On my quest to lower my impact on the planet, I found myself delving into many different aspects of sustainability. Plant-based eating, minimalism and what I’m most well known for – reducing my waste. Sexy, I know. The road has been bumpy, to say the least, but when you’re constantly learning and engaging in something this important, it all feels worth it.
Breaking old habits and creating new ones is bloody hard. Which is probably why it took me 2 years after going vegan to actually discover the environmental benefits of eating a more plant based diet. Initially I looked into veganism because I saw an idealised version of myself sitting on the other side. Healthy, slim, and a conscious consumer. However, I often fell off because I had no real connection to this lifestyle, until I watched a documentary that took me through every industry and highlighted how each one mistreated both humans and non-human animals. It’s one of those cases of ‘when you know you know’ – and you can’t unlearn it, so the only option is move forward in a more ethical fashion.
As I took my first few steps into sustainability I quickly learned that simply eating a vegan diet wasn’t exactly synonymous with being ethical, organic or sustainable. Eating bananas that had been shipped from Colombia, soybeans from China or oranges from Seville was pretty much in direct opposition to my claim of being a sustainable vegan. I was actually laughably unsustainable during my first few years of veganism, and my friends would even troll me with hashtags like #unsustainablyvegan. We laugh about it now, but they still make constant threats of photographing me with plastic and creating a troll account to expose my ‘true’ nature! I think it’s important to have friends who support you, but who are also comfortable making fun of you. Because let’s face it, some ‘zero waste’ things I do, are pretty ridiculous.
The more you learn the more you realise how much of an impact everything we consume has. As a vegan I began eating tonnes of nuts to make sure I was eating enough protein and healthy fats. Little did I know how unsustainable almonds are, or how unethical cashew farming is and the effect such labour has on workers. At every turn I kept making mistakes because I wasn’t researching widely enough yet.
My sustainability education really is like Pandora’s Box, the more you read the more you realise how fucked up the world is. On the other hand, however, it also makes you realise how many remarkable people there are out there doing pretty astounding things for the green movement. Be An Unfucker is one of my absolute favourites. Its an organisation similar to The Low Impact Movement, in the approach they take towards reducing waste. The only major difference is that they bloody love to swear and its awesome.
Making one positive step seems to snowball into changes that shape the way you move through life. That’s what happened to me anyway. Going vegan, reading The China Study, and watching endless documentaries about climate change and plastic pollution literally changed the course of both my personal life and my career. Earlier this year I created The Low Impact Movement after years of living a low impact lifestyle. I could see the frustrations, in my friends and followers, of the pressure to try to be perfect. I wanted to provide a space where it was okay to fail. Especially since accessibility is such a major issue, it just felt completely unfair to expect perfection when not everyone is surrounded by an abundance of zero waste shops and farmers markets – or has the means to shop at them.
One of the hardest things for me was accepting that I could never be truly zero waste. Understanding that I’m human – and when I’m on my period I am going to buy that chocolate bar and I am going to enjoy it – is such a necessary part of my (and everyone’s) journey. I think guilt is a massive problem within the community. You gain all this knowledge about how unjust the world is and how wasteful we have become, but when that new vegan range in Waitrose comes out you just can’t really control yourself. I mean come on. Vegan mac and cheese that might actually be good? You have to try it and see.
Even though reducing my waste and eating a plant based diet has come with immense obstacles, it’s been one hell of a ride. I’ve never been more proud of myself for actually sticking to a new habit for a change, and cruising through life knowing that my actions are actually having a positive impact on the world around me. Taking your first step into sustainability is terrifying but also so incredibly exciting. You need to jump in head first, and allow yourself to make as many mistakes as possible. This is how you really learn to lower your impact, and it also makes it a lot more fun. Choose one thing in your life to start with, be it consuming less in general, using a reusable coffee cup, or even thrifting more of your clothes. Once you begin to successfully implement new habits into your daily life, lowering your impact simply becomes second nature.
Words by @ Immy Lucas (@sustainablyvegan)
Image credit: @sustainablyvegan