You’ve done something amazing. 🎉 By becoming vegan, you’ve unleashed a curative force — not just for your own body, but for the entire world. That’s because going vegan can slash your carbon “foodprint” by more than half. In fact, according to The Vegan Calculator, over the course of just 30 days, one vegan saves:
- 33,000 gallons of water
- 1,200 pounds of grain
- 900 square feet of forest
- 30 animals’ lives and
- 600 pounds of carbon.
Indeed, above and below, there’s healing going on.
But what if I told you that there’s a way to supercharge the restorative powers of your vegan diet, that following a few simple steps will go even further in protecting you, your loved ones, our human family, and the beautiful biosphere in which we live, move, and have our being? You’d be all over that, am I right?
Well, there is a way to do just that, to turn your plant-based lifestyle into a planet-based lifestyle (as I like to call it!), and it’s as easy as the three Rs, plus two! (Thanks to Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home for this framework.)
- Refuse what you do not need.
The first step is to say “thanks, but no thanks” to what you don’t need.
I became a vegan because I realized we’ve come to a point in human history in which we don’t need to use animals (And who wants to be the cause of unnecessary suffering anyway?) I also decided to do my best to cut out single-use plastics — ’cause, yikes, have you seen what plastic does to our bodies and our world? Basically, I try to say no to anything I know I’m just going to toss. The less we bring into our house, the more we keep out of the landfill!
Of course, a little preparation can go a long way, so I often carry my own reusable bag, utensils, drinking cup, glass straw, and handkerchief (they’re coming back, y’all). Tip: you can even DIY these items. For instance, I carry a cleaned-out jam jar so I’m never without water! It’s super light and it seals tightly, so my purse stays spill free. Here’s a snapshot of what I keep in my purse, so I’m always prepared to refuse the waste but not a taste. 😉
2. Reduce what you have.
The mantra for this step is simplify, simplify, simplify! And to do so, ask yourself: What brings value or joy into my life? Then put back into circulation whatever doesn’t.
I like making my reduction efforts into a game to see just how far I can go. And it goes without saying that cleaning out the closet or garage can be fun and cathartic! But bottom line, I’ve learned that going back to basics is not just cost effective, but more effective period.
You see, I used to have a bit of a beauty product addiction. But when I started washing my face with just water and using a healing oil such as argan or rosehip as a moisturizer, my skin cleared up right away. Getting rid of those chemicals was the best thing I could have done for myself, not to mention my pocketbook…. Now as general rule, if I can’t eat it, it doesn’t go onto my body. (I break that rule for a small bag of makeup, ’cause, well, I’m vain.)
And speaking of effective, did you know that diluted white vinegar can replace your household disinfectant, stain and grease remover, grout cleaner, bathroom cleaner, kitchen cleaner, and more? Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil and you’ve got an all-in-one product that will rival the entire Mrs. Meyer’s line at a smidgen of the cost! And you won’t have to keep this cleaner locked up away from the dog or kids.
3. Reuse what you consume.
Reusing what you consume means ditching disposables all the way to the bank. It can also mean getting a little creative with things that have reached their intended end, like repurposing an old t-shirt as a rag or turning coconut pulp into flour after making coconut milk.
One of my favorite reuse hacks is making my own apple cider vinegar from apple cores. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is — you can practically set it and forget it. If you like apples and ACV, you’ve got to try the recipe.
4. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
I used to think that recycling was enough. But then I learned the truth. First, only a portion of the things we think we recycle actually gets recycled! Second, an immense amount of energy (resulting in greenhouse gas emissions) goes into the recycling process. Just think: First the material to be recycled is transported, then it’s mechanically and manually sorted, then maybe transported some more, then the material is actually broken down and processed. Plus, some things we recycle are toxic and endanger the lives of those who process them. What’s more, recycled plastic is usually downcycled. So recycling is not enough, but it is necessary! That’s why it’s number four in this process.
5. Rot (compost) the rest.
The final step toward a planet-based, zero-waste lifestyle is to rot, or compost, everything else. Lots of locales are moving toward collecting compost curbside along with recycling (and trash, but let’s forget about that!), and if that’s not yet happening in your neck of the woods, you might find a drop-off location or consider creating your own backyard compost heap. Just think of how happy your garden will be! 🥰
So there you have it! By following these simple steps, you’ll magnify the benefits of your plant-based lifestyle at all levels, from the personal to the planetary. Keep in mind though that this is a process, so as always, treat yourself with love, compassion, and forgiveness. And remember, what you’re giving up is nothing in comparison to what you’ll gain.