With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, what could be a better way of celebrating the season of self-improvement than by resolving to minimize one’s harm to other sentient beings? With veganism gaining greater popularity than ever before, and with new vegan products and services appearing on the market all the time, it has never been easier to make the commitment.
For many people, when they are first exposed to the concept of living without the use of animal products, they find themselves daunted by the idea of how much they would have to give up. For some, this means that they refuse to consider the idea further, even if they are, in fact, moved by the ethical reasons behind the practice of veganism. Sadly, because of this, many people never get the opportunity to learn about all they have to gain from making such a far-reaching improvement in their lives.
The resistance to veganism generally results from a lack of solid education about why and how to be vegan, and is exacerbated by the unfortunate myth that has developed around the idea of veganism being an ‘extreme’ choice reserved for those with strong willpower.
Once people are well-informed about the reasons to be vegan, and once they learn how to replace their former favorite meals, drinks, desserts, clothing, and entertainment options with vegan alternatives, they see that not only is being vegan easy, but the transition itself can be fun and interesting, and can lead to a whole new enjoyment of life itself.
One fantastic result of the recent growth in the vegan movement is that there is now a myriad of online resources – websites, forums, blogs, videos and podcasts – which provide education about vegan alternatives, a huge variety of recipes, and all sorts of information about vegan living.
If you try a quick web search, you’ll soon discover that fellow vegans are enthusiastic to share their knowledge about the latest information, and that there is a friendly community of people who will help you avoid the pitfalls – and discover the joys – of the vegan journey.
Non-vegan foods, clothing, cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and other personal products, as well as vitamins and dietary supplements are easily replaced with plant-based alternatives. Most of these items can be found in natural foods stores, but for clothing and items that are difficult to find, check out these online stores: The Vegan Store, Vegan Essentials and Cosmos Vegan Shoppe.
If you’re looking to replace your leather, silk, down and woolen gear, keep your eyes open at second-hand stores and garage sales – you can often find animal-free clothing and shoes in these places, while reducing your environmental footprint at the same time.
Online stores are generally a little more expensive, but they usually have a larger selection of vegan products, and sometimes have some great treats that can’t be found elsewhere.
If you’re a good shopper, you can always look out for discounts and sales. And once you get to know which products you like, keep your eyes open for them in other places like Amazon.com – they actually offer a large range of vegan products, often at quite reasonable prices.
Vegan convenience products are great for those who are making the transition, but for those who prefer to avoid the packaged, processed stuff, have no fear! There is an abundance of vegan whole foods available at grocery stores, health food stores and farmers’ markets.
You can find a guide to vegan supermarket shopping in the article What Do Vegans Eat?
If you’re new to veganism, give yourself time to learn, and don’t beat yourself up for making honest mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes – sometimes big mistakes – in the first six months or year of being vegan.
But make sure you take the time to learn about the hidden animal ingredients in many foods that you might think are vegan. After the initial time it takes to get adjusted to your new way of living, you will develop your own knowledge base, routines, and rules of thumb that will make shopping much easier.
The commitment to living the vegan ideal brings with it a truly new year, along with new possibilities, opportunities for creativity, and the new lease on life that comes from doing something that you know is right. The joy you discover along the way will serve as a constant affirmation of the reasons that you are doing it in the first place – to live in accordance with your values of justice, harmony, empathy, courage, and nonviolence.
with Dan Cudahy