NEW VEGAN: WHAT DO I DO WITH MY OLD LEATHER AND WOOL?
Gary Yourofsky’s, The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear (and you should hear it), further strengthened my resolve to commit to a Vegan lifestyle and not just hold at a plant-based diet. It reminded me that being Vegan was not just about the health benefits, but the trifecta - Animal Cruelty, Health and Environment.
The part of a Vegan lifestyle that was really going to kick my ethical butt, was relinquishing the use of animal products. Until I started poking around on the internet and reflecting on my own possessions, I was unaware of how many non-vegan products I owned and used. Luckily I was too cheap to by leather seats in my car...Lol...
Was I willing to put my money where my heart was at? You've gotta understand, I am a self-professed, uh hem..."shoe ho", so parting with my shoes was going to be a bit of a struggle (like gnashing and crying). I have simplified my closet over some years and have managed to whittle away at most of my collection of shoes that, as Marie Kondo saysdon't "spark joy". I thought I had hit my balance. This kind of simplification that needed to happen was different though. It was powered by a clearer understanding of the industry and the unsettling role I have played in it. I was not feeling proud; my shoes were no longer "sparking joy". Instead, they were creating a schism in my soul, a kind of Cognitive Dissonance. In becoming vegan, I was proud to have taken a step toward contributing less to "the problem", but now my nose was being rubbed in the traces of my inhumanity on the daily! I don't know if you can relate, but I was only slightly concerned about what others would think of the vegan who still wore leather and more embarrassed by how my leather represented actions I had taken, that were vastly incongruent to my beliefs and moral compass. I'm being painfully honest here, so go easy on me; the shoes I have are sturdy and as mentioned, I believed I had simplified enough such that I had struck a comfortable balance of shoes. The truth was that if I stopped buying leather shoes, in no time soon would I ever need to feel the loss of not purchasing another. It's funny, prior to the enlightening moment I had while watching the Yourofsky video, I would not have subscribed to the same sentiment, but now, keeping this leather felt a bit like a punishment.
WOOL, FELT, SILK AND DOWN
While questioning the "Google Oracle", I ran across the Bite Size Vegan website. I love her, she kindly, intelligently and tastefully reminded me that it wasn't just the leather. Wool and down are issues as well. I only had one down jacket and this posed no major loss for me, since my favorite jacket is a great down"free" style technology by Marmot, but wool? Well come on...you gotta be kidding me, really? I knew some people had an issue with wool, but I thought it was more of a fringe feeling, because sheep had to be sheered anyway. The Bite Size Vegan cleared up that misunderstanding for me; it didn't take much convincing. Besides, wool is scratchy and doesn't typically feel good on my skin. I got this! So these items would be included in my purge.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP
What was I getting myself into, was I subjecting myself to a lifetime of tacky, poorly constructed, sweatshop produced shoes? My question, was grossly selfish and laden with First World Attitude, but none-the-less, being honest, that was what I was thinking. I don't think that we can effectively reduce the quantity of animal product purchases, until we are able to pinpoint the problems. Quality is one of the true barriers, for someone like myself, who would describe herself as progressive, compassionate and environmentally aware (or at least seeking and adapting). Somehow along the way the animal awareness aspect of vegetarianism slipped through my fingers. When I was vegan years ago, the non-leather choices were not varied nor of high quality. The clothing aspect of veganism, was really not even a consideration. I think Payless Shoes quality was the only choice at that time. Typically non-leather meant either inappropriate for colder weather climates, or cheaply constructed, uncomfortable shoes that were also environmentally a poor choice. Before I made the full jump into the vegan lifestyle, I had to do my research and see whether I would be able to replace my relinquished shoes with reasonably comparable non-leather options. I was amazed at what I found! It was an immediate no-brainer for me.
BRING OUT THE DEAD
I didn't know exactly what I was going to do with them, but I sprung up from my computer and began dragging out my leather and suede, creating a sizeable pile. Shoes, bags, wallets, belts...into the pile went wool sweaters, a wool coat I used for work, one felt jacket, and a pair of felt shoes. I felt like a Ringer from the Middle Ages, "Bring Out Your Dead...!" Through the lenses of someone seeing these crafty goods, as having belonged to animals, it was a trippy experience. As I looked at each of them, and thought about how beautiful they were, for the first time, I began to see them as having actually belonged to another being. I could still appreciate their style, beauty and comfort, but that I (the one who opens window to issue out bugs) placed those unnecessary superficial gains over the life of another being, was the opposite of what I feel in my heart and truly shamed me. I did, again have a few embarrassing and disconnected moments of grief, as I coached myself to releasea few pairs of truly beautiful shoes (which no doubt, originally belonged to truly beautiful animals). "Okay, get it together..!" *ego slaps face* "Place the shoe in the pile..." *tugs shoe* "I repeat, place...the...shoe..." *ego pries fingers open, one by one, from death grip self has on shoe* "...in...the pile..!" After a somewhat exhausting morning, I was done. It turns out that some of my shoes, that I thought were leather actually weren't...score! After this process, I felt proud of myself, but also lighter. A side perk from all of this, was that I had truly simplified my shoes now and felt unburdened! I bagged them up in waiting to decide, what I would do with them.
WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS PILE OF SHOES
I really had no clue what I would do with these items. There were some items (mostly sentimental Native American necklaces) that I could not easily replace and those I decided I would wear out and felt fine about that decision, but for the most part I did separate myself from the animal products I had previously purchased. What do new Vegans do with their previously purchased animal product items? Was there a Vegan handbook for this kind of thing? I went to the Oracle of Google.com and also spoke with a few Veg Friends; the responses I got were varied: donate them, sell them...give them a proper burial? "Give them a proper burial, what?!" If I focused on how these shoes were once an animal, I guess I could understand that sentiment, but based on the amount of people I have known in my life that do not have shoes, I personally could not justify that one. As a matter of fact, I myself did not have the means to go out and replace the shoes I would need (probably 2 pairs of winter boots and 2 pairs of heels). Furthermore, the animal has already been killed and the environmental and my financial resources have already gone into making and purchasing the ones I owned. Donating them, was one of the common suggestions. I am big on donating, that is my go-to for any unwanted items I have that are in good-excellent condition, but I needed to address the issue of purchasing a few replacements myself. I decided to have a priced-to-go yard sale, in the Fall. After I have purchased a few replacements for the Winter, I will make a donation to an animal friendly cause. I feel good!