The Connection Between Veganism and Minimalism
Our culture is one of extreme consumption. Consumers have the ability to go to the mall each season and shop at fast-fashion stores that promise the latest styles for ultra-low prices. Hungry patrons can visit fast food restaurants and buy items from a $1 menu. Television is ultra-saturated with commercials advertising products and food for individuals of all ages. Anyone logging into their email box at any time of the day will find never ending sales and discounts. So many options, so much to choose from, and naturally, we want it all—but is consumerism actually making our lives better?
Growing Up in a World Run by Consumerism
Veganism and Minimalism, in their essence, begin by asking the question, “Do I agree with the main stream idea of consumerism?” Practicing vegans often grow up in an environment where a typical family dinner night includes steak and mashed potatoes, pasta and meatballs, pork chops and applesauce, and chicken and potatoes au gratin. We wear down and wool coats in the winter, pour milk on our cereal, use personal care products that contain beeswax, carmine, honey, and milk. We take school trips to the aquarium, circus, and zoo. Animals are heavily utilized in our everyday comforts and routine. Yet, the connection between consumption and the animals exploited are minimal.
In addition, children often grow up in families where parents are always on the lookout for a sale; before each school season begins, clothing stores advertise two for one deals on garments, and buy one and get the second for 50% off. On the other side, some parents enjoy spoiling their children with expensive, name brand clothes and shoes that are out of style by the following year. What is left is a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Humans naturally collect things, a habit that is often reinforced by family birthday and Christmas presents. It is not unusual for a teenager going away to college or twenty-something moving out of their parents’ house to leave behind tons of packed boxes in the attic. There are simply too many possessions to transport and store.
"There are simply too many possessions to transport and store."
The question is, where does it stop? For individuals reviewing their choices and making sense of their current lifestyle, vegans and minimalists both come to the realization that what has been ingrained in our minds and in our everyday life from the time we were babies is not necessarily the most conscientious way to live.
What is Really Important?
The truth is, animals are abused, killed, and exploited for human consumption and entertainment. Although this information is readily available via a variety of media, many turn a blind eye. When one knows the facts, it is more difficult to ignore. Making lifestyle changes are difficult, especially ones we have had since childhood. Vegans are able to make the personal decision to become informed of the truth and make the necessarily changes to remove (as much as possible) the actions in their life that take advantage of animal consumption.
"Similarly, minimalists also must take a step back from and evaluate the true nature of their consumption."
Similarly, minimalists also must take a step back from and evaluate the true nature of their consumption. “Do I really need 20 t-shirts, 10 pairs of jeans, and 50 pairs of shoes?” In reality, most people wear the same outfits on rotation without touching all of their other garments. We have bookcases full of books that have only been read once. We continue to gather more possessions, which, in turn, pile on all of the other things we have acquired over time and never utilized. Minimalists come to the realization that, in reality, less is more. It boils down to quality of life, and the realization that having more things does not necessarily equate a richer life.
Leading an Intentional Life
Vegans and minimalists evaluate what is truly important in leading a thoughtful, intentional life. Consuming animals is unnecessary and there are a wide variety of alternatives that rival the taste of meat, cheese, and dairy. Clothing and accessory companies offer garments that are free of animal fabrics and materials. Many cosmetic and personal care companies do not use animal ingredients in their formulations. The initial transition may be difficult while swapping out non-vegan items. However, the lifestyle is crucial in leading an intentional life.
"What actually brings me joy?" and "What do I love?"
Minimalist are able and willing to review their possessions that fill their home and life and ask, “What actually brings me joy?" and "What do I love?” They fight human loss aversion biology and either sell, donate, or throw away the items that do not hold value in their life. This act of purging personal possessions may be an emotional and time consuming process, but the results provide clarity. Minimalists are able to get rid of the clutter and find a life of meaning without distraction.
Quality Over Quantity
A natural step in the journey of veganism and minimalism is the belief of quality over quantity. The vegan lifestyle is often a stepping stone to healthy living. Because of the attention that goes into checking ingredients of food, personal care products, and other lifestyle items, this action can lead to wanting to invest more in the types of foods that are consumed and products that are used. We can snack on an accidentally vegan candy bar at the grocery store filled with tons of chemicals and artificial ingredients, but we can eat a banana instead. In comparison, since minimalists have pared down their possessions and lifestyle choices, they are able to invest in items of higher value. It becomes more attractive and makes more sense to pay $50 for one high quality, well-made shirt over 10 $5 cheaply made shirts.
The decisions to adopt vegan and minimalist lifestyles are extremely personal choices. It is a mindset that requires stepping back from the status quo and what has been engrained in us from the time we were babies. Humans naturally desire progress which can translate to collecting things. We want all the choices in the world and have the mentality that everything on this planet is for human consumption. However, by analyzing traditional lifestyle choices and reflecting on what is really important in order to lead an intentional life, veganism and minimalism go hand in hand.
About the Author: Caitlin lives in a little suburb near Philly with a cool dude and cute white pup. She's an extremely passionate person, particularly when it comes to conscious consumerism, cruelty-free beauty, and living a minimalist, vegan life. You can follow her on instagram.