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Pleather & Beyond: Non-Food Vegan Choices

written by: RobinRaven•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 5/23/2011

While many people think of food choices when it comes to the word vegan, there are actually many other lifestyle choices that go into creating a life that's run by vegan principles. From the shoes you wear to the bag you carry, all your choices can be cruelty-free.

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    Thinking Beyond the Plate

    Most people only think of the food factor when speaking to vegans about this lifestyle choice. However, the aim of the vegan lifestyle is to be cruelty-free and to avoid any animal by-products. The repercussions of going vegan actually stretch far beyond what's on the menu. Vegans have to consider animal by-products when making choices for wallets, purses, belts, shoes and beyond.

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    Yes, what you put on your face is likely not vegan. Most commercial name brands of make-up include some kind of animal by-product, and many of these brands needlessly test on animals. Luckily, there are also national name brands that are vegan.

    The name brand that's most likely to be in your local make-up store is Urban Decay. While it's color choices are largely not classical, there's something in the line for everyone. There's a great vegan make-up remover, and you can relax in knowing that it's cruelty-free to animals.

    Arbonne is another company that offers all-vegan make-up. You should find a seller to buy Arbonne from, as the company is similar to Avon. It's multi-level marketing. While you can order it online, you may get special treatment and deals if you find your local Arbonne dealer. It's also good to support a local businesswoman who's selling vegan products.

    Aveda is yet another option for vegans. The line offers vegan make-up choices. With stores in many parts of the country, this store is often found in malls and in big cities.

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    Personal Hygeine

    Yes, you have to consider everything from getting a new toothpaste to shampoo and deodorant when you go vegan. Tom's of Maine is always a safe, vegan brand, and it's available in mainstream stores like Target and grocers. There are many other brands as well. While Aveda is known as a make-up company, it also offers vegan options for customers.

    You won't be perfect overnight, and you shouldn't put pressure on yourself. It's wise to finish using the products you already have before switching to the vegan brands because waste doesn't help anybody.

    Read the label. That's the most important thing in making this transition.

    Skin care labels can be tricky. Alpha hydroxy acids can sometimes be animal-derived. Ambergris is obtained from the intestines of whales. Keratin is also animal-derived. You can obtain a complete list at VegFamily Website, and you should print it to take with you while shopping. It will eventually become second nature, but it's wise to take precautions at first.

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    One of the biggest challenges for the fashion-conscious vegan used to be footwear. However, with the increase in vegan designers and expansion of vegan shoe stores, it's not as tricky as it once was.

    When looking for vegan shoes in mainstream discount stores, look for labels that say "man-made materials." Even cheap shoes in stores like Payless and K-Mart may contain leather so be sure to look for the label that says things are man-made.

    If you are in a bigger city, you may be fortunate enough to have a place to go for assured vegan footwear. For instance, Moo Shoes in New York City offers only vegan footwear, and many Whole Foods stores carry a vegan brand of footwear that is clearly labeled.

    While leather is considered a good thing to many because of its believed durability, vegan options are just as good. Because of its reputation, leather is often labeled as such. However, that's not always the case. Always read the label to make sure you aren't supporting animal cruelty by accident.

    Also, most vegans are concerned with human rights. In an effort to prevent human rights abuses, make sure to look for labels such as fair trade and note the country where an item is manufactured. If it's a country known for child labor and worker exploitation, make sure to leave those shoes on the shelf.

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    It's also very important to read labels when it comes to accessories. Leather and other animal by-products can be hidden in even the most unexpected places.

    A huge majority of belts are still made of leather. However, pleather belts are just as fashionable and durable if you take the time to find a good quality product. Pangea is an online and in-person store that offers a nice selection of vegan belts. Reading the label is something the vegan must get used to. One should look for the "mad-made" label when seeking to assure something is vegan; it should state that the entire product is man-made. Some products are part leather and part man-made.

    Purses are still, unfortunately, largely made of leather. There are exceptions, and one can find man-made purses in discount stores and major chains. Label-reading is a must for purses and wallets as well. When in doubt, ask for help. However, keep in mind that a retail seller may simply be an employee without inside knowledge of all products. Avoid getting frustrated or upset with employees that aren't product experts. When in doubt, leave it on the shelf.

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