Zero Waste Veganism Questions

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iirtriiiokn
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Zero Waste Veganism Questions

Post by iirtriiiokn » Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:42 am

What are your thoughts on zero waste veganism? I have some questions about it.

The amount of plastic in the ocean is obviously problematic, and so I've been reducing the disposable plastics I use. I had a thought though, maybe it's actually a good thing to buy vegan products (such as non dairy milk and mock meats) even if they come in plastic, to support vegan companies, because if all vegans stopped buying these products, then they would probably stop being sold, which would reduce the amount of vegan foods there are, therefore making it harder for people to go vegan, and so it would take longer to see a vegan world. So maybe it's only a good idea to refuse disposable plastics when there are plastic free alternatives, but if there are no alternatives then it's fine to get plastic. What are your thoughts on this idea?

There's also the argument that alternatives to plastic bags such as paper and reusable bags are actually more environmentally damaging than plastic bags. This is because plastic bags are made from a by product of oil refining called ethane, which would otherwise be burnt off, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and so making plastic bags solves this problem. Plastic bags also require less energy to produce than paper and reusable bags. Paper bags will also produce more greenhouse gases than plastic when in landfills. You can find more info about all this here: http://www.allaboutbags.ca/ The problem I have with this is it's only taking into account greenhouse gas emissions. The problem with plastic is that when it gets into the ocean, it doesn't biodegrade and it harms sea life, whereas paper does biodegrade. What do you reckon is less environmentally damaging?

This is a very confusing topic, and I'm not sure whether or not I should continue reducing the disposable plastics I use, so I would appreciate your input.

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Nov 15, 2018 11:43 am

iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:42 am
I had a thought though, maybe it's actually a good thing to buy vegan products (such as non dairy milk and mock meats) even if they come in plastic, to support vegan companies
I agree. I think the smaller harm of the waste is worth the support of these companies.
Hopefully we'll improve our recycling systems to make this less of an issue in the future and improve packaging, but I try to reduce waste elsewhere (outside of animal product replacement products).
iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:42 am
because if all vegans stopped buying these products, then they would probably stop being sold, which would reduce the amount of vegan foods there are, therefore making it harder for people to go vegan, and so it would take longer to see a vegan world.
Well I don't think vegans are exclusively driving it, but the more purchases they get the more products get made, the more widely they are sold, the more investment, etc. Every bit makes a difference at such a critical point.

There might be an argument that plant-milks have a secure market share and so don't need support anymore. But they're also mainly paper cartons which are recyclable, so that's less of an issue. The bigger issue with beverages is probably the refrigerated shipping and storage, since they're large and heavy on a per calorie basis (mostly water).
iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:42 am
There's also the argument that alternatives to plastic bags such as paper and reusable bags are actually more environmentally damaging than plastic bags. This is because plastic bags are made from a by product of oil refining called ethane, which would otherwise be burnt off, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and so making plastic bags solves this problem.
Manufacturing plastic requires a lot of energy input, so it's not just a byproduct.
Paper products are also capturing carbon from the atmosphere to produce.
You'd need some good life-cycle analyses to really compare them properly though.
iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:42 am
Plastic bags also require less energy to produce than paper and reusable bags.
There's been one study suggesting this, but that was because of their very light weight and not so much due to the material itself. Plastic typically has higher embodied energy per kg.

The study also assumed groceries were single bagged, and the plastic bags would be reused many times and then finally used as trash bags in place of larger thicker bags. A good way to use plastic bags, but somewhat unrealistic usage.
iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:42 am
Paper bags will also produce more greenhouse gases than plastic when in landfills.
Potentially, but carbon sequestration is also involved. Paper is likely less prone to breaking down into methane quickly vs. food waste which is wet and composed of simpler carbs, fat, and protein.
I think we'd need some better research on the matter.
iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 3:42 am
This is a very confusing topic, and I'm not sure whether or not I should continue reducing the disposable plastics I use, so I would appreciate your input.
I'd do my best to reduce disposable plastic, but give vegan products a pass, particularly mock meats and things with smaller market shares.

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Post by iirtriiiokn » Thu Nov 15, 2018 5:06 pm

Thanks for the reply. What would you say about buying something that you can only find in plastic, but isn't a vegan replacement product? Such as berries.

Also on this page: viewtopic.php?t=3328 it says "brimstoneSalad has written somewhere that he promotes utility efficiency rather than zero waste or minimalism, drawing an example to bidets." Could you elaborate on this?

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NonZeroSum
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Post by NonZeroSum » Thu Nov 15, 2018 5:41 pm

iirtriiiokn wrote:Could you elaborate on this?
As the great Reverand Phelps answered when dodging questions from the evil documentarian Louis Theroux about why he thought his small congregation were the only people on Earth pure enough to ascend to heaven during the coming rapture... “Asked and answered” :P

Zero waste Wiki Talk Page

A few people have jumped ship to the term Low impact movement, which I like for sounding more easily achievable. The only critique then is that people want to feel like they’re having maximum positive impact and sometimes need to waste or do harm like long car journeys to change hearts and minds, but so long as we make it clear it’s about your day to day habits, I think we’re good.
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Post by Jamie in Chile » Thu Nov 15, 2018 6:37 pm

I would choose vegan product with plastic over an animal product zero waste, because I think the ethical issues of animal products are more severe. However in practice we can avoid such choices and often do both veganism and zero waste (or reduced waste) together.

I'm skeptical that plastic bags are better for the environment. They are worse for animals and it's not a greenhouse issue. I bet bags are a small contribution to global warming. Plastic bags don't last as long in use, but last much longer after use. That is the issue in a nutshell. Paper and cloth bags might get reused on average 100 times (for instance) before being chucked, so all other things being equal, that's a 99% reduction of the problem. The website you showed is from a plastics association! It's probably biased. I haven't seen anyone credible and without reason for bias making such arguments.

I think it's great that you are (or are considering) veganism and zero waste. I am very close to vegan myself, and part way to zero waste.

iirtriiiokn
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Post by iirtriiiokn » Fri Nov 16, 2018 1:47 am

Thanks for the replies everyone.
NonZeroSum wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 5:41 pm
iirtriiiokn wrote:Could you elaborate on this?
As the great Reverand Phelps answered when dodging questions from the evil documentarian Louis Theroux about why he thought his small congregation were the only people on Earth pure enough to ascend to heaven during the coming rapture... “Asked and answered” :P
I'm not sure what you mean by this? I'm just wanting to know why he promotes utility efficiency rather than zero waste. I didn't really understand the paragraph in the link.
Jamie in Chile wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 6:37 pm
I would choose vegan product with plastic over an animal product zero waste, because I think the ethical issues of animal products are more severe. However in practice we can avoid such choices and often do both veganism and zero waste (or reduced waste) together.
I agree as I am vegan myself. I'm not sure how that relates to my question though, it's not what I was asking.

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NonZeroSum
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Post by NonZeroSum » Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:49 am

Sorry bad attempt at comedy. You quoted a misunderstood reflection I had, so thought his answer to mine would help clarify. Searched bidet and found the original anyhow:
bimstoneSalad wrote:
Sat Oct 15, 2016 5:55 pm
I don't agree with minimalism so much as I agree with practical infrastructure acquisition. The latter is much easier for others to model.

Instead of being disgusting and doing something that will gross people out and make them less likely to take you seriously and consider following your lead like wiping your ass with your hand, invest in infrastructure: a bidet, for example. Now you have leveled up in hygiene, it's something other people would consider doing too, you're helping the environment, and you're contributing to a commercial endeavor that perpetuates that argument as a matter of economics.

Useless stuff for the sake of it, not so much. But items of convenience and utility that make your life more sustainable and feed that market for others, definitely.
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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:39 am

iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 5:06 pm
Thanks for the reply. What would you say about buying something that you can only find in plastic, but isn't a vegan replacement product? Such as berries.
I would suggest avoiding the fresh berries if they're in non-recyclable clam shell packaging, which uses a lot of plastic per berry, and opting for frozen berries in larger bags (ideally choose those bags which are also recyclable with bag return recycling).
iirtriiiokn wrote:
Thu Nov 15, 2018 5:06 pm
Also on this page: http://philosophicalvegan.com/viewtopic.php?t=3328 it says "brimstoneSalad has written somewhere that he promotes utility efficiency rather than zero waste or minimalism, drawing an example to bidets." Could you elaborate on this?
Rather than doing difficult of gross things like using only one square of toilet paper or using your hand to clean yourself, invest in infrastructure which makes it so that you don't really need much if any toilet paper; something which is actually preferable and superior to the wasteful option rather than introducing more inconveniences for small things.

Here's another example:
viewtopic.php?p=40652#p40652

It goes against a lot of anti-consumerist zero-waste philosophy, because the point of it is supporting an industry which produces something to reduce waste. There is ultimately production involved (and some waste from that) but it has the potential to be much more widely adopted and leaves us more time and energy to devote to other reductions.

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