Be Better.

Hank Green did this video about “Why Are Vegetarians So Annoying” and while I didn’t like the premise/title (I really don’t know any annoying vegetarians, I know way more annoying meat eaters, honestly.) I do like part of he explored about how we all kinda make shitty ethical decisions every day because our joy outweighs our momentary ethics. (He phrases it much better of course.) And I think about that a lot in terms of my eating and why I do not like the word vegan. I am 100% vegetarian but I probably only eat vegan 90-95% of the time, depending on the day. Partly because I don’t research pre-packaged food, partly because I like donuts, and partly because I still haven’t found a good substitute for my coffee creamer.

But if I even PRETEND to use the word “vegan” people suddenly take the defensive like I’m attacking their edible morals or something. I guess because no one chooses to be vegan without at LEAST a little moral motivation. It’s never 100% health related. And because of that, non-vegans feel like you’re immediately judging their lack of morals. Just like on the days I forget my reusable bags and the lady in front of me has hers and I feel the need to explain: I USUALLY USE REUSABLE! I PROMISE! Because I assume she’s judging me. And often I’m so paranoid I’ll buy more reusable bags.

But you know what else I do a lot? Hit the drive-thru at McDonald’s for French Fries and Diet Coke. Not only am I putting my money towards a huge conglomerate instead of a local eatery (we normally restrict eating out to local haunts) but I’m also eating REALLY SHITTY FOOD. I also buy super-cheap clothes at Target which were probably made by some small child in some poor community on the other side of the globe and I’m all, “Please put those pants in my reusable bags because I care more about what I put in the landfill than I do about the kids who made the pants I’m buying for $7.”

And maybe there are people out there who eat entirely local and plant based and make their own clothes and buy local wares and are 100% ethical with their spending and their eating and if they exist? GOOD FOR THEM. But my reality does not allow for that. I was overhearing someone talking about some deal on baby clothes and they mentioned some sort of something (a brand? A style?) on Etsy and the pants were only $10 and I was thinking, “Oh, man. This person is spending more on their baby’s pants than I do on my 8-year old’s pants.” And their pants were probably way more ethically made but I could not afford to put my baby in $10 pants.

So we all fight our own battles and sometimes we make the easy decision because it is – in that moment – easy.

But every year I try to start making harder decisions. The carrying of reusable bags, the trips to the recyclery (our curbside doesn’t take glass and we drink a lot of beer), the mostly pant-based diet, the rule about only eating out at Local Restaurants…but I still buy cheap Suave conditioner because I tried to be ethical about my cosmetics but I got lazy and it got expensive.

I guess the point is to just make sure at any given moment in time I’m trying to be BETTER about something. It’s overwhelming if you think of all of those things at once, but 10 years ago I wasn’t doing any of them. And my kids are growing up HOPEFULLY thinking about these things too. Of course I’m 99% certain my oldest is not recycling in college…but I try not to think too much about that.

So I’m going to try to do better. I’m going to just really think about my decisions in how I spend my money and consider if this is TRULY the only option or if this TRULY makes me happy. (The donuts and french fries make me happy – I PROMISE.) But that $7 pair of pants? Eh. It was a really good deal but I’m not sure it was worth it, honestly. And then I wonder, but if that factory cranking out those cheap pants didn’t exist…where would those kids work? I DON’T KNOW. Just like how I don’t eat at Jimmy Johns because the owner brags about hunting big game in Africa and it freaks me out but I know people who worked there and honestly – if it closed – where would they work? I don’t know. It’s all kind of a mess and sometimes I think my Dad had the right idea that if we could get along and not be assholes, commune living was really a good set up. Someone sewed, someone cooked, someone taught the kids, someone fixed the plumbing etc. But Dad didn’t like a lot of people and he had a tendency of being an asshole so he knew he’d be the one to spoil it for everyone.

So, I’m going to try not to think TOO big picture or I get overwhelmed. But I would like to try to be more ethical with my spending. I’ve tried before and failed but it took us awhile to make recycling a habit, and reusable bags, and veganism. So maybe I just try again. Try to be make the steps towards “BETTER” more than the steps towards “SHITTY” because then at least I’m moving in the right direction…no matter how long it takes me.

7 Comments

  • Michelle

    I apply the be better approach to a lot of areas in my life. Is it because I’m lazy and don’t have it in me to fully commit to a cause? Maybe. More likely it is because I work full time, have a husband, kids, and grand kids that all want a piece of my time. So we recycle, but not exclusively, I am almost totally vegetarian, but only occasionally vegan, my house is never 100% clean, but any time I spend cleaning makes it better (I’m the only one cleaning, don’t ask), work is the only place that I give my 100% and even then it’s more like 95%. I figure baby attempt to be better if a step in the right direction and give myself a little pat on the back. You should too, it’s good for you. 🙂

  • Grace

    This: “if that factory cranking out those cheap pants didn’t exist…where would those kids work?”

    One other thing that is rarely mentioned in the debate (about kids working for pennies or pollution or environmental footprints) is that the entire Western world was built on just what these guys are doing. We are rich enough now to be ecologically and socially correct. We weren’t while we were building the wealth. Wise, considered purchasing choices, when you can afford them, are fine. Eating locally is GREAT (good and good for you)!

    But like at the recent summit on Global Warming, were I a third world or developing country, I’d poke Westerners in the eye and say “don’t tell me what to do if you’re not going to put skin (money) in the game.” And also don’t tell me about the corruption. Robber Barons used “the relentless logic of economies of scale” to the detriment of the workers who built their empires — true even today in America with the Silicon Sultans and the refusal of our (mostly)Rich, White, Male Congress to raise the national minimum wage.

    OH YIKES YOU TOUCHED A NERVE!!! Good on you for making good choices (I do the same but I cannot abide Judgey McJudgerpantses).

  • Heather

    My current thought on being better is about bottled water and not buying it anymore (2.5 months almost). I still buy other bottles, mainly because I can’t get diet pepsi from every faucet I walk past, but not water.

    My motivation is that I committed that I would sing – out loud – to the register person this terrible little four line song any time I went to buy water. The thought of it makes me look for different options.

    The song?
    I sing a song of sad sea animals
    Why buy bottles when tap will do
    Plastic bottles never die
    but sea otters do.

  • Cherie

    It is hard, and we all have to pick our battles. Because, yeah, otherwise you feel like the fate of the entire globe rests on every purchase you make and who can live like that?

    The clothing battle is one I choose to fight because I honestly just can’t abide knowing the conditions people are living/working in just so I can buy a new shirt every month. So I try really hard to 1) truly only buy what I need and take care of what I have. That way I can feel at least like their labor was honored; 2) buy used first. It takes a lot of time up front and recurring visits to thrift stores, but once I got my system down, it’s really just a 15 minute scan once a week. I kind of enjoy it and that way I can outfit my kids–who need new pants every two months I do not exaggerate–cheaply without directly feeding the beast.

    I could do better on the food front, especially out of the local growing season. But I do not have enough time to source/can enough in the summer to get us through six months of winter. I just can’t.

  • Tamara Tedd

    I don’t know if this will mark me as shallow for not remarking thoughtfully as others did, or just the kind of person who finds unintentional humor wherever sometimes, BUT I did giggle a little when I read about your ‘mostly PANT-based diet’ AND I do agree that sometimes it is hard to live ethically and responsibly but that you are doing so, where able, means that you are one of the good guys!

    • Stephanie

      Basically stopped in to say the same exact thing.

      My ‘be better’ is tampons. I don’t need a plastic applicator where that’s headed. Probably TMI, but the one I’ve stuck to for my entire adult life.