It's November, also known among us vegans as World Vegan Month, when we all gather to chew on twigs and leaves, dressed up in our hemp sacks for the occasion. Just kidding – veganism these days is more A-list celeb than tie-dyed hippie, offering a rich variety of the finest things in life, from delicious food to the latest in catwalk-worthy fashion.
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert.
If you've been contemplating a transition, you're in luck: it's never been easier to go vegan. Let's just say we've come a long way from the days when vegans had to trek to the health-food shop to buy soya milk powder and mix it with water. With vegan meat replacements expected to be worth $7.5 billion worldwide by 2025, there's more variety and abundance of vegan food than ever.
Other sectors are not far behind: last year, vegan beauty was found by Cosmetify to be the most popular rising trend in cosmetics. Whether it's at supermarkets, restaurants, fashion boutiques or beauty counters, shortages of vegan options are unlikely. As a transitioning vegan, you'll also have access to a never-ending wealth of information thanks to the internet, and connecting with other vegans is much easier now than back in the day. In short: there's no reason not to pledge to try vegan this World Vegan Month.
The first step to making any meaningful and durable lifestyle change is to arm yourself with knowledge. Learn the basics of vegan nutrition – you don't have to become a nutritionist, but knowing how to get nutrients for a well-balanced diet is key. Same with clothing: read up on what vegans don't wear, and why. We have articles on vegan leather and vegan knitwear that can help. Understanding the motivations for choosing this lifestyle, and feeling them resonate with you, will keep you on track during those confusing first few weeks.
Focus on replacement
Too often, new vegans focus on things they will be “giving up”. But the reality is that when you go vegan, you don't need to miss out on anything – just find the right replacements. Love frothy cappuccinos? Get ready to sip your way through an array of plant milks to find your favourite. Is make-up your passion? Head to the beauty counter and meet your new signature cruelty-free lipstick. If you, like me, are a lover of all things that look like leather, no need to change your style: faux-leather options abound (and no, they are not all made from plastic). Planning for replacing non-vegan items, rather than just eliminating them, will make for a happier transitioning experience.
Become an expert label-reader
Labels! You might never have considered them before, but once you go vegan, they will become required reading. Very often, most of the information you need will be available on that little piece of paper or fabric. When it comes to food, allergens are often written in bold – both milk and eggs are allergens, and so are ingredients that derive from them, such as butter. When buying accessories, you will often find little symbols on the label (with shoes, these are often found on the inside or on the sole) specifying the material. If you see a symbol that looks like a cowhide, the material is leather. If it looks like a diamond or a net-like square, then it's faux.
Familiarise yourself with the certifications
Not all vegan products are labelled or certified as such – certifications can be costly for companies to obtain and not all brands choose to use them. But some symbols and labels can certainly be helpful when taking your first steps into shopping as a vegan. For example, if you're transitioning to cruelty-free beauty, it can be helpful to get to know labels like PETA US's Beauty Without Bunnies label, which certifies both cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics. Cruelty Free International's Leaping Bunny is another reliable symbol, used particularly frequently in European countries. Consumers in Australia can look out for Choose Cruelty-Free's bunny symbol.
For fashion, the PETA-Approved Vegan logo is used by over 1,000 brands worldwide – including both fully vegan brands and labels that carry vegan designs.
Expect it to be a process
Don't beat yourself up if you make mistakes. Going vegan is a process – as any lifestyle change, it will take a while before the transition is complete. Keep in mind that veganism isn't about personal purity – it's about doing what you can to lower your impact on animal suffering and the environment where practicable and possible. So if you accidentally consume something that contains animal products, don't panic. It's happened to all of us, and yes, you're still vegan. So return to the vegan path and continue making compassionate choices with a clear conscience.
Connect with other vegans
This is the fun part. Before the internet, many vegans felt lonely and isolated, as not many people in their close proximity shared their views. But thanks to the world wide web, it's never been easier to find like-minded people. Connecting with other vegans can help with urgent questions, be useful for exchanging tips, and make you feel less alone in your new lifestyle. Greg McFarlane, Director of Vegan Australia, says: “Find other vegans to socialise with, so you don't feel like the whole world is against you. I recommend doing some sort of activism - in a way it is easier to talk to people you don't know about veganism than to those closest to you. There is less invested and you don't have the extra baggage that a closer relationship includes.”
Don't be wasteful
A final note on a very important topic: waste. With the many issues that our planet is currently facing, avoiding waste is one of the most crucial things we can do to contribute to its wellbeing. This includes the impulse that many new vegans have to get rid of all non-vegan things in their wardrobe or throw away all non-vegan beauty they own. If this is you, try your best to find new homes for these items – be it eBay or Depop, the charity shop or a friend – rather than throwing them out. Waste is not kind, and what isn't kind isn't vegan.
By Sascha Camilli
Sascha Camilli is the founder of the world's first digital vegan fashion magazine, Vilda Magazine and the host of fashion podcast Catwalk Rebel. She was selected as one of Glamour UK's Most Empowering Nu-Gen Activists and is a frequent public speaker on the topic of vegan fashion and material innovation. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, read our interview with her here.
For more articles like this in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter, and get up to 20% off your next purchase.
Cover image by blisko