Today, a non-yoga post. Or maybe an Ahimsa-related post (is there such a thing as a non-yogicly relevant post?).
Last weekend, I went shopping for boots at mooshoes, as the inside of my previous pair of boots was so worn out that it made my feet hurt, and I had already had them repaired once. I found a nice pair of wood and faux-leather boots, made ethically and sustainably in Portugal, for $150. While it’s not cheap, this is around the price I would have paid for “regular” boots (aka leather boots in any fashion shop). And it made me wonder: if the price and quality are the same, why are ethical and sustainable options not more widespread? If faced with two similar-looking boots, one ethical and the other not, would people still buy the non-ethical option?
Thinking about this made me realize how far along the way I’ve come in terms of values. Being ethical has not always been one of my core values, or rather, if you’d asked me I would always have thought it was important but I was not always acting in agreement with it. Simple exemple: I’ve not always bought ethical chocolate. If the supermarket didn’t carry fairtrade cocoa, I would buy the regular one. If they had both, I would have likely bought the fairtrade one, but not really thinking about it.
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to live ethically in today’s society. First, everything is aimed at consumption. More, more, more. Buy more things, eat more food, produce more. So it’s kind of weird when suddenly you wake up and want to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. Suddenly, all of your purchases become an act of mindfulness. Do I get the out-of-season veggie that’s not wrapped in plastic, or the plastic-foiled in-season veggie? What about vegan junk food as you want to support vegan brands, yet are obviously more wasteful than eating unprocessed plant foods? Or fruit that might spoil while being transported to work vs packaged dried fruits? What if your ethical item is not available at the moment, do you change your whole plan or do you buy the non-ethical version? And if you order your ethical groceries online, is it really better than buying regular groceries near you?
I realize some of these question are more practical issues compared to not knowing what the best option really is. But even the definition of veganism includes “as far as possible and practicable”. At some point, when you have two hours of your day spent commuting, 8-9 hours of work, one hour cooking, 1.5 hours working out or teaching, spending one hour comparing products at the grocery store feels exhausting. And that’s all the while being privileged, and having enough money to choose what I buy and where I buy it from.
Some days I feel as someone who has the money to support ethical brands, I am morally obliged to do so. And I often do. But there is also an incentive to consume less, get rid of what we don’t “need” and live a simpler life. Which I also try to do. Finding the sweet spot is sometimes difficult. A while ago, I was at a friend’s place for dinner and other friends of this friend I didn’t know asked me about my fairphone, and veganism. They commented that if everyone cared as much as me, the world would be a better place. While on the one hand it made me happy that they acknowledged my trying, on the other hand I just wanted to say “it’s not that hard! Everyone can do it!”, and while that might not be completely true, I do believe that everyone can do something better. We make so many choices everyday, yet we rarely think about them. And I think that’s where the bottleneck is: how do you get people to start to think and be more conscious about all these decisions they make everyday?
Definitely not by retiring out of society, while it sometimes seems like the best way to have the least impact on the planet. I tend to think that leading by exemple is the best option, showing that you can still live “normally” yet make better choices for the planet and its inhabitants. So far, it’s been the extent of my activism. Yet there are issues which this approach too:
- I’m not perfect. No one is, and I’d like to think that makes me actually relatable, and empower people to change what they can. But I’m clearly privileged, and I flew transatlantic a few times last year due to my boyfriend and me living on different continents. So there’s ground for criticism, and some people would easily jump on the occasion to say that since they didn’t fly, they can eat all the meat / use all the one-use plastics they want / etc. And I get it, changing something you do on the daily (habits, yogis, habits!) is much more difficult than forgoing one flight. But I think that’s missing the point. We should all be in this together, and if you use less resources than I do, kudos to you!
- I tend not to speak much about these choices I make, with the exception of a few friends and on this blog. And it can be depressing to see people get a take-away plastic lunchbox and/or coffee everyday. It does feel like all the efforts I make are for nothing…
- Some things are definitely NOT practical. Or cheap. For exemple this year I wanted to plan holidays without taking the plane. I figured that from NYC I should be able to go to a couple of nice places with the train. One plan is to go to New Orleans. The trip takes 30 hours and costs upwards of $800 for two people in a cabin one way, while the plane takes an hour and is $100. While my boyfriend is on board with being eco-friendly, that discrepancy was a bit too much for him (He’s what you’d call frugal, too). We compromised on going one way with the train and back with the plane (plus some greenwashing donations), yet I feel most people would not hesitate and book a return ticket with the plane.
Anyhow, what are some things you feel you could do better ethically-wise? How do you deal with these daily dilemmas? And how far have you gone if you look back a couple of years? What type of activism do you think is most effective? Does your ethical living bleed into your work too?
PPS: if someone knows of a solid toothpaste which contains fluoride, please let me know in the comments below!