With So Many Choices To Make, What’s Clean Enough For You?
We all have self-imposed limits. What we’ll eat, what we’ll buy, who we’ll buy it from – these are all areas where we set boundaries for ourselves. How do we make our choices? What determines where the boundary is set? From various angles, issues about this have surfaced on NMDL. I’ve seen controversy over Meatless Mondays, but taking fish oil capsules be accepted without comment.
Reviews of products containing carmine may go by with nary a squeak, but some readers express disgust with emu oil. I’ve seen people excited about trying products containing phenoxyethanol, yet eschewing products with parabens.
NMDL was established as a place of balance, where safe, organic, and natural are highly valued, but the special occasion use of even the dirtiest mascara or lipstick could be admitted without fear of reprisal. It’s a place where clean products and companies are celebrated, but it might make sense to use up that giant bottle of dirty shampoo before switching to a clean brand. When I was first coming here, and going through my angrily-throwing-out-dirty-products phase, I thought, why doesn’t everyone just go completely clean? Why maintain anything in our lives that’s less than clean and safe? And then it occurred to me, what the heck did that mean? Everyone has to make decisions about what “clean” means, and perhaps what is clean enough. I think I threw out my newly clean rose-colored glasses after I’d spent weeks detoxing my family and home, and then someone suggested the inside of my dishwasher may contain BPA. That was the moment I could have said, eff it all, and given up. But instead I said, okay, I’ll control what I reasonably can, and be happy with that. Gotta establish those boundaries.
The question of whether animal products can be “clean” or not has come up in comments on several posts lately, so I’ll take a moment to focus there. First, NMDL has never been a vegan site, though certainly the related thread of sustainability has always been part of the ethos. Regardless of my personal choices, I do not believe a product must be vegan to be considered clean or appropriate for a glowing review here.
So, let me answer my own question and discuss some of my personal choices and reasoning. My diet is vegan (except for honey), which is primarily about health but also sustainability. I figure my eating no animal products balances someone else eating lots. I don’t have a fundamental problem with people eating sustainably raised animals, and I do buy meat for my family. But even when I ate meat, I tried to minimize the use of animal products in other areas (including in foods that were not mainly about the meat). It just seems wasteful and unnecessary to use animal products in too many places. I do buy leather shoes for my picky feet/knees/back, though as vegan shoe options get better I may make that switch. I tend to get extremely cold (in a way that makes me less than functional), so I own several down items, with the newer pieces from companies that source only from food animals. I now increasingly seek down alternatives. I buy wool garments from companies whose policies I trust. I occasionally take medicine, all of which has been animal tested at some point. I’m not opposed to all animal testing and believe it has its place in medicine, though I wouldn’t buy animal tested cosmetics. I make sure most items I use, like my work bag, purse, other personal items, and cosmetics and associated tools, are vegan.
So, how do we choose our boundaries? How does one come to a place where it’s okay to eat fish, but not birds or mammals? Maybe it seems a little clearer, at least on the surface, to say one would eat only sustainably raised animals. But does going out to eat with a group, or eating at a friend’s house, or travelling mean that we can ease up on our own rules? I might eat the chicken of not-entirely-known origin if I were travelling, because I NEED to eat. But I wouldn’t choose an animal-tested carmine-laden blush if I forgot to pack mine, because I don’t NEED blush. But what if I’m in my sister’s wedding, and she’s afraid I’ll ruin her wedding pics with my unmascaraed eyes – maybe I’d run to the local drugstore and choose the least offensive they had. So many things to consider.
I can definitely talk myself into a place where this “clean” thing keeps getting more and more complex. But let me try to distill it down to its simplest form. I think that if we just give it conscious thought, if we do our personal best, if we make it an actual, responsible choice and don’t just plod along doing whatever is easiest – perhaps that’s clean living. Or clean enough, anyway.
What do you think?