Yes, vegan and waste free lifestyles can look super elitist. Partly because often the kind of people who have the time, energy and privilege to be able to prioritize animal welfare or waste reduction in their lives are often pretty well off. When you are living on the breadline it's completely understandable to spend all of your energy on survival, and go with the cheapest option regardless of it's impact. People also look at the price of fruits and veggies and tofu and can't comprehend that veganism could be affordable to anyone who doesn't earn a pretty solid salary. This is completely true if you eat like some of the vegans we see on TV, and if you have never had to learn to shop and cook vegan. In saying that meat products are also expensive, so going vege is something that people often fall into for economic reasons. In New Zealand markets and 'Asian Stores' as the seem to market themselves, are your friends when it comes to finding cheap veggies.
Something I have noticed in my reading about the zero waste and minimalism movements is that a lot of it is really not new or fancy. In fact - its pretty old. Back in the day people didn't see things as disposable. If something broke we fixed it, if we didn't really need it we didn't buy it, and we didn't waste anything. Now I try to be really careful about glorifying 'the good old days' because realistically a big reason people lived like that was because they were pretty much broke all the time, and also, measles was a thing, so that's not great. But also everything was built to last which meant it was expensive. Also they had polio. I'm not saying that life was better then, but that doesn't mean we can't learn some great things from their knowledge. Two of the lessons that I think are most worthwhile are: 1) Think reusable, instead of disposable 2) Use every element. Veggie peels, scrap paper, torn clothes, and pretty much all the stuff that ends up in the bin can probably be reused or re-purposed in some way.
It's pretty weird how many things we use every day are single use only type items that didn't used to be. The motivation behind switching to disposable is usually laziness, though in some cases hygiene could be argued purely because we are too lazy to wash things properly. Things where this 'logic' was used is with items like tissues instead of hankies, disposable nappies instead of cloth, paper napkins instead of cloth, takeaway coffee cups instead of ceramic or reusable.
Everything that we use disposable now had a reusable alternative that was just too much effort. It's pretty sad too, because not only does it have huge environmental impacts, it also means things cost more. Every time you buy a coffee you are also buying the cup, and the napkin, and the sugar baggies, and the spoon. Some places in New Zealand will actually give you a discount on your coffee if you bring your own cup, and if your local doesn't do that yet - you can always make the suggestion! I recently also discovered that New World's deli will put things in whatever container you give them, which is awesome. Using every element of everything helps with both reducing your waste AND making veganism cheaper. Pretty much every part of a vegetable can be either eaten or used to flavour stock or soups. Containers that things come in can be used to store leftovers, keep things in, as vases, or for home made preserves.
So anyway, these movements can definitely seem a bit elite and possibly even challenging to get into because of various boundaries (some of them perceived rather than real), but that doesn't mean they are inherently problematic or not possible for less well off people, or people from any background. I'd love to hear some opinions on this as can be a rather contentious topic, so leave me comment! xo Cait