I know one Joshua Hooten that loves when magazines list the “x Ways to ____” teasers on their front cover, so Josh, this one’s for you.
You’re vegan. Awesome. But are you the most kick-ass vegan you could be? Are you pretty kick-ass, but looking for ways to increase your ass-kickitude? Try these ideas on for size.
- Make a vegan gift basket. Do you have a friend that just went veg? Harken back to your first few weeks… I remember thinking, “Jeez… am I doomed to a life of soy hot dogs and lettuce?” Go to your local co-op and grab some Red Star nutritional yeast, agave nectar, soy jerky, and some other fun convenience foods. Then maybe toss in a cookbook or print out some recipes from the web. Arrange them artfully and there you go: a vegan starter kit to help get your friend on the road to veganism. (Kudos to my wife who recently did this for a friend of ours that recently went vegetarian. Great idea.)
- E-mail local restaurants and bakeries and ask them about vegan options. I pretty much stole this one from Isa’s article from the last issue of Satya, but it’s a really good one. You may not get many responses, but if you can start getting vegan options (with the word “vegan” attached to it) into some local eateries, the vegan love and wisdom will spread like a ray of hippie sunshine.
- Talk to other activists. In person, if possible. It can get difficult when you’re sitting at a desk all day to remember that there are other people out there who take veganism and animal rights as seriously as you do. So talk with them. I’m not officially a member of any organizations, primarily because most of the ones near me are in DC, which isn’t really all that near me. But when I volunteer at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, everyone talks about activism, animal issues, food (usually while cleaning the pig yard), and social issues. I always come away from a day of volunteering reinvigorated and bubbling with new ideas and inspiration.
When I was in Portland last month, I attended a really great gathering of activists from different causes to discuss burnout and infighting. I walked away from that not only more inspired than I’d ever been, but wishing that I could go to something like that every month. Keeping the dialogue active is essential to keeping ourselves excited and motivated.
- Donate small. Do you donate to one of the large animal rights organizations? Have you thought about whether or not your money is being spent in a way you approve of? If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” then consider donating your money (or time!) to a smaller, local organization. Small non-profits can have trouble raising money when directly competing with larger organizations for your dollar. With a small, local organization like a rescue or sanctuary, you can find out specifically how your money is being spent and you can physically see how your money is directly helping the animals.
- Join a CSA. When a friend told me about the concept of Community Supported Agriculture a few years ago, I was floored. It was exactly what I’d been looking for: locally grown organic vegetables picked in the morning and delivered to you by that evening for about the cost of vegetables at the local supermarket. It really is one of the best things you can do as a vegan (aside from growing your own): you’ll support local farmers (with all the ecological benefits that go with it), you’ll get fresher, more nutritious vegetables, and the taste will be beyond anything you can buy in the store. It’s a win for everyone. Search for a CSA near you.
- Clean out your cleaning closet. Cleaning products tend to last for a long time (confession: I still have a functioning “stain stick” that I bought before my freshman year of college in 1994), so even if you’ve been vegan for a while, you probably still have a bunch of cleaners that were tested on animals or contain nasty, unnecessary chemicals. I’m sure you’ve already switched to greener cleaners and only have the old cleaners around because you don’t want to put them to waste or dump them in a river. Well, donate ’em.
I found out today that a local thrift store that benefits the homeless needs dryer sheets. Why? The store cleans up clothes and gives them to homeless men and women going on job interviews and, thus, needs dryer sheets. What a perfect way to get rid of those old animal tallow-filled beasts I have sitting down by the dryer! Look up a local shelter and see whether they’d be able to use your leftover cleaning supplies and then never look back.
- Make an animal care kit for your car. In each of our cars (yes, we have two… thank the suburbs for that), we have a basic animal care kit. Making Kind Choices has a section on creating one that you may want to look to for suggestions (also covered briefly here), but here’s what I’d start with:
an animal carrier that could hold a cat or small dog, a very simple leash that can easily be placed around an animal’s head, a card with the numbers of local animal control, rescue organizations, and shelters, pull-tab cans of cat and dog food, a towel, and print-outs of what to do when you find birds, possums, turtles, owls, and other animals.
- Read. At any given time, I’m reading 3-4 books. One of them is always somehow related to animal rights. Go ahead: build a reading list and see what your local library has in stock (or just walk and browse the shelves – start at Dewey Decimal 179.3). Read something that you may not agree with. Challenge yourself. Read outside of your comfort zone.
- Give a talk. Here’s one I’ve been meaning to work up the nerve to do for a while now. Ideally, I’d like to find a group of young or beginning vegetarians to talk to about veganism, like a high school or college animal rights group. Spread the knowledge!
- Stay healthy, like Dead Prez said. One of the best ways to promote veganism is to be happy and healthy. Don’t turn into a vegan cheerleader necessarily, acting bubbly when you’re not feeling it, but eat well, be positive, and be a good role model for veganism. Three cheers for the non-cranky vegan!