The Cheating Vegan: It’s Not Easy Being Green, Right Kermie?

I remember when I was a teenager and the biggest environmental issue was our use of aerosol cans. It was imperative that we stop using them because we had pretty much made a doily out of the ozone layer. Perhaps it was just the media’s way of getting us to stop teasing and spraying our bangs up 12 inches. But either way, they convinced us to put down our gallon cans of Aquanet.

Now it’s all about our carbon footprint, hybrid vehicles, recycling, bringing your own bags to the grocery store…just when you think you are at your greenest, they come out with some new green product that’s a must-have. Cleaning products, using landfills to generate green energy, energy efficient light bulbs. They say that green is the new black.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about being green. I’m a vegan, recycling, tree-hugging hippie myself (I draw the line at Berkinstocks though). And I often wonder how long being green is going to stick with us. Is it just a trend? The newest scheme to get us to redirect our money from gas-guzzlers to fuel-efficient models?

Never have the words of our green friend, Kermit the Frog, been so true: “It’s not easy being green.” You’re right Kermie, it’s pretty darn exhausting.

If you’re thinking, it’s all so overwhelming and expensive, you’re right. But I recently came up with a plan that I think might work for me. Each time I do a big grocery shopping–about once a month–I’ll trade one of my products for a more earth-friendly one. That way, I won’t feel the financial impact all at once.

Let’s take, for example, something basic like toilet paper. I’d usually just buy whatever is on sale, but this month, I’d switch it out for recycled. Or produce. If I usually buy whatever fruit is in season, perhaps I can opt for the organic instead. In a year, at just one product a month, that will be twelve earth-friendly products that are now in my home.

One of my students recently asked me if I thought I was making any difference at all. What difference does it make if I switch from the store-brand coffee is to fair trade organic? I don’t know, I told him honestly. But I do know that some of my daily habits are hurting my planet, my home. And the only actions I can control are my own, so I will try. Perhaps through my example, one of my students or friends will learn, and they too will try to be greener. They might talk to their friends–and just like any great fad–it may spread.

Either way, negative or positive, what we do has ripple effects around the world. One only needs to remember the ozone layer crisis to know that the decisions we make together really can impact this planet. When’s the last time you heard about holes in the ozone layer? And when’s the last time you thought using Aquanet was a good idea? Probably around the last time you thought a perm was a good idea, right?

I’m so glad that some fads die (um, 80’s hair…) Being green though, I hope this is trendy for a long, long time.

The Cheating Vegan: Defined

Veganism (n.) the practice of abstaining from and adopting a philosophy against the use and consumption of animal products.
I remember in 7th grade someone asked me if I was a prep or a guido. I looked down at my New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) sweatshirt (don’t judge, it was the late 80s) and thought, are those my only two options?
I guess I’ve never been much for labels. And as you get older, the labels just get more pretentious. Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? An ovo-lacto vegetarian? A pescatarian perhaps? How about just a plain old carnivore.
I was a vegetarian off and on throughout college and then I moved to Europe where vegetarian meant not eating red meat. I went with it. I did a stint as a strict vegan: no eggs, no diary, no honey (I never quite figured out what the whole honey deal was though). I’ve learned by trial and error. Truly more error than trial.
Like the time I went in search of non-diary creamer for my sacred cup of morning coffee. Let me say here—for all you soy consumers—that I am a big fan of soy. Beans, milk, sauce. Healthy, animal-friendly. What’s not to like? So, I thought, soy creamer—awesome. With high hopes, I put on a fresh pot, poured in the milk-like substance and…it tasted like a sock.
Do your homework. Make informed decisions. Know what is best for YOU. You don’t have to justify your choices to anyone. I ate milk chocolate today after buying soy milk. I own leather boots but don’t have a mink stole–mostly because I don’t know where I would ever wear a mink stole but also because fur just seems more animal-y to me than leather. It is not.
So, maybe I am a cheating vegan. Or not even a vegan at all. But I have learned that I need to be making better choices for my body and they don’t have to be the same ones you are making for yours.
Who am I to judge? I liked NKOTB. I clearly don’t get a vote.