HOW TO SHOP VEGAN, FROM REAL VEGANS

Joanna Cunningham interviewed everyday vegans to show you the ropes on how to shop with a sustainable mentality.

Veganism involves the practice of consuming no animal products whatsoever, whether that be meat, dairy, or sometimes even honey! In today’s society, most vegans simply eat with a vegan mindset, however, there are some who resolve to abstain completely from all animal products, including leather and cashmere, alongside beauty products which involve animal cruelty.

The issues concerning animal cruelty, and the ways in which our environment can be affected by the manufacture of animal products, have become more prevalent over recent years. Indeed, with the help of TV programmes such as Cowspiracy, more and more people are becoming aware of the ways in which animals suffer at the hands of humans. In fact, the Vegan Society have noted a marked increase in vegans over the past 4 years, doubling twice over this period, reaching the grand total of around 600,000 people in the UK. The fashion world is even joining the force themselves, with London Fashion Week 2018 being the first ever to ban fur! Whatever your personal reasons, Veganism is growing more popular by the minute; whether you become a vegan gradually over time, adopt only certain habits to do your part, or simply go cold-turkey (pardon the pun).

In my own experience, my first year at university 3 years ago was one of the pivotal moments wherein I became fully aware of these issues. It was a time when horrible videos of suffering animals cropped up all over my Facebook page, and I couldn’t help but watch. As someone who loves animals, is concerned about the environment, and strives to stay healthy, I see veganism as the ultimate goal in an ideal world. However, being a lover of all things cheese, I will always struggle to completely adopt a vegan lifestyle, so I aim for a mostly vegetarian diet. Therefore, I look to outlets other than the food world, such as fashion and beauty, to ensure I do my part.

This is, by no means, a call for everyone to suddenly adopt these vegan habits, as I know that there are so many reasons why people might not feel that this lifestyle is for them. However, for those of you who wish to change your lifestyle to inject a little veganism into your life, then these tips from vegans should help you to make those small changes:

ELERI LEWIS, 23, STUDENT 

Eleri has been a vegan for around 1 year now, and says she avoids “anything that once belonged to an animal”, for example leather, wool and fur. She advocates for synthetic materials, such as faux leather, which are not only vegan, but also a lot cheaper than genuine animal products. H&M, Dr Martens, Birkenstock, and Nike are the brands she mainly looks for, but most retailers these days will have something available, so it’s best to check the label to see what materials it’s made from before purchasing.

When it comes to beauty products, Eleri sticks by crueltyfreekitty.com, who list all the brands that are suitable. For makeup, she uses mostly NYX and Revolution, which are both affordable and great quality, or more high end brands, such as Urban Decay, Too Faced, and Tarte Cosmetics. Eleri notes that some “vegan brands are owned by bigger companies that aren’t cruelty free, for example NYX is owned by L’Oreal”, but she says she personally doesn’t avoid these brands, because “it’s like saying ‘I don’t want to buy veggie burgers from Tesco because Tesco also sell beef burgers’!” However, for those of you who are worried about these issues, it’s best to look out for it.

When it comes to skin and hair care, Eleri says she struggles a little more because big brands, such as No.7, Nivea, Herbal Essences, and Colgate, are all non-vegan, so it’s difficult to steer clear. However, she simply purchases all her shampoos, shower gels, moisturisers, and even toothpaste, from Superdrug’s own brand, which she would definitely recommend! Overall, Eleri says “it all gets a lot easier and second nature when you get used to looking out for things that are vegan/cruelty free. I’m hoping to do more research into clothing brands and cosmetics in the future!”
 
FRANCOISE JENNION, 22, BUSINESS SUCCESS MANAGER AT MICROSOFT, AND JACOB BRESSINGTON, 24, OVERHEAD LINES MANAGER AT NETWORK RAIL

Francoise and Jacob, as a couple, have been vegan for a year or so now. They note the traditional view that animal products are luxurious, and better quality, than their vegan alternatives. However, as time has moved on, quality alternatives to leather, such as Pinatex, which uses pineapple leaves to produce ecofriendly “leather”, are constantly developing, changing the demand for leather goods. The best place to purchase these new materials is online, but the growing popularity of these items means that hopefully they’ll become more freely available as time progresses. Frankie states that, by doing your part and avoiding animal materials, they will eventually generate less demand, so fashion stores will turn elsewhere to make a profit.

With a vegan mindset, the aim is to avoid harm to any living being, so the couple not only avoid animal cruelty products, but also purchasing items made in sweatshops, as these conditions are unethical for humans. They also note the unsustainability of polyester, and other materials which affect our environment, avoiding these also. Both Jacob and Frankie ensure to check all labels before purchasing anything, as this is where “you can find a breakdown of what percentage of the item is a particular material”. They both agree that, once you do this a couple of times, “it becomes second nature”.

One important point Frankie and Jacob make is the rising popularity of recycled fashion, for example sandcloud.com have a range of t-shirts made from recycled plastic bottles and cotton. This is not necessarily just popular amongst vegans, but for anybody who is interested in sustainability.

AVIVA FURMAN (51), HATHA YOGA TEACHER, AND WHOLE FOOD VEGAN SUPPLEMENT DISTRIBUTOR

Aviva says she “doesn’t avoid any shops because most sell some things that aren’t vegan” anyway. Instead, she is just careful with what she purchases, and makes sure to always do her research before buying. She also doesn’t believe in throwing out any clothing we already own which may not be vegan, for example our leather shoes, as it is a “bit of a waste of that animal’s life if we’ve bought them already”. Her main advice is to look out for the bunny logo on beauty products, as this means they are cruelty free.

ROXANNE FURMAN, 22, ZOOLOGIST AND BUSINESS OWNER OF ZEPHYR ECO MARKET

Roxy has always been devoted to animal care and safety, and has recently graduated from Leeds University with a degree in Zoology. Alongside her degree, Roxy also started up her own business, Zephyr Eco Market, which is a website that sells vegan, eco-friendly alternatives to mainstream products. She says that, to her, “being vegan is not just about the direct consumption of animal products, but also helping animals indirectly too”. Therefore, any animal product whatsoever, including honey, and palm oil, or any product which endorses animal cruelty, pollution, or deforestation, is off the market for Roxy. To do this, she advises the avoidance of single use products, and always ensures to prepare her plastic bags for any outings.

In terms of clothing, she avoids leather, wool, cashmere, and silk, but doesn’t really have a “go-to” brand for clothes, as most places have vegan options. Roxy also warns to make sure that any items labelled “fake fur” are actually fake. There has been a lot of recent media coverage about stores, particularly online, who sell items labelled as “faux fur”, which are actually not at all. You can spot this by examining the lining of the fur, which will have either fabric webbing, or skin, attached to it. Since becoming vegan, Roxy will only replace broken clothing items with vegan alternatives. For example, her down coat from years ago would not be repurchased, but she would equally not get rid of it – in this, it seems she agrees with Aviva.

SUMMARY OF TOP TIPS FOR SHOPPING VEGAN

So, here are the top tips to remember:

  • Always check the label – look for synthetic fabrics, avoiding leather, cashmere, silk, fur, and wool.
  • Remember to check whether “faux” materials are actually faux.
  • Avoid beauty products which endorse animal cruelty – look for the bunny logo, or just shop at Zephyr Eco Market or Sandcloud for reliably vegan hygiene, beauty, and home products.
  • Don’t simply throw away your animal products if you’ve already purchased them, so as not to waste them.
  • Always bring reusable bags for any shopping outing.
  • Avoid single-use plastic products.
  • If in doubt, Google it, or search on crueltyfreekitten.com. 

Overall, we can see how simple it is to change our mentality with just a little bit of extra knowledge and research. Thank you to our interviewees, who have really shown us that it is so easy to shop with vegan mindfulness, whether that be for animals, the environment, or even your own health.

You can keep up to date with Joanna’s work on her blog, itstartedwithrebecca.wordpress.com, or follow @itstartedwithrebecca on Instagram, and @iswrebecca on Twitter. Images Via Pixabay

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