Making the Transition

When I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, I teamed up with an organization called The Girls Gone Green to document my struggles and achievements in being newly vegetarian. I wrote a few blog posts for their website and quickly earned the support of other local vegetarians. And then I failed. I failed big. I might have lasted less than a week, but I think that was mostly because of my poor planning and, as I am wont to do, my eagerness to just dive right in. The last thing I wrote to The Girls Gone Green was an apology letter. Clearly, I just wasn’t ready to be a vegetarian. This was seven years ago.

In fact, I’m still not ready to be a vegetarian. And this is something I’ve been thinking about quite often in the last few months. Do I enjoy bacon? Of course. How about chicken? Sure! And my recent introduction to haddock and fried clams assures me even more that I’m not ready to make the transition to vegetarianism just yet.

However, I have found other ways to compensate for my inability to change my diet. (I say compensate because I do feel a little bit of guilt over my conscious decision not to make the change. I live with a sometimes debilitating health condition that causes me to avoid changing my diet too much. Also, laziness.) I actively seek out the kind of meats that are raised and cared for by local farmers. But I also seek out cruelty-free (CF) and vegan products that I use everyday.

I’m talking hand soap, makeup, hair care products, etc. At the start of the new year, I brought nearly all of my Bath and Body Works lotions and body sprays to my new job and gave them away. I quickly replaced them with CF and vegan products. Not one to wear a lot of makeup, I wasn’t terribly inconvenienced by the lack of options in most stores. And the sticker shock I was anticipating never even occurred. Sure, your Suave shampoo might only cost three bucks less than my fancy, vegan shampoo, but MY GAWWWD – have you ever felt hair that has been washed and conditioned with plant-based nutrients? That alone is worth the extra three bucks. BELIEVE ME.

A few friends have asked about the products I’ve switched over to, where to find them, and how well they actually work. Disclaimer: I am so spankin’ new at this, so don’t hold anything I say against me. I could be totally wrong about some things. For example, a lot of products will claim “this product was not tested on animals,” leading one to believe the item is cruelty-free. It’s not. It just means the final product wasn’t tested on animals; a whole ton of its ingredients were tested on animals. I am aware of this now, so I tend to do more research. Another claim to be wary of: when a company claims that its products are cruelty-free or vegan, that could just mean the brand or product line is CF or vegan. Yet you’ll notice it was distributed by Unilever or Proctor & Gamble, two larger companies that just took your money because they appealed to your ethical conscience. I’ve been suckered by this a few times myself.

So, here is a list of products I actively use after much research and a whole lot of asking questions:

Lotion – This was kind of the product that started it all. During my first spring in Cleveland, my daughter and I attended VegFest. It’s a huge expo that promotes vegetarian/vegan food systems, cruelty-free/vegan body products, animal welfare groups, and sustainable, ethically-made clothing, among so many other things. I happened upon a vendor booth for Perfectly Posh and ended up buying a body butter that smelled like sugared violets for $22. It took me days to come to terms with the fact that I’d just spent $22 on lotion that I could easily buy at CVS for $4. But could I really? No, I couldn’t. I loved how it made me feel on the inside (cheesy, I know), and I worked really hard not to waste it. It also made me start thinking about how easily I could move away from chemical-based, yet less inexpensive items and put my money into a company with products I could trust. Perfectly Posh provides CF and vegan products, like lotions, lip balms, body sprays and perfumes. Pacifica is another company that does the same.

Shampoo/Conditioner – I have used two different brands, Renpure and Love Beauty and Planet. Both leave my hair feeling really good and smelling even better. I do have to admit that I have a preference for Love Beauty and Planet, though. During the last few months we lived in Cleveland, my well water was consistently failing inspection so we removed the water softening agent. My hair still felt incredible. Renpure has a delicious scent, too, but if I had easy store access to Love Beauty and Planet products, I’d buy those first. Anyone reading this from Ohio? Giant Eagle grocery stores have a fairly good selection of LBC products.

Lip Balm – I will admit, I am kind of in love with Bath and Body Works lip glosses. They’re long-lasting, taste great, and aren’t terribly sticky. But they do test their ingredients on animals. So I had to chuck those, which hurt. I mean, when you find something you love, it’s hard to let go. Except I did find some great replacements. In fact, one of them was discovered today! As I mentioned earlier, Perfectly Posh has a great lineup of lip care items. However, this afternoon I was at a local arts and crafts festival and came upon a small home-based company called Vermont Simple Beauty. Their product label only says “This product not tested on animals,” but I don’t know what the regulations are for small companies and cruelty-free labeling. So I asked. Being able to talk face-to-face with the makers of these products helped so much, since they were open to sharing with me the ethical sourcing of all their ingredients. This doesn’t have a mention on their website, unfortunately. Which, I guess, means when in doubt, ask! And because I did, I came home with an 8-oz container of grapefruit-and-lily-scented face moisturizer (called Ambrosia on their website) and a maple-flavored lip balm. Only in New England would I ever find maple-flavored lip balm.

Deodorant/Anti-Perspirant – This is a tough one. I have tried SO MANY BRANDS, it’s ridiculous. Tom’s of Maine is the most accessible in a grocery store, but it doesn’t work on me. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else, so play with it. See if you like it. If you don’t, however, there’s always Crystal. It is a deodorant, not an anti-perspirant. I still feel a little…uh, sticky (?), but I don’t stink. And that’s a win!

Sunscreen – Only recently did I realize this would come up. I use sunscreen a lot these days because my new house has a pool. Also, New Hampshire is indescribably beautiful and it makes me want to be outside ALL THE TIME. About 20 years ago, I started taking a birth control pill that affected my skin in the weirdest way. I wore baseball caps in the ocean and slathered on 80 SPF to curb the raccoon mask that developed on my face every damn year. Even when wearing sunscreen, my face would become so discolored from sun exposure that I eventually stopped going to the beach. Then I switched pills. It may have been the prescription that did it to me, but every hormone pill can lead to that facial discoloration, also known as Pregnancy Mask. Yet how many people think about CF or vegan sunscreen? Or even know where to find it? Thankfully, I did! Sun Bum sunscreen has a line of face lotions, body lotions, and lip care all with SPF. I found a 50 SPF sunscreen created for my face and a face stick in 30 SPF. I still use Banana Boat sunscreen spray for the rest of me (see, it’s a process), but I’m still coming to terms with paying $16 for a 6 oz spray can. Gimme another year or so.

Makeup – The only makeup I really wear is lip balm (see above) and face powder. I currently use Cover Girl loose powder, but that’s because I’m too lazy to shop for actual makeup. When I do make that transition, though, I will more than likely head to Beauty Without Cruelty. While I’m not big on face makeup, I do have a lot of nail polish. That is a bigger purge session than I want to even think about right now. But again, in time…

There are a few other things that I’m still in the process of discovering and learning about, like shaving cream and toothpaste. I am a dental freak of nature. Any changes in my toothbrushing regimen might just make the stability of my entire mouth collapse into a yearlong pain-fest. So that is one product I refuse to budge on. Shaving cream, though, could be substituted with my hair conditioner – something I’m not too classy to admit I’m willing to do.

By the end of the year, I will begin working on planning fewer meat-filled meals and, well, planning meals in general. My lack of a plan was what led to my emotional breakdown the first time I tried to go vegetarian. I know better now.

So, help me out, readers. (All four of you. Ha!) Any suggestions? Any bits of information I’ve gotten wrong? I’m eager to learn about vegetarianism, CF and vegan products, anything!

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