You probably have heard me use the terms solutionary, vegan, and/or plant-based, but what do they mean and what are the differences? Veganism and plant-based terms are somewhat interchangeable, but they do hold completely separate values. A person who follows a plant-based diet may or may not subscribe to living animal-free in their entire life as a vegan would. It could be that a person following a plant-based diet is doing so for personal or health reason. The Vegan Society defines veganism as, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” I came to learn about the term solutionary through the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). As I mentioned in a previous post, they define a solutionary as, “A person who identifies problems, and their underlying systems, and then develops solutions that are just, humane, and sustainable for people, animals, and the environment, and who strives to make personal choices and to support systems that do the most good and least harm for all.”
I became a vegetarian based on animal rights and the ethical concerns of eating animals. I was a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years before transitioning to a vegan. I thought I was doing enough and doing my part to alleviate the suffering animals endured. Then I learned about the dairy industry and realized I could do even more to help end the suffering. Consuming dairy cheese was my last hurdle, but I switched to vegan cheese instead of dairy. I had already stopped drinking dairy milk, or cow nectar as my husband calls it. After starting my studies with IHE just a few months after becoming a vegan, I learned how our food system affects more than just animals. So, just because something (food, clothing, etc.) is vegan, it doesn’t mean it is entirely ethical. For example, there are many vegan chocolates available, but not all are ethically sourced. Some are sourced using slave labor. I also started to learn how all of my daily actions are tied to so much more than I realized. Even though I do not eat, wear, or use products with animals in them (or support companies that test their products on animals), I also base my daily decisions on how the individuals that make the food/products that I buy and use are treated. As well as trying to ensure that the materials and chemicals used in producing said products did little or no harm to the environment, waterways, and local communities.
I also use a solutionary lens when finding things to do and looking up local entertainment. I want to support people and businesses that have the similar values. Unfortunately and fortunately, money is power. But that also means I have the choice of whom and what I support financially. I know we cannot live a euphoric world and there are times when everything I mentioned cannot be avoided. That is where making decisions based on the most good and least harm comes in. Being a solutionary means considering all of the facts and acting upon what benefits everyone involved. It also means recognizing broken systems (political, financial, education, etc.) and doing what we can to change or fix them. It is a constant learning experience. It is not always easy, but as I said about expanding your comfort zone, it is worth it. With any of these, they are daily choices, and I find it best to take each day as it comes, but hold the future in mind.