Since becoming vegan, I’ve never been happier. It’s true that: “The only regret you’ll ever have about going vegan is not doing it sooner.”
But we live in a very non-vegan world and most of us spend 40-60 hours per week at work, where we need to navigate practicalities and social niceties.
Here are 8 easy tips for making your vegan life a little easier at work:
1. Talk about it– selectively
Careful speech is hard for ethical vegans like me, because this is an emotional topic. I can’t switch off the awareness that while I do mundane things like drink my coffee there are millions of sentient beings whose short lives, which are misery from birth, are ending. See, I did it there. And if you aren’t a vegan, you may have nearly wandered off the page. There’s no reason to disguise the truth about animal agriculture, but, it’s not how I found veganism. It’s not how most people find veganism. Plant seeds. It’s hard, but it’s all there is. When asked, I reframe and talk about the positive aspects of veganism, like how good it feels to make choices that don’t harm animals. Talking is the only way to find out if anyone else is vegan! There is no secret handshake.
2. Bring food–
Food is the best activism. The world is full of misconceptions that vegan food is “disgusting” or “weird.” One of my favorite things to do is bring delicious food to work, especially things that smell great– use that airtight office to your advantage. When people ask what a delicious smell is, I can say “Oh, that’s vegan chili with pumpkin and brown sugar” or “Vegan mac and cheese with browned butter and sage.” For potluck events, bring a vegan dish that is a confirmed carnivore-pleaser. This is not the time to try out something new that could be a disaster (I’m looking at you, Tofu Sandwich Fiasco of 2013).
“Is this vegan?” “Excuse me, do you know if this is vegan?” “I’m vegan; can you please tell me what’s in this?” I used to skip communal food and that is not the way to go. It’s miserable and contributes to the false perception that “vegans can’t eat anything!” And asking serves another purpose: training the people around you. After just a few weeks at a job, managers knew to ask for a vegan option when ordering food for work events. They also knew the right questions to ask vendors and caterers (see #5).
4. Give what you can–
Moderation is key. I can’t share my personal food with the entire office every single day. But, if someone says “Hey, can I try your almond milk?” the response is always “Heck yes!” If I’m eating a shareable snack (I recently brought fresh figs and Treeline Cheese) then I ask if anyone nearby wants to try.
It’s boring to hear yourself say repeatedly “No, vegans don’t eat fish. Yes, I get enough protein/iron/calcium. No, I don’t ‘cheat.’ No, vegans don’t eat honey. No, I’m not dying without cheese/bacon/butter.” It is worthwhile, because sharing knowledge is always a meaningful endeavor. This is mutually beneficial to #3: if someone else actually knows that vegans don’t eat honey, they won’t offer it to you.
6. Surround yourself–
I am devoted to the principle of ABE: Always Be Eating. Not literally, but I am always prepared with a drawerful of snacks, an emergency Gardein burger in the work fridge, whatever might get me through a working lunch. Surrounding yourself also applies to your mind: I have pictures of cute animals on my phone, vegan friends to text, and a queue of vegan podcast. If my resolve needs a boost, an episode of Our Hen House and a quick Farm Sanctuary photo can help me feel less alone.
7. Talk Celebrities—
Celebrity gossip is valuable social currency. The list of famous vegans keeps growing: Serena & Venus Williams, Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Harrelson, David Carter, James Cameron, Russell Simmons, Liam Hemsworth, Emily Deschanel, and Stevie Wonder. Jon Stewart is a vegetarian (his wife, Tracey is vegan). Peter Dinklage is a vegetarian. Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé and Jay-Z are sometimes plant-based.
8. Be intersectional–
Veganism intersects with many human issues, including feminism, food scarcity, ableism, body-shaming, economic disparity, and racism. Some vegans, in their fervor and enthusiasm, do not always treat these issues with sensitivity. Talking about veganism at your office (or anywhere else) should never include: comparisons to slavery or the Holocaust, fat-shaming, racism, or widespread declarations that “vegans don’t need medication” or “anyone can afford vegan food.” That drives people away from veganism –and you– faster than you can say “banana.” And it’s also not okay to be ignorant. Caring about animals does not exempt you from being informed about other major issues. Acknowledge your privilege and check it. For the animals, for your workmates, and for everyone touched by these issues: be intersectional.