I’d been using ecover for quite a while. It was a brand I’d discovered while living in Utrecht – eco-friendly, cruelty-free (or so they say), and I loved the chamomile-scented one. One day, about 6 months after becoming vegan, I was doing the dishes and…wat een verrassing/quelle surprise…I just happened look right at the spot on the bottle that says “melkwei/petit-lait” (Dutch/French for whey). I just hadn’t ever noticed it before, probably because it wasn’t important to me before. What possible motivation there could be for using any animal product whatsoever in dish detergent, I cannot say. But there it was. What a pity! (Just FYI – their Grapefruit & Green Tea and Lemon & Aloe Vera dish detergents are vegan – it’s only my favorite one that isn’t).
The point is this: you can’t change everything at once and, even if you could, you probably don’t know everything that has to be changed. So don’t freak out and don’t get down on yourself if you do something seemingly impossible like buy dish detergent with whey in it.
When I first went vegan I was switching from pescetarian, so I focused my energy on finding recipes without seafood, dairy and eggs, and how to use plant-based substitutes for them. For example, tofu can be excellent or disgusting – it depends on what you do to it, and I’ve made enough disgusting tofu at this point to be able to look at a recipe and know if I’m going to like it or not (most of the time) – but it can take a little while to get there. It’s worth taking that time and making that effort to focus on finding foods that you, and your family if you have one, will enjoy. It’s impossible to change every aspect of your consumer behavior at once, because you first have to do the research and figure out what to buy and what not to buy (which can sometimes be the hard part, e.g., non-vegan dish detergent!?). I started with food because it’s much more obvious, as long as you’re buying whole and minimally processed foods. Once you’re more comfortable with some of the dietary changes, then you can start to expand the circle.
But it depends also on your emotional reaction to having animal products still in your house. I encourage you to use what you’ve already got, rather than letting it go to waste, but you can also donate items containing animal products to family/friends/charity if it becomes upsetting to you to have it around. For myself, the longer I’m living in this lifestyle, the more it bothers me to have animals products in the house, especially food items. I’m the only vegan in my household right now and, though non-vegan foods are limited, every day that goes by with my own household still contributing to personal & planetary harm through the purchase of animal products I get a little more sad. But my partner is totally on board, and is working his way slowly but surely towards a vegan diet. It’s more complicated with his child, but that’s a story for another day.
Whether you’re a new vegan or you’re considering adopting a vegan lifestyle, you might think, from time to time, that this kind of change looks an awful lot like climbing Everest, but you won’t get overwhelmed if you do what I do when I’m running up a hill: don’t look up. I look right down at the pavement and pay attention to where my feet are falling. Before I know it, I’m there.
And always remember:
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” ~ Confucius