What can new vegans do with non-vegan items?

Leather shoes, wool coats, silk scarves, technical cashmere sweaters – everywhere you turn you face them: stark reminders of how little thought you once gave to the origins of your possessions. Once you’ve decided to go vegan, the last thing you want is evidence of the suffering attached to your previous, non-vegan, animal product-filled life.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about what people do with their non-vegan items once they decide to stop using animal products. There are obviously a number of ways you can deal with these items, and I think it sort of depends on what you’re dealing with.

Do what you can

For example, we have 10 year old leather couch, and I think we’ll have to replace it later with a better option when we have the cash. Our car has leather seats, but selling it would make no sense from a financial perspective, so I’ll just have to do better next time. When it comes to clothes, it turns out that almost all my winter clothes contain wool (I live in a really cold climate and obviously wasn’t thinking about cruelty-free alternatives when I bought them).

old leather shoe

Here are some common options for handling non-vegan items:

1. Toss – This strikes me as wasteful, and is basically a non-starter. Tossing perfectly usable items in a landfill seems almost disrespectful.

2. Consign – On the other hand, this seems hypocritical – do I want other people paying to wear animal skins? Do I want to profit from that? I think this is an option for designer silk items, but that’s probably the only thing I’d feel comfortable consigning.

3. Donate – I’m happy to give these items away, but I’d definitely need to replace quite a few items at once if I did so. I have a minimalist wardrobe, and quality over quantity is a big thing for me. But I still have a winter coat, several sweaters and a number of shoes. I would feel kind terrible having to go out and buy all those things at once, especially since finances are a bit tight at the moment. If that changes, this would be my first option.

4. Give away – Again, this seems like a good option, but I don’t really want to encourage my friends to wear animal skins, etc., either. And I still would need to replace pretty much my entire wardrobe.

5. Wear/replace as needed with cruelty-free alternatives – This seems like the best option for someone who is trying to live as minimalist a lifestyle as possible. On the other hand, I feel sick when I wear certain items, and I can’t stop thinking about the animals that suffered in their making.

6. Bury them – This might sound silly, but burial would be my ideal option for a number of items (excluding the couch, obviously!). I’ve realized that many of my shoes are calf skin, and it seems sad not to lay them to rest in some way. It’s not very practical though, since I don’t have a yard. Somehow, I don’t think the city park would take kindly to me burying a pile of shoes and handbags on their property!

I realize everyone has different feelings about what to do with their old clothing and accessories. For some, the mere concept of wearing leather would disturb them so much that they couldn’t imagine keeping it. Others are very comfortable wearing items until they can be replaced with alternatives. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.

Does anyone have any other ideas for what to do with non-vegan items? What has your experience been?

5 Responses to “What can new vegans do with non-vegan items?

  • Great article, but please do not berry shoes. Leather shoes are not compostable, they contain all kind of plastic/synthetic parts (synthetic stitches, glue..) and toxic chemicals used to process of making leather (polymers, acrylic resins, chromium, synthetic dies, arsenic, biocides, fungicides..)

    • You’re absolutely right, of course, Lena! I wouldn’t literally bury them (and like I said, I’m sure the local park would not be pleased!). I was just trying to express the fact that I find it terribly sad now to think that these products are made out of what used to be living beings 🙁 Thanks so much for stopping by! You are getting a shout out in my next video, by the way 😉

      • I see, some people (including me) can not read between the lines and understand things literally 🙂
        I am guessing shout out will be about dumpster diving for cat food 🙂

  • I once heard of someone sending woollens into animal shelters to be used as bedding, and I thought that was a great idea. Realistically it takes a long time to phase out a lot of animal products from our households/wardrobes, I think it took me a year or two before I managed to replace everything. Even now I have some items like a bone china jug that was a gift from my Mum and I’m not -quite- ready to part with it. This is a great list of suggestions 🙂

    • Thanks, Jenny. I can definitely see that it’s going to take a while to get rid of the animal products in my wardrobe. It seems like they are everywhere! Sometimes I just try to comfort myself in the knowledge that nothing new is coming into the house 🙂

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