I love irony. Which is why I find people so interesting. We are each motivated by a personalized kaleidoscope of experiences, beliefs and goals. “Normal” is defined by what we choose to surround ourselves with, and right and wrong are relative to culture, religion, and personal conviction. One person’s truth may be another’s lie. And if that rings hollow to you, then I think I just made my point.

Most people will acknowledge the existence of an x-factor, and make room for differing opinions. But everyone has a list of things they know FOR SURE…a set of beliefs that defines life and their unique purpose. But when examined, there is no moral code that is flawless. Contradictions are everywhere, and there IS an exception to every rule.

Unfortunately, being openly vegan doesn’t qualify as a protected class, although bias abounds. Because it’s impossible to be consistent at all times. It’s exhausting to even try. And I’ve had to learn to appreciate my own inconsistencies because they are my shadow, and create the depth that makes me real. And since the only sure way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing, I’m no longer afraid to try and fall short. I even have a formal complaint department for people to lodge their concerns about my vegan status when I swat a fly or let my kids order a pizza. To leave a comment about my inconsistencies, please dial 1-800-WHATEVER.

My vegan journey began with the desire to get healthy. And my focus was mostly on what I would no longer eat. What followed next was learning about the importance of organic and minimally processed foods, and I try to eliminate as many pesticides and preservatives from my diet (and those who eat my food…sorry kids!) as possible.

But now, I’m waking up to the fact that good food can only come from a healthy environment. And life as we know is not sustainable…we’ve got to stop biting the hand that feeds us. And while I believe everyone has the right to decide for themselves how they wish to eat, I’m a little less tolerant of irresponsible actions that are destructive to our planet.

Anyone that wants to examine my vegan aspirations for perfection will be thoroughly entertained by my laughable justifications and double standards. I drive an SUV, enjoy air-conditioning, leave lights on and use aerosol hairspray. But I’m doing more than I did a year ago. Social responsibility is now part of my everyday awareness; taking responsibility for our “stuff” should not be an option. Ignoring the extreme weather patterns, growing oceanic dead zones, disappearing rain forests and planetary population explosion doesn’t make these things less of a reality.

Your choice is to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Of course you can’t do everything at once. Which is the perfect reason to start small. For me, social responsibility began with reducing the amount of trash I send to the landfill. Though recycling is a big part of that, the more effective action has been to not buy as many disposable products that come in throw-away packaging. Think about what you bring home from a typical trip to the store. Notice how much trash is created by groceries, clothing, household items and takeout food. And when we go to campus, office, parks and parties, we take water and food that’s wrapped in plastic. The sheer volume of bags, boxes and plastic containers we go through on a daily basis is insane!  And now, multiply that by every day and every person. And then exponentially include the waste produced by businesses, restaurants, schools and institutions.

The US fills 63,000 dump trucks every day. Over 1/3 of that is PACKAGING!

In this country, for every truckload of products you find on store shelves, there are 32 (THIRTY TWO) truckloads of trash created by the production, transportation, storage, use and disposal of those products. And in the US, 90 percent of everything made ends up in a landfill. The leftovers find their way into the rivers and oceans. Did you know there is a Texas-sized island of trash that has formed in the Atlantic? It is only one of five that have been discovered in the last 10 years.

It can be overwhelming and disheartening to see the reality behind the carefully constructed curtain that corporate America uses to shield us all from the consequences of our collective actions. But the winds are picking up and the curtain will come down. Our lifestyles are unsustainable. Social responsibility can not be avoided much longer.

Will choosing one brands’ packaging over another affect tomorrow’s trash statistics? Probably not much more than a random act of kindness will actually make the world a better place. (But of course, it does…) Simply doing nothing because you can’t do everything ignores the personal power we all share. If you care enough to vote, pray or sing in the shower, then you believe in your own voice. Begin with your own circle of influence and become the change you wish to see. The Ripple Effect will take it from there.

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