We’re only in November and already I’m hearing people discussing plans to undertake the challenge of Veganuary.
I’ll be honest, I quite enjoy sitting back in the first year of the month and watching friends and family attempt to adjust to a vegan diet. I’m A Celebrity will be over by then and this is the best next thing.
So I watch the ones who stock up on all the highly-processed meat alternatives hoping they can mimic the real thing. They’re usually the ones who'll miss meat the most and will resolve to have Beyond burgers once a week when January is over. I also watch the Veganuary contestants who go full-on clean living and fill their fridges with plants, placing the vegan cookbook they got for Christmas on the recipe stand and talking about ‘eating the rainbow’. Changing your diet so dramatically is a massive step and it’s not easy. In fact, in my experience, it usually takes a few attempts and adjustments before people find a vegan or plant-based diet that suits them.
Most people adopt veganism to champion animal welfare and take a stand against exploitation. However, for many, going plant-based has much to do with the damage industrial animal and dairy farming is doing to the planet. Certainly, the impact eating meat has on the environment is widely known now and leading to many consumers changing their eating habits. But what about everything else?
Yet, I’m always surprised that many will change their whole diet before tweaking their shopping habits. Using vegan products can be a change barely noticed and yet it often doesn’t even feature in Veganuary. Perhaps because we aren’t as aware of the everyday items that aren’t vegan. Including animal products used in our clothing, cosmetics and household products. So, here are a few items we may be using every day that could be replaced with vegan products.
Before we begin, let me first say that I do not believe in or strive for perfectionism. Whilst I’m a big believer in sustainability and working towards an increasingly sustainable lifestyle, you must never feel unworthy if you are not making all the changes, all at once. As you’ll likely see from what is to follow, there is a fair amount and there is no perfectly sustainable lifestyle in the modern world - it’s just not possible. That said, this is information and tips, not instructions or pressure. So here are some of the vegan product swaps you may want to consider making, whether or not you are vegan.
Ok, let’s start with the minefield that is the ethics of making clothes with animal products. So, obviously leather, wool, silk and natural fur are not vegan. The clothing industry was born from using animal skins and fibres to keep warm and even with the advances in technology and synthetic materials, many of our clothes are still either made from animal products or have come into existence due to animal cruelty.
From an environmental perspective, the argument of whether animal-based or manmade fibres are best is a tricky one since animal materials tend to last longer, decompose naturally and are better quality, which means they don’t fall into the fast fashion category. Manmade fibres have a bad reputation since they are not made for long-term wear and they can take 20-200 years to decompose in landfill. Whereas wool typically takes less than 6 months.
However, there are alternatives to animal fabrics and manmade fibres that are cruelty-free and kind to the planet. Although you are likely to search harder and pay more. On the plus side, when we pay more we tend to value and care for our clothing more and it, therefore, lasts longer, which can neutralise the expense.
Planet-friendly vegan clothing fabrics include:
- Organic cotton
- Lyocell (made from wood pulp and highly sustainable)
- Pineapple leather (no it doesn’t smell like pineapples)
In terms of sustainability, the absolute best thing you can do is reuse, buy second-hand, upcycle and repurpose. Extending the life of our fabrics keeps them out of landfill for longer. Plus, if we’re buying less then less will be made, which is essential if we’re going to reduce the carbon footprint of the fashion industry.
The best tip I can offer when it comes to clothing is to get yourself a good tailor. Buying second-hand clothes can mean the fit isn’t always quite right but getting handy with a sewing machine or finding someone who is, will make a huge difference. I find the clothes I love the most are the ones that fit like a glove and if there’s one way you can achieve this it’s by getting your clothes fitted properly. It sounds like a luxury but it’s likely cheaper than you think and you can use that money you’ve saved by buying from charity shops and thrift stores.
It is quite likely that many of your cosmetics are not vegan.
One reason will be animal testing. Though animal testing is banned in the UK and the EU, brands that sell to China and some other countries will be testing their products on animals and therefore the brand will not generally be considered vegan. Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Clinique and many other companies still test cosmetics on animals in China and the full list can be found on PETA’s website.Secondly, many cosmetics will contain beeswax, lard, gelatin, keratin, collagen, glycerin and other ingredients that use animal products or else harm habitats or disrupt their existence. Therefore, vegan cosmetics are generally better for the planet. Superdrug’s own ranges are actually all vegan, as are Urban Decay, Wet n Wild, Lush and Olive & Joyce, of course.
Swapping your cosmetics for vegan products isn’t difficult, it will just take a quick google to find out if a brand or product is vegan.
Vegan Household Products
There are a few items we’re using at home that may not be vegan or cruelty-free. One of which is fabric conditioner. Some fabric conditioners contain animal fats and many are tested on animals also. Other household cleaning products may also contain animal-derived ingredients. Look out for caprylic acid, tallow, oleyl alcohol and glyceral, most of which are fats, tissue or contain milk.
A few brands now offer vegan and cruelty-free cleaning products, meaning they don’t test on animals. Even better is that these also tend to be eco brands so are mindful of packaging and their carbon footprint too. SMOL is a great alternative cleaning products company that offers subscriptions so it’s really easy to ensure you’re topped up on all your eco-friendly household essentials.
Another thing your children probably use that isn’t typically vegan is crayons. I’m not exactly sure why but Crayola have stated that, although they don’t disclose their ingredients, they aren’t vegan-friendly.
Many vegans will also source plant-based candles, as some brands contain beeswax. You may also find that some of your make-up brushes and paintbrushes are made using animal hair. However, you can find vegan brushes and many other cruelty-free, packaging-free and eco-friendly everyday items at Peace With The Wild - a family-run online store with a sustainability mission.
Other Everyday Items That Aren’t Vegan
Unfortunately, there are quite a few. From toothpaste to TV screens, animal products are used in many items you would never suspect. That being, and as I mentioned up top, living a fully sustainable, vegan lifestyle is near-impossible so don’t let yourself get anxious about it.
As someone very passionate about protecting the planet, and who centralises this in my products and how I run my skincare business, I know there are many great alternatives out there. A few little changes can make a huge difference so what’s important is that we all make the swaps we can and hope that the signal that we’re sending to manufacturers, product designers and cosmetic scientists is strong enough for them to make the change too.