There’s plenty of evidence that shows a plant-based diet is better for the earth. More and more, mainstream media is reporting on this, and people are becoming increasingly conscious about what they eat and the impact it has on their bodies, the earth, and other living beings.But going plant-based doesn’t have to stop at the dining table. Whether it’s personal health, the health of the planet, or the wellbeing of animals that’s inspired you to take a plant-based or vegan approach, extending it to other aspects of life can have a hugely positive impact, too. Maybe you’re a plant-based eater looking for more ways to live a vegan-friendly lifestyle. Or perhaps, for whatever reason, a fully vegan or plant-based or diet is not for you. Regardless, small changes to “veganise” your purchasing and lifestyle habits can really make an impact. There are thousands of resources online that you can use for inspiration, but to get you started we’ve made a list of some easy and simple sustainable living examples to incorporate around your home.
Perhaps one of the most obvious places to begin is the bathroom. If you’re concerned for the wellbeing of animals, it’s likely you have already considered making sure your face, hair, and body care products aren’t tested on animals. Not only is animal testing cruel, it usually means there are products being used that are questionable for use on our bodies, such as chemicals and synthetic products that are better kept in the lab. Natural products that aren’t tested on animals are cruelty-free, safe to use, and generally much better for the environment, too.
PETA is a good place to check whether your favourite brands use animal testing. Their comprehensive list is searchable both by country and product type. They also have an app called “Bunny Free” that lets you check products as you shop. Alternatively, shops such as Do No Harm only stock cruelty-free and natural products, so you can shop with a clear conscience. You’ll be supporting a New Zealand-owned and operated business, too. If you’re feeling really crafty, you can make your own cruelty-free face, hair, and body products. Blogs like Wellness Mama are a great place to find inspiration.
The next easy change you can make is to your cleaning products. Cleaning products are also often tested on animals and can contain animal-derived ingredients. The harsh chemicals used in these products are also pretty bad for our bodies when inhaled or touched, and products like bleach that go down our drains can have a direct effect on our natural environment.
Fortunately, New Zealand has some wonderful brands available, such as Eco Store and Earthwise, that are cruelty-free and much safer for our bodies and the environment. Eco Store also makes it easy to reduce waste by providing refill stations across the country. If you’re in Auckland, check out Good For’s huge range of refill options.
Like beauty and body products, it’s also easy to make your own cleaning products. You’ll probably already have the ingredients in your pantry! You can clean almost anything with baking soda, vinegar, and/or lemon, and there are plenty of recipes online. You can even make your own dishwashing tablets and laundry powder. Have a look at Stay At Home Mum to get you started. Eucalyptus oil is also an excellent solution for sticky, hard-to-remove marks – such as those Thomas the Tank Engine stickers that somehow ended up on the window…
When you’re sprucing up the house, have a look at your furnishings. While this may seem a little extreme – of course we don’t expect you to throw anything away (that’s just wasteful) – it’s good to be mindful of what we buy, especially for future purchases.
You might be surprised to know that furniture often isn’t vegan-friendly. Of course, there’s the mohair throws, sheepskin rugs, and leather couches that clearly use animal products – but that’s not all. The glues used to stick your furniture together often contain animal derivatives, and sometimes the paints do, too.
Wooden furniture can also be an issue. Luckily in New Zealand there are lots of locally made options that are less of a concern, but some international timbers are unethically sourced, destroying the homes of millions of animals.
We also don’t suggest going for synthetic materials that contain plastic and other difficult-to-recycle materials. This isn’t just for the benefit of animals, either. The chemicals used to treat some of these materials can be really toxic.
Recycling and upcycling furniture are cheap and easy ways to make sure you’re not supporting unsustainable or unethical companies, and you’ll get unique, good-quality items for a fraction of the price of new items. If you would prefer new, companies like Ikea offer vegan-friendly ranges (and will be in New Zealand soon).
If you have a bigger budget and are after pieces that will last, try shopping locally. Look for FSC-certification or items made from recycled and/or reclaimed materials, or try stainless steel or bamboo. If you’re revamping your walls, there’s even a vegan-friendly, sustainable paint option – the Natural Paint Co uses ingredients that are much safer than many other brands, and it’s locally made.
Clothing is an easy one. We have so many brilliant designers – both internationally renowned and up-and-coming – who use beautiful vegan and sustainable materials in their designs. Well Made Clothes is a great Kiwi online shop with a huge range of beautiful, sustainable clothes and accessories – including a special vegan-friendly section.
Buying vegan clothes often means you’re avoiding harsh chemicals and dyes. You’ll also be avoiding the unsustainable and unethical issues of “fast fashion”, where cheap, often slave-labour clothing items that only last for a couple of wears pile up in landfills at alarming rates.
Leather, down, and wool products can seem hard to avoid, but technology has made for some excellent alternatives that can sometimes last longer than their non-vegan counterparts. Faux-leather has come a long way since the 90s (thankfully) and is now being produced from incredible materials like pineapples! Velvet Heartbeat is a local company that often pops up at local markets – their products are well worth a look.
Most outdoors stores will have alternatives to down that are sometimes proven to be superior in warmth. Wool of all types can also be easily avoided with good-quality knits (again, make sure the alternative isn’t plastic-based fibres). There’s even been a huge movement among brands (giants like ASOS and H&M) to stop selling mohair due to the cruel way it is often sourced. If you must wear wool, or Nan keeps insisting on knitting you gifts, keep in mind that New Zealand wools are often from animals that live much happier lives (but it’s still best to check before you buy).
Purchase choices are an excellent place to make changes. Not only are you being kinder to the earth, yourself, and animals, but you are voting with your money by supporting industries that share the same values as you do.
But there are even more ways to do good that don’t involve shopping. Sometimes it just requires thinking outside of the square, like choosing to walk or bike instead of driving. Sure, cars aren’t really made from animals, but they do pollute the air they breathe, and new roads cut through natural habitats. Plus, if you walk or bike to KIND we will be happy to offer you a discount!
If you’re looking for something to do in your spare time, you could try volunteering at the local animal shelter. And, of course, you can always pop into your local vegan-friendly cafe for a cruelty-free outing!
If you would like to incorporate a more vegan-friendly approach to your lifestyle, it doesn’t all need to happen at once. Introducing one new change each week is a gentle way to make the shift. We must warn you – it does get addictive! And you’ll start becoming more aware of your choices and the impact they have on the world around you.