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Being a Vegan in the Workplace

Posted by at 5:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)


Being a Vegan in the Workplace by Guest BloggerWhere is it possible to find more animal-derived products than in a typical office environment? Colleagues wear wool suits and silk ties, and their shoes, belts, briefcases, bags, and wallets are almost always made from leather. The goal of the standard fast-food lunch delivery in an office seems to be to pile on as much meat and cheese as possible, and the typical meals at the company cafeteria usually aren’t much better.

This is where I found myself four years ago, when I went vegan. After learning how animals raised for food and clothing are treated, I needed to find alternatives quickly. I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb or give vegans a bad name by becoming some kind of pariah, so I figured that the best thing I could do for animals was to be a good example, remain inclusive, participate, and not come off as preachy or too judgmental. Of course, I continued to be involved in team lunches and other office functions just by making different food choices and sharing delicious vegan food—I often brought in vegan versions of lasagne, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, cookies, brownies, macaroons, and donuts. I found out where to shop for quality clothing and which brands to look for (to this day, no one at the office has ever been able to tell that I wear vegan clothing unless I share it with them). Basically, it was all just a matter of being resourceful and figuring out what to look for on the menu and where to shop for quality vegan clothing.

Previously driven by price point, vegan men’s clothing options are quickly moving into a new territory: high-quality and great-looking leather and wool alternatives. Most department stores offer men’s professional slacks that are made with cotton or microfiber (many people are allergic to wool, so employees are familiar with alternatives). And many popular brands—including J.Crew, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Liz Claiborne, and Brooks Brothers (seasonally)—carry suits and pants that are vegan. You can find shoes, belts (I like the Truth brand), briefcases, and wallets at Mooshoes in New York. You can find great shoes at Vegan Wares and Vegetarian Shoes, and my new Novacas are truly indistinguishable from my old leather shoes. Finally, you can buy sharp, high-quality vegan ties from Jaan J. (which I like better than my old silk-tie brand). There are also plenty of options here and here.

When it comes to office lunches, almost all non-Western foods—including Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican—tend to have a variety of meatless main dishes. This is true even for Italian cuisine—almost all dried (not homemade) pastas and marinara sauces are vegan. And many company cafeterias now serve veggie burgers and fries. Salads loaded with beans and veggies are good, too, but I don’t like to be the vegan who eats salad every day, so I try to mix it up. Besides, there is such a thing as vegan junk food (potato chips, pretzels, Oreos, cakes, and cookies), and I want my colleagues to know it.

Overall, I’ve found that because people often spend more time at work than at home, workplaces can provide us with some of the most open-minded and supportive people in our lives. A few of my coworkers have even gone vegetarian or vegan, and many have reduced the number of meat or dairy products in their diets after striking up conversations with me. Beyond that, I believe that being a vegan in the workplace demonstrates those qualities that any professional organization should look for in an employee: integrity, ethics, resolve, compassion, loyalty, honesty, and commitment.

Are you a vegan among nonvegans in the workplace? If so, please share your experiences.

This guest post was written by Martin Moore. Martin currently lives and works in Manhattan, where he manages projects for a global financial-services firm. Prior to moving to New York with his wife, Robyn, he was a business owner in Connecticut and was active in both state and municipal government, including serving as an elected city councilmember.

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11 Comments

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    Joyce Hannah says...

    August 4th, 2010, 12:56 pm

    That’s my boy! Because of him and my daughter-in-law Robyn, I am cooking vegan and vegetarian meals and am taking a vegetarian tour in India. The tree doesn’t fall far from the apple.

    Debra Benfer says...

    August 4th, 2010, 5:02 pm

    I’m a sole vegan in my workplace (there were two others when I started, but they are now gone). I’m very lucky in that my co-workers are very supportive and ask me good questions because they want to know more about it. We have monthly potlucks and my co-workers are thoughtful enough to make vegan dishes so I’d have something to eat!
    I love talking about being vegan, but I don’t push it on anybody. We all make our own choices and I try to show everyone how easy it is to make the choice I made.

    georgia batey says...

    August 6th, 2010, 9:14 am

    Martin!!!
    You are the writer I knew you would become from our 6th grade butterfly experience. Although I am not a total vegie I do tend towards non meat items and protected species as well as wearing pure cotton clothinf, better for the skin. Also go to CVS and check out their BOOTS NO 7 products all non animal, been using these since 1989!!!

    georgia

    Eric says...

    August 6th, 2010, 1:51 pm

    One of the dilemmas I wrestle with, working on Wall Street, is wearing wool suits. Is there a company that makes animal-friendly suits, that are virtually indistinguishable from wool? I’m in a high-profile, client-facing position, and can’t show up to meetings in microfiber or hemp, or even linen…

    Kim says...

    August 11th, 2010, 3:38 pm

    I have the same problem as Eric. Dress slacks are OK if you’re building your vegan wardrobe over time, but women’s suits can be extremely difficult. Those thin summer cotton suits are not going to cut it in Manhattan winters. Add the fact that I’m 5’10 and I’m really stuck. Don’t even get me started on the saga of winter coats (again, need tall sizes here). Other than these items, I find vegan clothes & accessory shopping quite easy.

    Martin Moore says...

    August 12th, 2010, 10:14 pm

    Thanks for the great feedback everyone.

    Eric – Sorry to not get back sooner, my wife and I have a new (vegan) baby who arrived just this week! I understand exactly what you mean. I learned to give microfiber another look recently. Basically, the old stuff looked cheap and got shiny and plasticy-looking after dry-cleaning. The new stuff is in a whole new league. I’m on Wall Street too, and nobody has known the difference. Not only does it look like a wool suit, but it actually holds up better than wool in a lot of cases. Go check the microfiber suits out again (start with the brands I listed above). I have also found a top-notch tailor who works with high-end suits and confirmed for me that my non-wool suits look the same to him. Good tailoring is also well worth the investment, and I’ve even brought suits to him for thumbs up or down on quality and look.

    Another option is to have your suits custom made. Custom suit makers are easy to find anywhere, but there are some good ones online now. In Manhattan, there are a number of excellent custom suit/shirt makers. You might want to find one and let them choose the quality non-wool material for you (they should have no problem with this because of the number of customers who are allergic to wool).

    If you’d like, I’ll run back through some of the decent suit brands I’ve come across and talk to my tailor (who has lots of ideas for non-wool quality suits), if you are still stumped. Let me know, and I’ll post more.

    Martin Moore says...

    August 12th, 2010, 10:15 pm

    Kim – Here’s a link to a great blog for professional vegans. There are ideas for men’s suits, but it seems to me that it has more info for professional vegan women. I think you’ll find it full of ideas and links to quality clothing for the workplace.

    http://professionalvegan.blogspot.com/

    Kim says...

    August 17th, 2010, 10:52 am

    This is great, Martin! Thank you so much. =)

    Nancy says...

    August 24th, 2010, 3:28 am

    I was repeatedly screamed at during an meeting at work for not eating the pizza. I assure everyone I was always polite and absolutely never preached to anyone. I simply declined the food. It was the top boss who had a problem with me not eating the food. She was extraordinarily agressive. I had to leave that job. I can’t even imagine working in a supportive environment. It hasn’t been my experience. I realize there are less toxic work environments, so I hope my post doesn’t scare anyone. I think it’s rare to find the kind of place I was at.

    Christine says...

    August 24th, 2010, 4:21 pm

    My husband works in a high level job in a community college. It is well know by them that my husband[and several others] is a vegetarian. He has to attend long meetings and seminars that last for hours. Food is usually provided. They NEVER offer a vegetarian selection. He is actually mocked sometimes. One thing for sure, he comes home REAL hungry to eat what I have prepared!

    xiqueira says...

    March 22nd, 2011, 1:44 pm

    Martin,
    We are looking for a custom suit maker that will do vegan suits and a top notch tailor. I saw you’d look through your ideas or file and get back to Eric..have you found anything yet? Thank you!

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