I am often asked what it’s like to live a vegan lifestyle; most questions pertain to food, but a few concern products such as makeup and cleaning products. I answered a query recently on my Facebook page, which got me thinking about documenting more comprehensively how veganism impacts my life. I should preface this by saying that this exercise serves more as a way for me to examine what I’m doing well and what I could do better. My intent is certainly not to preach or to suggest that the way I choose to live is any better than that of others; it’s more a reflection of my journey and growth as a vegan and my efforts to live a life that minimizes damage to the earth and our animal companions.
My choices of food, clothing, makeup, cleaning products, and so forth, are driven primarily by my love of animals. I’ve been drawn to animals for as long as I remember; my earliest playmates were the family cat and dog. I was fortunate to be raised in a family where loving animals runs very deep. My long-suffering parents had to contend with the number of strays that I would bring home. We had cats, dogs, budgies, and rabbits as regular housemates; the budgies and rabbits had to roam freely, of course, as I could never stand the thought of keeping an animal in a cage. We never had any pure-breed cats or dogs; to this day, all my animal friends have been adopted and of mixed parentage. The only exception is my current feline friend, whom I rescued seven years ago, and is a pure-breed Maine Coon. As you can tell, I’m trying to avoid the use of the word “pet.” I know that many people roll their eyes at the use of “animal companion,” but I associate the term “pet” with ownership, which is a concept with which I am not comfortable.
My development as a vegan started in my early twenties when I moved out on my own. I had been uncomfortable for a while with eating meat, as I always thought of the animal behind what sat on my plate. Once I had my own home and kitchen, I felt freer to explore ways in which to move towards a plant-based diet. I started eliminating meat gradually from my diet, reducing my consumption by one day a week, then eliminating it entirely. At first I still ate fish and seafood, but I soon eliminated them too. Eliminating dairy, honey, and eggs took a few more years, but as I read more and more about the conditions of the factory farming of cows and chickens, I simply couldn’t eat these products anymore. Since I’m severely lactose-intolerant, my body was delighted when I switched over completely to a plant-based diet.
In the meantime, I incorporated products that were produced without the suffering of animals. In my research, I was appalled by the various tests that have been conducted on animals for the sake of vanity and sparkling kitchen counters. My concern also with reducing waste and using non-toxic products grew over the years. My goal is to minimize my impact on animals and the earth; I’m certainly not perfect, and I know there is much more I can do, but I believe strongly that even small efforts are important. I’ll be discussing the products I use in a variety of venues. I choose products that satisfy as many of the following criteria as possible:
a) Cruelty free. This is the sine qua non for all my choices. The products must not be tested on animals. I’ve learned that you need to investigate this claim carefully, since it’s not regulated. Whenever possible, I use products that are listed in Leaping Bunny. I look also at the websites of the products to learn about their corporate policies and commitment to not testing on animals.
b) Vegan. No animal-derived products, including honey and beeswax. Again, Leaping Bunny and corporate websites come in very handy.
c) Non-toxic. Products should contain the least amount of toxic products. It may not always be possible to choose products that are completely free of toxins, but I do choose the least harmful.
d) Biodegradable. Self explanatory.
e) Organic. This term can be misused by some companies, so I look for logos from credible organizations that certify organic items.
f) Locally-made. Made, in order of geographical proximity: City, Province, Canada. I buy non-local only if no viable alternatives exist.
g) Sustainable. Whenever possible, I choose products that are made from ethically-sourced materials, that can be reused and recycled, and that minimize waste.
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