live in a city that has several year-round farmers’ markets. This video looks at one of the newer markets in the Halifax Forum. I visit this market quite frequently, as it’s the closest to where I live.

 

Elate Cosmetics

Update: I’ve now used the Elate mascara and am pleased with the results. Unlike a number of other vegan mascaras I have used, this one is not wet and sticky, and stays on all day without sticking. It’s a keeper.

While I make all of my household cleaning products, and most of my personal care products, cosmetics are items I still buy. I have been using mineral makeup for at least 15 years and have gone through a number of different brands. It’s important that the products I use be made in Canada; they must also be vegan, of course, and create as little waste as possible. I had been using products made in Nova Scotia but, to be honest, the quality of their minerals was not as high as I would have liked. I very much like the ZuZu Luxe products, but they are made in the US. An attractive feature of these products is that they do use refillable products (unfortunately, refills are not sold in the local stores here), but they do use a lot of plastic.

I am pleased to have found a Canadian brand that not only uses refillable products, but also bamboo for its containers, rather than plastic. Elate Cosmetics is based in Victoria, BC. Their products are vegan and mineral based. They sell bamboo containers for their makeup, which you refill with powder, eye shadow, and so forth. The mascara is not refillable, but it does come in a bamboo container. The products were shipped in the smallest possible box, encased in tissue paper, and held in place with some recyclable packing peanuts, which double also as my cats’ new favourite toy. The products came with a lovely hand-written note from the owner.

The picture on the left shows the bamboo container filled with the foundation powder, which came in the small paper package to the left of the compact. The tube is the mascara, also in bamboo. The picture on the right shows the top of the compact. I was a little alarmed when I saw the colour of the powder, as it looked too dark for me, given pale and fair skin. The colour does not go on as dark as it looks, and it works quite well for me, but I will go up a lighter tone next time. This particular shade is described as fair, with warm tones, and looks lighter on the website. Next time I will select the shade up, which is for very fair skin with neutral undertones. The powder goes on well and gives the matte look that I like. My skin is delicate in nature, but I have not experienced any reactions to the powder so far. I haven’t tried the mascara yet. I have not had much luck with vegan mascaras, as I’ve found most of them to be very sticky, so I’m crossing my fingers. I will update once I use it.

The costly side of eco living

An article in today’s Guardian discusses the phenomenon that I have often observed to be associated with eco living namely, that it caters to a higher socio-economic status:

Many of the companies and individuals marketing a sustainable lifestyle tend to give the impression that it takes place on another fairytale planet, and is unattainable for normal people down here on the ground with limited cash, who have to go to work every day.

This phenomenon has been true for a very long time. I have always been struck by the often ridiculously inflated prices that are charged for environmentally-friendly alternatives. I think that this can be problematic because,  a) it gives the message stated above; and b) it feeds into people’s egos and makes eco living a competitive shopping sport, where it becomes a matter of showing off brands.

In many cases, there are much cheaper and reasonable alternatives that don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You don’t need to spend a fortune on reusable kitchen towels, for example; you can easily cut old towels into rags for this purpose. I buy inexpensive sackcloth towels from my pharmacy that last a very long time. You can re-use all those glass jars that once held jams, condiments, and so forth, to store and freeze food; there is no need to buy overpriced mason jars that serve only to replicate these humble glass jars. Re-using in this manner serves also to cut down on waste. Stainless steel tiffin boxes are a little pricey, but they last for years, so they are an excellent investment. Buying expense eco cleaners ($8 for dish soap? Completely and utterly absurd) is unnecessary when you can easily make your own products for much less money. Full disclosure: I used to buy a lot of these expensive products, but realized that I was simply generating more waste by doing so. No matter how recyclable a product, waste is generated to produce and recycle it. I have slowly weaned myself off this buying cycle. I now use bars of Marseille de Savon soap to clean bathtubs, counters, handwash laundry, make laundry soap, and wash dishes. This soap does not come in any containers, serves multiple purposes, and works far better than any eco cleaner I have ever bought. I buy 1kg bars of soaps that last a long time. The humble vinegar and baking soda work like a charm.

I don’t mind investing money into a product that will last for a long time, and which I cannot replicate easily myself, but I think we need to be careful of supporting overpriced eco products especially if, ironically, they serve only to add to further waste and consumerism.