Hearing all about how terrible pleather is for the planet is enough to make a vegan girl rethink her handbag collection. When trying to find cruelty-free clothes, shoes and other items, it can be hard to avoid products that—while animal free—may be bad for our planet in other ways. So what should you look for? Below are five eco-friendly sustainable materials to keep an eye out for when scanning labels.
Certified Organic Cotton
Organic cotton crops are grown without pesticides or fertilizers—the land it is grown on must be chemical-free for three years before anything can be planted! Non-organic cotton uses a ton of pesticides and chemicals, so cotton grown organically is a huge improvement. The only drawback is that it has been reported that organic cotton uses more water than the non-organic variety. Look for organic cotton in your shirts, pants, jackets, shoes and more. And attention eco-friendly knitters! Organic cotton yarn is a great stand-in for wool.
This 100 percent bio-degradable and recyclable material has been making appearances in eco-friendly flooring for a while now. Cork trees lock in ground water and shade other surrounding plants (and animals!) making them a good eco option in more ways than one. In addition, cork floors have been praised for their attractiveness, and their comfort. Recycled cork is often used, left-over from wineries. Also, look for cork in your shoes!
What? I thought we were talking shoes and shirts, not floors. But some shoes do have wood in them, and reclaimed wood is recycled from old demolished structures, decks—even wine barrels! So no forests were harmed here. Other options for recycled goods are shoes made from recycled rubber. The argument is not that rubber is environmentally friendly, but that recycling rubber already in existence is better than throwing it in the dump.
Hemp (also known as “industrial hemp”) is a stereotypical vegan-crunch material, but for good reason. This crop actually improves soil quality as it grows, benefitting future plant generations. Plus, it grows rapidly (3 months!) so once it has been harvested it can recoup quickly. The plant—which is technically a weed—also produces a ton of oxygen while growing, and can actually be used to extract harmful toxins from the ground in a process called phytoremediation. So the next time someone teases you about your hemp sweater, list off its star-worthy qualities and tell them to put that in their pipes and smoke it.
Similar to hemp, this plant has a rapid growth-time and is completely biodegradable and—just like hemp—creates oxygen and cleans the air. Often used in vegan shoes, this product can actually help fight deforestation; jute fibers are thought to be a more environmentally friendly than paper because the plants grow at a much faster rate than trees.
What other earth-friendly materials do you look for as a vegan?