A few months ago, I decided to stop eating food from animals that had been abused. I started paying $7 for a dozen eggs, searching labels for supposedly-indicative buzzwords to indicate a certain level of humanity, and agonizing over whether the pigs that gave their lives for my prosciutto had been treated well or shouted at. But I started compromising, feeling guilty, becoming stricter, feeling deprived, and compromising again. Then I read “The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater,” and it resonated so much with me that I read the whole thing, out loud, to D while he was driving us home. We both laughed, but I realized something.
I’m not a perfect consumer, and that’s ok.
I’m the kind of person who watched Forks Over Knives, Fast Food Nation, and Food Inc., and read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Eating Animals, and did not become a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, or even a flextatarian. I made some new, loose rules about what I put in my body, but I generally felt outraged for about five minutes and then continued on my merry way.
I try not to buy milk from big brands, and I know that “organic” doesn’t mean “this cow lived it’s life on Farmer Bill’s pastures, eating daisies and soaking up the sun, until it died a soft, natural death,” but I don’t think too much about where my cheese comes from. I eat a lot of cheese.
I generally don’t eat meat from fast-food restaurants, but there are days when I give in to the temptation for a McDonald’s cheeseburger or a taco. I let my cravings be more important than my willpower.
I cook most of my dinners at home, but I eat out most days for lunch, wasting money I could be donating to one of many hundreds of organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry, and ingesting calories I really don’t need. I don’t eat breakfast either, completely skipping the most important meal of the day, when maybe eating breakfast would lead to healthier lunches.
I try not to buy bottled water, but everyone in my household has a real penchant for sparkling water, so we compromise by recycling the plastic bottles. We’ve started buying bottled sparkling water by the case, and seeing your pantry stores dwindle from a dozen bottles to a lonely, single green bottle in a matter of weeks is a stark reminder of how much of the water I drink comes from a bottle. But at work, it’s Sparklett’s all the way, baby.
I don’t generally order coffee from Starbucks, because most mornings I save money by brewing my own organic, fair-trade, locally-roasted beans, but sometimes I want a latte. I try not to drink soda, because it’s bad for you and the bottles are plastic and are killing dolphins, but sometimes I need a soda. That’s a lie; sometimes I want a soda and choose to have one, even though it’s a waste of money, a drain on my health, and bad for the environment. Mostly, though, I drink coffee I brewed at home, local microbrews, and sparkling water from terrible plastic bottles.
I grow a lot of my own vegetables, but I buy broccoli when it’s out of season. Sometimes I really need/ want/ desire some broccoli pasta, or some roasted broccoli, in the middle of June. I don’t grow my own grapes, or buy wine locally, so all the wine I drink has been shipped to me from far, far away. But I’m not classy enough to really like wine all that much, so the beer is mostly local! Except when it’s not.
I know that oil is a scarce and non-renewable resource, and I live in a city with lots of bike lanes, but I don’t ride the bus or bike to work. I feel better because I drive to a park-and-ride and take the bus from there, but there is a bus that would take me from my front door to my office without making me switch buses, but it comes too early and takes too long. It’s inconvenient, so I use gas and drive part of the way myself, to buy an extra twenty minutes in the morning. But I take the bus part of the way. Except when D and I carpool.
The products in my shower weren’t tested on animals, and they proclaim that loudly and proudly on their bottles, but bunnies probably suffered in the making of my mascara. I am never not wearing mascara.
I know that pets aren’t environmentally friendly, strictly speaking, but I have two, and you can’t have them.
I have two tiny mammals, both adopted from a shelter (well, one from a shelter, one from a friend who got her from a friend who I think got her from a shelter), but I have friends who have spayed, neutered, fed, medicated, fostered, rehabilitated, and loved dozens of animals. Having these tiny mammals in my home brings me more joy than you can imagine, but one of them is extremely picky about her litter box. Her prior owner tried to switch her to the environmentally-friendly corn-based litter, and she wasn’t having it. When I got her, I tried again (after all, we’d had Baxter on the magic corn litter for a year, and he didn’t mind). Hermione flat refused to use the box with the corn litter, so it was back to the clay litter, and there are a hundred reasons why that’s bad.
The point is this: even though I am not perfect and I could do more, what I am doing is still good. Recycling, cooking my own meals, growing my own food, volunteering, donating small amounts of money to organizations I support, and raising cats who might otherwise not have homes and who bring me joy are good things. Trying not to purchase things that have traveled from far away, that are contained in plastic, or that harm the environment is a good thing, even if my implementation of “try” isn’t perfect. Even if I don’t try some of the time.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. I’m not perfect, but I’m doing my little part, and that matters.