I’ve only been full-on vegan for a year, but I’ve been cutting leather (and suede) out of my life for quite some time. To me, it just seems so much harder to justify than eating meat. Food is a necessity. Leather handbags aren’t.
I’ve heard it argued that since leather is a by-product of slaughter (which is mostly true), it’s better to see it put to use rather than let it go to waste – as if it “honors the sacrifice” more. To a certain extent, I buy that. But that reasoning really only works if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan. An animal can’t live without it’s skin, so if you’re buying leather you might as well be eating a burger. It’s also a vote for slaughter itself, and therefore, clearly non-veg.
The good news is, it’s pretty easy to find great, stylish and affordable alternatives! The most common products leather turns up in are fashion-related: clothing, accessories, shoes and handbags. Fortunately, these are the easiest to find great substitutes for.
When it comes to shoes, for example, there are tons of ways to work around leather. First there are several good brands that are exclusively vegan. Neuaura is a favorite. If you have money to burn, check out Stella McCartney. Her entire line is vegan. Online, head to Zappo’s. They have a whole category dedicated to vegan shoes.
While I love to support vegan brands anytime I can, selection and price can be an issue since there are just so few of them (relative to the rest of the industry). Thankfully, you can find all kinds of “accidentally” vegan shoes, clothes and accessories pretty easily.
Using shoes as an example again, nearly everything at Payless is vegan (and fabulously cheap!). Target is also a good place to find stylish, non-leather shoes (and bags). Accidentally vegan items can also often be found from Jessica Simpson, Steve Madden and Chinese Laundry.
Be it shoes, bags, belts or whatever else you’re shopping for, all it takes to find out if you’ve discovered an accidentally vegan gem is to look at the materials label on the inside of the product. You want to see “All Man-Made Materials” or “100% Man-Made Materials” there. It happens more than you’d expect, I promise!
Other less-obvious products that commonly feature leather include furniture and automobile interiors. Like fashion, it’s pretty easy to avoid leather in furniture without having to give-up the look and feel you’re after (it will save you some green too!).
If you’re in St. Louis, head to Carol House for a great selection of furniture made from synthetic materials. The family that owns Carol House is famously animal-friendly. Several years ago they made the admirable decision to align their business with their ethical beliefs by discontinuing the sale of all furniture made with animal skins. It was a pretty gutsy move and their continued success since the switch is proof that you don’t need leather to produce an attractive, quality piece of furniture!
Automobile interiors probably pose the most problems if you’re trying to avoid leather. For some cars, the options are what they are and that’s that. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Most brands include non-leather options for seats like cloth or synthetics. You might be stuck on the steering wheel and such (though there are plenty of models that use synthetics here too!). If that’s the case, no worries. As always, doing your best is good enough.
If you just can’t part with leather (or just don’t want to!), there are still some really good (kinder) options than buying new. For example, consider buying used or recycled leather (This is a super-cute line of recycled-leather purses I saw in a post on The Kind Life the other day).
I don’t buy leather at all anymore, but I do still wear/use leather items I owned previously. This is where the argument about avoiding waste really makes sense to me. If an animal’s already been killed for a bag, it seems a little tragic to throw it out if it’s still usable. The same idea applies to secondhand and recycled leather goods.
Leather is a great example of the many small ways that just a tiny bit of consideration can help you make a kinder choice in everyday living. So next time you need a new pair of killer heels, see if you can find something synthetic or vintage. Not only is it better for animals, it will give your karma a boost too!