Are your House Plants Vegan?
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Are your plant babies vegan?
One would think that few things could be more innocent than growing houseplants!
While this is the case in principle, in practice it is sadly not that simple. As you may know, our world still revolves around animal agriculture and it therefore permeates many other areas of our lives than those related to food.
Caring for plants is one of them. Whether on a large scale or at the level of our beloved plant babies, animal products lurk in most of the conventional products we may use. Manure and guano are the most well-known, but dried blood, bone meal, ground up feathers or fish scales are also widely used.
There are several reasons for this but the main ones are that animal byproducts are more than easy to come by since the meat industry is constantly discarding them. They are quite cheap - once again due to abundance - and generally effective... or at least they appear to be.
So what's the problem?
Manure, guano, blood, bone meal, feather meal, byproducts from the fishing industry... To any vegan, this is a no-brainer: these are animal-derived products, they are not vegan, therefore I don't want to use them. But there are several other reasons that do not even directly pertain to veganism why one shouldn't want to utilise these products.
Not only are they unethical, but they are not even good for your plants either, especially if you're going to consume them, because the meat industry behind the animal parts used to create potting mixes operates - unless specified otherwise - according to whatever the standards are in your country. Which means that antibiotics, hormones and other things you don't want to see ending up in your plants or vegetables could be given to the animals!
What about the fruit and veg I usually buy: are they not vegan either?
And here we get to the heart of the problem. Neither conventional nor organic vegetable farming can truly be considered vegan-friendly.
This may come as a shock but, for the reasons given above, growing vegetables on a large scale is currently easier and can generate better profit for farmers if animal byproducts are used. Which is not to say that there is no alternative!
Even though it's seldom talked about, a new type of farming is developing as we speak: veganic agriculture. It relies on the same principles are organic growing but takes animal products out of the equation completely.
Some people would argue that it still relies on animal exploitation because it makes use of the worms naturally present in the soil and promotes the presence of honeybees to help pollination. In my view, since these practices do not force living beings to do anything they wouldn't normally do, restrict their movements or take anything they could use for themselves, I don't see it as non-vegan. Instead of driving animals away, birds and insects are encouraged to form a healthy eco-system where a natural balance is reached, thus preventing pests from ravaging the crops.
If you are interested in learning more about veganic agriculture, check out the sources I used at the end of the post :-)
Can I do this for my own plants?
That's the great news: veganic growing is even easier to implement at home than it is for farmers who grow plants for a living.
First and foremost, the best and cheapest way you can create a rich medium for your plants to grow is to compost your own fruit and vegetable scraps. Not only can your own compost be entirely vegan, but it's a great way to put your food waste to good use and prevent it from ending up in a landfill where it will not be allowed to decompose properly.
Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a garden or even a large balcony at your disposal, you can even grow your own 100% vegan veggies!
As for your plant babies, they will love the nutrients from your home-made compost.
If you are just looking for a little boost of nutrients for your plants, compost tea (you can find dry mixes or even make your own) and other infusions (even diluted regular tea, or banana peel-infused water!) can work wonderfully as a liquid feed.
Seaweed extract also contains lots of minerals, though if you decide to use this, be careful about how it is sourced as it can often be harvested in unsustainable ways.
As for the growing medium, if finding plant based compost is not an option for you, it is possible to find bags of vegan soil for your house plants. If you are based in the US, you could use this vegan potting mix (which I have not tried out but I've heard it's pretty good). For Europe, Switzerland seems to be one of the best places with vegan options such as Coop Oceoplan or Ricoter. In the UK, Fertile Fibre is also a possibility.
So what do I do if my plant babies are not vegan?
Whether you are worried about your house plants or the fruits and vegetables you consume, what I would recommend is... not to worry.
Once we are made aware of the fact that having a truly vegan lifestyle is extremely challenging, it can be tempting to give up. And many non-vegans could even use this as a means of invalidating your efforts on the grounds that it's pointless to even bother.
Does this mean we should then either stop eating altogether or revert back to consuming animal products? Of course not! Does this mean we should stop buying plants or even fruits and veg? That wouldn't help anything either.
Towards better labels and widespread veganic agriculture.
Organic produce didn't use to be fully recognised and now it's everywhere. It therefore makes sense to think that if we keep encouraging the push towards veganic methods, then a label might appear. Currently, a product is classed as "vegan" if it has been created out of 100% plant-based ingredients without looking at how these plants were produced.
Perhaps tomorrow's vegan label will go a step beyond and only be granted to products that were made using veganic methods.
Imagine being able to buy a plant baby that would be certified 100% vegan!
It is by showing our enthusiasm for vegan products that we will create the change we want to see in the world.
So if we want to live as vegan as possible, we can grow some of our food and plant babies from seeds or cuttings and only use veganic products to care for them.
But if we want to induce change and see veganism become more mainstream, we can encourage the change through our purchasing habits by systematically opting for the vegan option, even if we're buying a bag of potting mix.
Any comments? Questions? Tell us what you think in the comment section below or join the discussion over on Instagram!