So you’ve got the vegan diet figured out – after Veganuary, it’s all been smooth sailing. You’re also on your way to a cruelty-free wardrobe and a completely vegan makeup cabinet – so now you’re a Level 5 Vegan, right? Well…not quite.
Think about it: the place where we spend the most time – especially recently, with lockdowns being implemented all over the world – is our home. Our homes, like many other areas of our lives, are filled with material things. And many of those things, as you may be surprised to discover, don’t match very well with your vegan lifestyle. Take that leather sofa, for example. And isn’t that a wool-blend blanket on top of it? What’s that on your bed – a fur throw? Even those scented candles might contain some hidden animal-derived ingredients, such as beeswax.
When writing my book, Vegan Style, it was obvious to me that one chapter had to be dedicated to creating a vegan home. But I was surprised to find that vegan design and home décor was still an area that was lagging behind in terms of public recognition. Most people still equate the term “vegan” with food and diet, but many are now aware of the concepts of vegan fashion and beauty. It seems like vegan design is the last frontier of cruelty-free living – an explanation could be that people simply don’t replace, and thus do not shop for, furniture as often as clothes or makeup products.
Even so, the conversation is definitely changing. Last year, at the Madrid Design Festival, trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort described veganism as one of the keys décor trends. And some influencers are making a big splash with their cruelty-free homes. Case in point: UK-based therapist (not interior designer, although you might think so from seeing her account) Suszi Saunders, whom you can follow at @suszi_saunders. And trust me, upon seeing her luxurious London abode, you will want to.
The PETA Homeware Awards have been celebrating progress in animal-free home décor since 2017, awarding everyone from Zara to Erez Nevi Pana, an Israeli designer creating experimental designs with salt, sand and soil. “Today’s compassionate consumers want to adorn their abodes with beautiful, animal-friendly decor,” says PETA Director of Corporate Projects Yvonne Taylor. “PETA is celebrating the innovative brands creating stylish pieces that no animal had to die for.”
Today, those brands are experimenting with new ways to bring plants into our homes – and we’re not talking potted plants here, but plant-based furniture. In 2019, French designer Philippe Starck collaborated with Cassina on a 16-piece furniture range upholstered in apple leather, a vegan leather made from apple skins and apple waste products from the food industry. And Ananas Anam, creators of pineapple leather Piñatex, can happily report that their leather is used to decorate cushions and chairs in “the world’s very first vegan hotel suite” at the Hilton London Bankside hotel in the UK.
So what do you need to look out for when decorating a vegan home? Firstly, the basics: choose leather-free furniture and decorate them with throws and blankets free from wool and fur. Silk is another one to avoid – silk worms are often boiled alive in order to unravel the cocoons that will be spun into silk yarn, and as many as 6.6 thousand worms can be used for just one kilogram of silk.
Scented candles also deserve a mention: many of the more upscale candles are made from beeswax, a material that contributes to the mistreatment of bees. Not many people are aware of the fact that honey is not vegan – bees are subjected to artificial insemination, their limbs and wings are sometimes broken when they are moved, and the queen bee sometimes has her wings removed in order to keep her from leaving the colony. This is also why vegans stay away from candles made from beeswax. But no need to resort to potentially toxic paraffin when alternatives like soya wax and coconut wax candles are readily available.
So, what else can you use? Vegan decorator Chloe Bullock of eco-friendly and cruelty-free décor company Materialise Interiors has some tips for those wishing to decorate a cruelty-free abode: “A really good way to avoid some animal products is to look for recycled content.You can avoid feathers and down by opting for duvets, pillows and cushion pads filled with recycled PET, which also makes a great wool alternative for rugs, throws, and cushion covers. You can also buy recycled fishing net carpet from Econyl, and paint that has been recycled too.”
Recycled seems to be the key word here – but even better than buying recycled is using things you already have. Chloe continues: “take time to review what you have at home already. Can you use things from other rooms instead of buying new? Do family or friends have unwanted items you could reuse, or could you find them on sites like Freegle or Freecycle? The most vegan item is one that is not using any virgin materials at all. I think a collected interior is so much more interesting than one bought all at once.”
Another unexpected area where animal-derived materials might lurk is paint. Animal testing still happens on a large scale across the world, and paint is one of the areas where animals are still tortured in painful research. Chloe advises, “When buying paint, check that the end product and also the ingredients are not tested on animals. Borrow brushes from someone rather than buying new ones if you can. Animal bristle brushes and wool roller sleeves are still very much out there – so be careful of what you are buying in that area too.”
Just like your wardrobe, completely overhauling your home should be a slow process. As avoiding waste is crucial to the well-being of our planet, it might be advisable to keep the things you already have and then slowly phase animal products out of your home, replacing them with cruelty-free, vegan options.
- 10 Best Places to Find (or Sell) Your Second-Hand Furniture in Australia
- A Guide to High-Performance Vegan Running Shoes
- The Art of Slow Living: Chasing Less, Living More
- How Renting Children’s Clothing Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars Per Year
- How I Save Money By Going Zero Waste
- How to Challenge Neoliberalism’s Mantra of Consumerism and Infinite Growth to Save the Planet
- Eco Warrior Vegan: How to Stay Warm Without Wearing Wool (or Plastic)
- The Rise of Veganism in the Philippines
Cover image via Vlada Karpovich.