I have just finished the book Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran. Moran is a long time vegan who has helped coach and educate others about the various ethical and health issues concerning the meat, dairy, and egg industry. The book is filled with amazing chapters and easy recipes such as Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vegan Mac and Cheese, and even Chocolate Cake. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too on a vegan diet. This helps others understand that this “extreme lifestyle” is easy, convenient, and better for us in the long term.
In this article I will be taking many of her main principles to the next level. Both the Zero Waste and Vegan lifestyle are focused on trying to live a compassionate and healthy lifestyle. We cannot live a compassionate zero waste lifestyle while continuing to eat meat, dairy, and eggs that come from factory farms. The reason being that factory farms are detrimental to our environment, the health of animals, and do play are large part in the issue of climate change. We can’t live a compassionate vegan lifestyle while continuing to purchase processed food that come in plastic packaging that will end up hurting millions of animals in our oceans. Unfortunately, Moran doesn’t talk a ton about the zero waste lifestyle and doesn’t refer to the lifestyle when it comes to the issue of plastic packaging.
In one of her chapters Moran does touch on the issue of plastic packaging in our oceans. Especially since millions of sea animals are hurt or killed by the plastic in our oceans. This is very important to understand when it comes to learning about the Vegan lifestyle. Especially since millions of people on Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms continue to advice many of their followers to purchase products that come in disposable packaging that could cause more harm to our animals and planet. However, I don’t believe it should stop with this chapter. I have decided to divide this article into various sections that I hope will inspire and educate more to look at both lifestyles when they are trying to live a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle. That being said, in this article I will be focusing on the zero waste lifestyle. Read The Main Street Vegan, if you want to learn more about how to live a more compassionate vegan lifestyle.
(Side Note: I am not explaining that to be Vegan you must be Zero Waste or vise versa. You can do whatever you want. However, I believe it’s important to research both lifestyles when it comes to living a more compassionate and health lifestyle).
Who Is The Main Street Zero Waster?!
When you Google the term Zero Waste it looks like the lifestyle is only for those who are under 30, single, and live in their own apartment or house that they have 100% control over. That is not the reality for many around the US. It can be tough to live a perfect zero waste lifestyle, especially if you live with others who don’t want to reduce their waste. It can also be a sore spot for people because they believe that their family won't understand or respect their decision. Many people will actually “quite” the zero waste lifestyle because they can’t dedicate enough time to being the perfect zero waste. These are some of the main issues that the majority of people encounter when it comes to living a zero waste life. That being said, I believe that like the vegan lifestyle, the zero waste lifestyle isn’t as complicated as many believe. There are also a ton of sub sections to the lifestyle that many don’t understand or realize when they label themselves zero waste.
Many, like myself, probably came to the lifestyle from women like Bea Johnson or Lauren Singer who have successfully made the term zero waste trendy. But, I want you to think about how our ancestors grew up. Even take some suggestions from your grandparents, who probably still do many of the “trendy” zero waste tricks. When I first started my journey, I took some notes from my grandparents and parents who have been raised on cooking dried beans, making pasta from scratch, and even using vinegar, lemon, and water as their multi-purpose cleaner. It’s important to note that I do live with 3 non-vegans and non-zero wasters. Needless to say, I can’t control everything in my house. I think it’s important for everyone to recognize that I do have control over the choices I make.
I make all my own meals, except when my mom cooks dinner or the rare occasions that I am forced to get take-out. I make my own cleaning products that I use in my room and bathroom. I also use bar soaps to wash my hands, face, and body, essential oils to help cure my acne, scars, and bug bites, and even old rags as tissues. These are all things that I can control and also help reduce the amount of waste that I produce on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. These changes have also helped inspire more people in my life to start looking at their waste with a more critical eye. I would also to point out that I still produce trash and I am okay with that.
I call myself a Main Street Zero Waster because I talk more about the waste I do produce, instead of limiting myself to the waste I don’t produce. I share my “mistakes” and explain how you can be a zero waster, a vegan, and any other label that helps define who you are, even if you live with people who may have different beliefs to you. I believe that this is important for people to recognize when they are first starting their zero waste journey. I will always be a zero waster, even if people bash me for purchasing products in plastic packaging, because it’s impossible for me to be the perfect zero waste.
The Different Subsections of the Zero Waste Lifestyle
Just like the vegan lifestyle. There are many different subsections of the zero waste lifestyle. In the vegan community, there are junk food vegans, raw vegans, high carb low fat vegans, high fat vegans, high protein vegans, paleo vegans, keto vegans, vegans who only eat local food, vegans who don’t believe in having pets, and even vegans who don’t believe we should have children. Within the zero waste movement there are people who label themselves as less waste, low waste, waste free, no waste, and most recently low impact. All of these labels are different and also very similar. It’s interesting to find that people within all these circles have embraced and inspired more to help create less pollution, water waste, and more education around the various environmental issues and how we can help save our planet!
In the zero waste movement, I believe I am a Zero Waster who does the best they can. I will continue to travel, purchase food that has traveled by trains, planes, and ships to come to my local grocery store, drive a car even if it takes a bunch of gas to bring me to and from work, and other areas of my life that people deem to be too wasteful to live a zero waste life. I am doing the best that I can. If I could purchase a hybrid or fully electric car, I would. If I could only purchase my food from local farmers or farmers markets, I would. Just because I don’t have these items, doesn’t make me any less of a zero waster.
Sure, there are many people you will see out there that say if you still purchase items in plastic packaging that you aren’t a zero waster. If you don’t boycott this company then you aren’t zero waste because they still use palm oil in their products. Some people even say if you aren’t vegan than you aren’t zero waste. It’s a crazy world that we live in. However, no one can label you. If you identify as a zero waster, then you are a zero waster. Many people who identify as vegan may accidentally eat meat, dairy, or even eggs if they didn’t know that the item had meat, dairy, or even egg in it. There is no such thing as perfection.
Are we Perfect?
I would like to go back to the theme of Main Street Vegan, which is living a life full of compassion for our planet. Factory farms is the largest contributing factor to climate change and greenhouse gases. By becoming a vegan, many are fighting against various factory farms and explaining how detrimental they are to the animals, our society, and our planet. HOwever, they continue purchase items that come in non-recyclable packaging and could end up in our oceans killing various animals, or in the landfill that takes away a ton of land from our animals. They may even continue to support companies that use palm oil in their ingredients. Palm oil is one of the largest contributing factors to forest fires and deforestation. Just because they are vegan, doesn’t mean they don’t kill any animals on our planet or purchase items that will contributing to the killing of animals. They are doing the best that they can by not eating any of the animals that come from factory farms. Now, I am not demoralizing the vegan movement, but rather humanizing it for many who continue to try and live a “perfect” life. Sorry guys, but it just can’t happen.
Even Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer, two of the main pioneers of the zero waste movement still eat, dairy, meat, eggs, and seafood that could be coming from various factory farms around the United States and the world. Even if they are able to fit their trash into a mason jar, they could still be contributing to factory farming and other aspects of our culture that are detrimental to our environment. However, these aren’t areas that many talk about. When it comes to zero waste, like veganism, people focus on whether or not that they fit within the set guidelines that the media has set up for everyone. Well, how come they are better than me, just because they don’t produce any trash. The truth is that they aren’t.
No matter how difficult it may seem to be, there is no such thing as perfection. Even the people who are deemed to live the most "perfect" lives all over social media have their struggles and issues. To say that all zero wasters live a perfect life of zero trash is completely 100% false. It's also important to note that. no one but your can label yourself as a zero waster. So no one can tell you that you aren’t a zero waster. I love that I am able to continue make more changes within my own life that help reduce my overall footprint. I hope you all decide to read The Main Street Vegan, especially if you want to live a healthier and more compassionate life!