Balancing Veganism and Sustainability

Last year I decided that my 2019 resolution would be to give up buying leather products. I had tackled my purse collection in the years leading up to this moment, replacing most of them with vegan alternatives. I felt as ready as I would ever be, so I set a goal.

I sold shoes that seemed excessive and tried to keep only the basics. If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people that shops at thrift stores twice a year, you aren’t going to be on my page, but try to keep an open mind. When I started this process I had about 30 pairs of shoes, and some of them were purchased 15+ years ago. I’ve said this before, but I was never a high street shopper, so the things I bought were quality and could potentially last me a lifetime.

I’m keeping my leather shoes…for now.

When I thought about what it would be like to get rid of everything and start over, I felt nauseous. I decided to keep the shoes I wore regularly and the dressier ones that I knew would be hard to replace. I sold the rest. I was left with half and I felt good about it.

That’s the thing about the process of going vegan, or making more cruelty-free choices, it should push you outside of your comfort zone, but it doesn’t need to send you into a tail spin. This idea that anyone making a difference needs to have anti-leather and anti-fur pins all over their outfits is dated. Every person trying to make better choices is making a difference, and over time those individual choices add up.

Anyway, back to my shoes. I know that if more than 5 people ever start to read this blog, I’m going to get crucified for promoting a vegan / cruelty free lifestyle and still wearing leather, but for right now, it’s the best I can do.

I’m vegan for the animals, but I’m also aware of what the fashion industry is doing to the environment and I don’t think the solution is me setting up a revolving door for my leather shoes only to usher vegan alternatives in, knowing that they aren’t sustainable.

This is what is really weighing on me. I was looking to give up quality shoes that were made in decent working conditions for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polyurethane (PU) shoes made in factories. While I was shopping around for options I found a site that had cute shoes, but when I saw the average price point at $29 – $50, I knew something was wrong. They were labeled as imported and when I asked for more information, they were not forthcoming. I have a post on fast fashion / modern slavery coming up, don’t worry. It’s an industry that I am trying my best to avoid, so until I find sustainable, stylish, cruelty free alternatives to the shoes I already own, I’ll keep what I have and make it work.

To a lot of people this seems like a superficial issue, and to some degree it is. I guess I could just sell everything I own and wear one pair of shoes everyday until they fall apart. If that was your path, congrats, but it’s not going to be mine. I’m not the exception to the rule, either, most people want variety and that’s why a vegan lifestyle, especially a vegan closet, comes across as boring, isolating and unattainable.

If a successful woman in her mid thirties can’t buy shoes that are fashionable, sustainable and vegan, what is someone who is just starting out going to do? They are going to buy what’s cute and accessible, and that’s why big names are sticking their head in the sand when it comes to sustainability, sourcing and factory conditions.

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