KIRRLiving: Vegan Products - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Natalie Chow
The popularity for Veganism has exploded in recent years with google searches for vegan products increased by 7-fold between 2014-2019. “Vegan leather” products and “vegan cosmetics” subsequently experienced exponential growth (Statistics on The Vegan Society).
If the world went vegan, it could save 8 billion animals per year, save 8 million human lives by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds (Statistics on The Vegan Society). There are numerous benefits from a vegan diet for both environment and health. However, as we see increasing number of brands slapping “vegan” on their labels, do we really know what they are trying to sell you?
What exactly IS vegan leather? We know for sure it’s NOT from animals, but majority of “vegan leather” is made from PVC or poor-quality polyurethane, which releases toxic fumes, dioxins and BPA (Sustainability on Vogue Business). PVC is dubbed by Greenpeace as the “single most environmentally damaging of all plastics”, taking up to 100 years to decompose. PVC is by no means new, as it has existed for many years as a form of “faux leather”, so it really is some opportunistic marketing.
However, we have seen some innovative natural plant-based leather products like Pinatex, taking pineapple leaves to make leather products (Sustainability on Vogue Business). Although the capacity of these plant-based leather is relatively small, we believe this will rapidly evolve in the next few years, and it embodies the true spirit of veganism.
First, let’s distinguish between “vegan” and “cruelty free”. VEGAN means that a product does not contain any animal products or animal-derived ingredients. It describes the ingredients, rather than the production process. CRUELTY-FREE means there had been no animal testing involved but may contain non-vegan ingredients such as honey & beeswax (Organic Beauty by TreeHugger). However, both vegan & cruelty free products may contain harmful ingredients like heavy metals (such as aluminium, lead, chromium), synthetic dyes and nanoparticles. So what should we look out for? Natural ingredients is the starting point, and then choose products with a shorter ingredient list, making sure to check for any toxic ingredients that stands out. So just because something is labelled “vegan”, it may not be something you want to put on your face.
Raw vegan desserts often replace refined sugar with natural substitutes like dates and maple syrup, which is undeniably better for you (relatively speaking!), but often this gives people excuses to go overboard. Many natural ingredients contain sugar content over 60%, which if not used for energy, will end up being stored as fat!!
So bottom line is to eat in moderation, whether it is vegan or not.
About the author:
Natalie Chow is the co-founder and CEO of Lacess, a startup sneaker brand that uses innovative, sustainable materials that minimizes impact to the environment. She has had over 10 years of experience working with global beauty and fashion brands before she started her own. She believes every small thing can have a ripple effect to create something extraordinary, and every small step makes a difference.