It takes a lot of effort to lead a vegan lifestyle — you already know this if you follow a plant-based regimen on your own. And, while you've made all the necessary changes to your home so that it adheres to your way of life, not every environment suits a vegan.
Take, for example, the place where you spend at least 40 hours each week. Your workplace might not be as vegan-friendly as you'd like it to be. Without imposing your views on the unwilling, you can easily make swaps to create an animal-friendly work environment. And, as a bonus on top of your comfort and pride in your workplace, you might offhandedly spark an interest in coworkers who had never considered a vegan lifestyle before — the office is just the beginning.
Here are five ways to get started:
1. Start With a Question
You won't know where to begin if you don't ask questions. As a vegan, you already know that animal products linger in everyday items, like plastic trash bags and the sugar you used to spoon into your coffee. With research, you've found vegan-friendly alternatives or replaced particular products altogether. Your office probably hasn't done the same amount of homework.
So, don't be afraid to ask. Find out where the company's products come from and what they contain. If there's an on-site cafeteria, ask about how things are prepared — a seemingly safe option might just be non-vegan.
Once you know what's plant-based and what's not, you can formulate a better game plan. You can ask for labels, suggest alternatives or bring your own products to replace the ones you've deemed unsuitable. Even if your colleagues aren't vegan, you'll inspire everyone to use better options around the office.
2. Become a Planner
Every vegan has experienced the following — they'll go to a party or meet friends for dinner, only to realize that none of the food suits their beliefs. It's frustrating, but you can avoid it by taking part in planning your next work event.
Beforehand, try and figure out if anyone else in the office is a vegan, too. That way, you can leverage all of the animal-product-free people to get more vegan options on the menu. Of course, you can also step up at the next potluck and serve a killer vegan recipe. You never know — your pot full of mac-n-cashew-cheese could shock even the biggest dairy aficionado into action.
3. Incentivize It
Veganism isn't for everyone, but how will they know if they don't try? You can make an animal-friendly lifestyle a competition at work by organizing, say, a week- or month-long challenge to see who can stay true to the vegan diet. Have participants gather throughout the process to see how they're coping and how they're feeling — you know they're going to start glowing mid-cleanse, after all.
If those feel-good vibes aren't enough to incentivize your office, try the Veg Pledge. Going meat-free this October — and pledging your intention online — will put you in the running for a $1,000 prize, courtesy of World Vegetarian Day. Even if your vegan challenge happens outside of this month, you can have participants chip in a few dollars to split amongst those who don't cheat for the entire 30-day process.
And, if you somehow need even more motivation, link your co-workers to reports that share the results of similar challenges. Colleagues have become healthier and happier through similar competitions, and you could be the mastermind behind such an awakening — how cool would that be?
4. Be Open to Others
As a vegan, you're already used to the inquisition. "Why did you decide to go vegan?" "Is it difficult?" "Don't you miss bacon?" These are the questions you get all the time, and you can expect more if you're going to be the face of your office's vegan-friendly changes.
But you shouldn't answer your colleagues' questions exasperatedly, no matter how many times you've responded to the same inquiries. That's because you might find yourself speaking to someone genuinely interested in your motives and goals — they might be considering adopting a similar philosophy. Your kind words and thoughtful insight could be the tipping point in their decision-making process.
5. Serve as an Example
Finally, keep in mind the fact that vegans sometimes get a bad rap. They talk too much about their lifestyles, they preach about animal cruelty, etc. You know these assumptions aren't correct, but don't tell your coworkers that — show them.
By standing as a model vegan citizen in front of your coworkers, you'll be the best advertisement for the lifestyle. Whether you're swapping out a few office supplies, planning group dinners or helping a colleague decide if animal friendliness is their calling, too, make yourself a resource. No matter what happens, you'll be an example of what vegans are really like and the good they can achieve. Spoiler alert: we can accomplish a lot.
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