In 2021, there are more people than ever embracing the vegan lifestyle. No longer just a diet, the vegan lifestyle encompasses clothing, cosmetics and household products.
While the diet is usually the first step to embracing veganism, a vegan lifestyle simply means avoiding the use of animal products in all aspects of life.
When the Vegan Society was founded back in 1944, the newsletter had a mere 25 subscribers.
Now, there are approximately 75 million people worldwide that identify as vegan and have pledged to exclude animals and their by-products.
The vegan food market grew 27% between 2020 and 2021 and is now worth an estimated $7 billion.
In Canada, approximately 2.8% of the population identify as vegan, equating to roughly one million Canadians.
What Are Vegan Shoes?
Vegan footwear and accessories are growing fast. The number of vegan shoes is approximately 27% in the US and 36% in the UK.
Leather is one of the most common materials used to make shoes.
Vegan shoes are free of animal products, whether it is skin, hair, fur, or wool.
There can be no animal cruelty in the shoe-making process, and no animal-derived ingredient can be found in the finished product.
Vegan shoe production focuses on reducing the negative effects and waste generated in the footwear and leather sectors.
Vegan shoes can be made of natural materials such as mushrooms, bananas, or apples, or from synthetic materials such as polyurethane (PU), microfiber, or rubber.
They are free of animal-derived materials such as leather, suede, and wool.
Other innovative materials that can be used to make shoes include:
- Recycled plastic bottles
- Car tires
- Yarn scraps
- Apple peel skins
- Other food industry leftovers
Vegan shoes are far more environmentally friendly than leather shoes.
Even synthetic leathers consisting of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU), and other poly-composite microfibers have a far less environmental footprint than animal-derived materials.
Vegan shoes made from recycled plastic or tires, canvas, cork, coconut waste, and even pineapple are also available for environmentally conscious customers.
The variety of innovative recycled materials and naturally derived fibers is always increasing, making it simple to select shoes that are both environmentally friendly and ethical.
Leather is one of the most commonly used materials to make shoes, and also one of the most environmentally unfriendly materials available.
Leather isn't vegan because it's manufactured from animal skins.
Leather is commonly found in
- Vehicle seats
- Furniture upholstery
- Drum skins
- Baseball mitts
Cows and pigs supply the majority of the world’s leather. Sheep, ostriches, snakes, and alligators are among the other animals used to make it.
Often, cat and dog skin are used in countries like China to manufacture leather!
The majority of leather is derived from factory breeding, such as farmed cows and pigs.
These animals are subjected to harsh confinement. Their standard of living is deplorable, in which animals are kept in cramped, filthy cages before being slaughtered, often inhumanely.
The global leather industry slaughters around a billion animals each year.
The majority of leather in the United States and Europe originates from India, China, and other nations where animal welfare standards are either non-existent or mostly unenforced.
Every year, over a billion cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and even dogs and cats are used in the leather industry.
Many of these animals have their tails and horns cut off without anesthetic, and some are even skinned while still conscious.
Animal skin that has not been treated decomposes quickly, so leather has to be tanned.
Tanneries utilize a range of unpleasant compounds to protect them from breaking down.
Tanning involves the use of harmful chemicals as well as chromium, a particularly dangerous heavy metal.
It takes massive resources and the addition of numerous harmful chemicals to tan leather.
Tanning uses mineral salts, coal-tar derivatives, formaldehyde, oils, dyes, and finishes. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens.
Water-fouling salt, lime sludge, sulfides, acids, and other contaminants are all found in tannery waste.
Tanning is one of the most harmful phases in the production of leather shoes, both in terms of environmental effects and significant health concerns to employees.
Tanning is one of the most toxic industries in the world due to the chemicals involved.
What Are Vegan Shoes Made Of?
Polyurethane - It is waterproof, softer, and lighter than genuine leather. It can be dry cleaned and is unaffected by direct sunshine.
It is also an environmentally beneficial alternative to vinyl-based products because it does not release dioxins.
Hemp - Hemp is a natural fiber obtained from the cannabis Sativa plant's stalk.
Food - The food industry’s waste products are a boon for fashion. Leftover foods that are destined for landfills or compost can be recycled into vegan shoes!
Bamboo - Bamboo is a natural fiber that can be processed in two ways. A naturally occurring fabric, bamboo can be woven into linen, or as a regenerated fiber like bamboo rayon or viscose.
Canvas - it is a natural fiber that is typically composed of cotton or linen, as well as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or hemp. It has the potential to be harmful to wildlife and ecosystems, so choose organic whenever possible.
Nylon - Nylon is a man-made synthetic fabric.
Polyester - Polyester is a synthetic plastic derived from a wide range of synthetic fabrics. Polyester is not biodegradable, and can take up to 200 years to decompose once it hits the landfills.
Cork - Cork is a natural fiber derived from the soft bark of an oak tree. It is a biodegradable, sustainable, and reusable material.
Why Choose a Vegan Lifestyle?
Vegan diets exclude all animal-derived foods, including meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and honey.
Also called a plant-based diet, the vegan diet is known to be healthier, kinder, and better for the environment.
Many vegans go above and beyond to eliminate animal exploitation from their entire way of life.
They will avoid wearing wool clothing and will not purchase leather furniture. They will also not purchase cosmetics that have been tested on animals or contain animal ingredients.
Veganism saves a lot of animals' lives and alleviates their misery. It provides an effective means of reducing our environmental imprint, particularly in light of climate change.
In addition, a well-planned vegan diet can help us achieve peak fitness while lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
Veganism - A Brief History
Though the name was introduced in 1944, the concept of avoiding flesh may be traced back to ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean communities.
Around 500 BCE, Pythagoras of Samos, a Greek philosopher, and mathematician, first mentioned vegetarianism.
Pythagoras encouraged compassion among all species, including humans, in addition to his theorem about right triangles.
Vegetarianism was also advocated by early followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, who believed that humans should not inflict suffering on other animals.
Several hundred years later, a 14-year old child named Donald Watson witnessed the slaughter of a pig on his uncle’s farm, and his life was forever changed.
He stopped eating meat, and several years later, set up the Vegan Society with his wife and their two friends.
The term “vegan” was coined as a subset of vegetarianism.
Animal cruelty was the starting point for the foundation of a vegan lifestyle. The same principle held until the modern days.
People have many reasons for going vegan. While compassion for animals is the primary reason, health and environmental factors also play a part in the lifestyle choice.
Producing animals for meat comes at a hefty environmental cost. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of global warming and climate change.
In addition, the food shortage faced in poorer, developing nations can easily be alleviated should we all switch to a plant-based diet.
Health Benefits of A Vegan Diet
Numerous health benefits are enjoyed by vegans worldwide.
- Nutritional value
A healthy balanced vegan diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, grains, nuts, and seeds will provide you with all of the nutrients you need.
These healthful foods contain more fiber, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins than a meat-based diet.
Vegan diets also can be unhealthy. Processed, packaged vegan food is no better than meat-based processed food.
In addition, vegan diets lack vitamins B12, and D. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animals and cannot be found in plants.
To make up for a B12 deficiency, you can add fortified cereals into your diet that contain B12, or you can take a supplement.
Vitamin D is produced by our skin after exposure to the sun. It is commonly found in meats and not in plant food.
Soy milk, rice milk, mushrooms, and juices can add to the vitamin D intake to meet the recommended daily amount.
- Antioxidants can help reduce the risk of cancers
Plant-based meals are typically high in phytochemicals, including the powerful antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.
Vegans had higher levels of antioxidant carotenoids and lower levels of saturated fatty acids compared to non-vegans, according to studies, all of which are associated with better health.
In addition, a German research study of over 800 vegetarian men found that their cancer risks were less than half of the overall population.
- Weight management
Going vegan can help in maintaining a healthy body weight. Plant-based foods are typically lower in calories and contain less saturated fat than animal-derived food.
Several studies show that vegans generally have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and are less prone to obesity.
A study involving 10,000 participants showed that the vegans on a plant-based diet had a way lower caloric intake and less saturated fat compared to those that eat meat.
In addition, plant-based foods are typically high in fiber content. Dietary fiber is necessary to promote good bowel movements and maintain a healthy gut.
The gut bacteria living in the colon are called probiotics. These helpful microorganisms are responsible for keeping the gut balanced, lining the cells to protect them from damage, and keeping the harmful bacteria away.
In addition, fiber moves through the digestive system slowly and can make you feel fuller for longer.
- Reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes
Vegans typically have lower blood sugar levels than non-vegans, reducing their risk of developing type-2 diabetes by up to 78%.
Consuming a variety of healthy plant-based foods helps to reduce the risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity.
- Helps reduce pain from arthritis
A vegan diet has been shown in a few studies to be beneficial to people suffering from various types of arthritis.
A diet heavy in meat and saturated fat will cause inflammation.
Probiotic foods such as fermented vegetables and dairy-free yogurts with live cultures can increase the good bacteria found in the colon, increasing nutrient absorption and decreasing inflammation.
A vegan diet is better for the environment!
The animal agriculture industry comes at a higher environmental cost. Production of food, processing, and consumption activities account for roughly 30% of human-caused climate emissions and exacerbate other environmental issues such as freshwater withdrawal, nutrient pollution, and biodiversity deterioration.
Due to land-use consequences and methane produced by ruminating animals, cattle are estimated to be responsible for around half of all food-related climate emissions.
The livestock industry accounts for roughly 40% of all methane emissions worldwide.
Methane is the second-largest greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and hence, climate change.
Livestock excrement releases methane by decomposing in fields and pastures, while burning manure converts methane into carbon dioxide and releases it into the atmosphere.
According to the EPA there has been a 37% increase in emissions from pigs and 50% more from cattle in the last 15 years.
In addition to food, cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning supplies, household goods, and apparel are all categories that need to be looked at.
Why Use Shoes Anyway!?
Footwear protects the foot from mechanical trauma, but also has a much broader impact on our daily lives due to the influence of fashion, occupational requirements, performance enhancement, and its role in injury prevention and treatment.
People were presumably sheltering their feet from freezing roughly 50,000 years ago, according to climate research.
By about 40,000 years ago, changes in foot shape and toe strength indicated that people were wearing footwear with significant soles.
The earliest evidence of actual footwear was a pair of sandals discovered in California, dating back about 9,000 years ago.
A shoe is a type of footwear that is designed to protect and comfort the human foot. According to Susan Cachel, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, science has known about how shoes affect feet since the early twentieth century.
Researchers discovered several differences between feet that wear shoes regularly and those that do not.
Wearing tight shoes, for example, can cause bunions, which are painful enlargements of the bone or tissue in the big toe.
Your physical activity may put a strain on your feet, ankles, lower legs, and other joints if your shoes are too tight, too loose, or not supportive enough.
This constant stress may contribute to pain and injury. Shin splints and Achilles tendon discomfort, corn, ingrown nails, postural problems, and lower back pain are other injuries that can be caused by poor footwear selection.
People who do not wear shoes have wider feet and wider gaps between their big toe and the other four toes.
In addition, women who often wear high heels have smaller calf muscles. It’s crucial to find the right shoes even if it’s for fashion.
Injuries caused by mistakes in choosing the right shoes can be costly and may significantly restrict or halt your activity.
How to Choose the Right Shoes
- Try putting on the shoes with the same sock you will wear when you go about your daily activities. This will ensure the best fit.
- Measure your feet, they will change shape over the years and your feet might grow wider as you age.
- It is normal for one foot to be slightly larger than the other.
- When wearing the shoes, make sure you can wiggle all of your toes. As you walk or run, you need room for your foot to move within the shoe.
- The shoes should be wide and long enough at the toes. It should not force the toes in or cause them to curl.
- Take a few steps when wearing the shoes to ensure they are comfortable.
- Check that the shoes have a good grip on your heel. When you move, your heel should not slip in the shoes. It should have a stiff back.
- Consider both width and length. If the ball of your foot feels squashed, seek clarification on whether the shoe is available in a larger size. Shoes that are a half-size larger, but not wider, may not be right for you.
- Check the inside of the shoes for tags, seams, or any other material that could irritate your foot.
- Check out the soles. Make sure they are strong enough to protect against dangerous objects and have a good grip. Experiment with walking on both carpet and hard surfaces.
- Choose shoes that provide arch support. You can use additional arch support like padding if the shoes you want to have don’t have any. Make sure that the padding fits comfortably without compressing the toes or slipping off the heel.
How to Choose Vegan Shoes?
Shoemakers are required to label their whole composition and present a list of materials used in all major elements of the shoe.
They usually place a pictogram sticker on the bottom of the shoe to show what materials were used to make it.
In addition, look for any of the several vegan certifications that look like these.
Several symbols that indicate the materials used in shoes:
- The interwoven laces symbol represents textile, it indicates if the shoes were made with synthetic or natural fibers.
- The diamond shape represents any non-animal material.
- The leather symbol indicates that the shoes are made of leather or another animal hide material such as suede or fur.
- The leather symbol with a small diamond inside indicates that it is made from coated leather which still comes from an animal.
When you've sorted out the correct labels, you may see different labels tagged on a different parts of the shoes.
Upper part - The first label on the top of the shoe indicates all of the materials and products used in the upper part of the shoe.
Lining and sock - This label includes the design worn underneath as well as the materials used.
Outer sole - This label primarily refers to the bottom part of the shoe where durable materials are used.
Depending on where you purchase the shoes, some manufacturers might not provide a pictogram on the shoes.
When it comes to vegan shoes, one of the most common misconceptions people make is seeking natural materials and assuming that all natural materials are vegan-friendly.
While a pair of hemp-based shoes may look great and appear to be vegan-friendly, the glue might be created with animal by-products.
Most shoe glue contains animal collagen, and there are animal-based glues derived from bones, skin, ligaments, and flesh, among other animal parts.
These animal glues were once the most common type of shoe glue. The process of making this glue is by boiling animal connective tissue and bones together. Horses, rabbits, and fish are commonly used in this process.
Since synthetic glues have surpassed animal glues in terms of effectiveness, low cost, and stability, the majority of shoe glue used today is vegan.
Look for shoes with certified vegan labeling or contact the manufacturer for more information to ensure your shoes do not contain any animal glue.
Veganism is a lifestyle concept that involves many aspects of life.
The footwear industry is responsible for 1.4 percent of worldwide GHG emissions, according to a study by Quantis.
The shoe industry is responsible for countless animal deaths, not to mention the way they are exploited.
Currently, not all materials used in vegan shoes are biodegradable, you have to be careful in choosing the right shoes with the right materials. Good luck shoe shopping and we hope you find your perfect pair of shoes!