Photo: Peter Adams
Amy Rebecca Wilde has been a vegan for nearly 17 years — a time before The Beyond Burger and the proliferation of search engines. “Back then, I would bring it up and nobody knew what I was talking about!” says the owner and founder of Vegan Scene, a vegan and eco-conscious fashion boutique based in Venice, California. “Vegan has become a household word, but it’s often misused. A plant-based diet is a vegan diet, but veganism itself is an entire lifestyle that affects almost every decision you make.”
Wilde created the popular Instagram account @vegansofig, which has amassed 55.8K followers, and was the mastermind behind the organization that fought for (and ultimately succeeded in) banning the sale of fur in Los Angeles. An expert in all things cruelty-free, here she shares her top tips for creating a vegan home that goes well beyond the pantry.
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1. Avoid animal and insect-derived products
“The naming of products can be misleading,” explains Wilde. “When something says ‘down’ you don’t automatically associate it with duck feathers — it creates a disconnect.” When shopping for vegan-friendly home decor, avoid fabrics like wool, cowhide (leather and suede), silk, fur, mohair, cashmere and angora. Wilde recommends using natural or synthetic fabrics like organic cotton, linen, canvas, fleece, nylon, polyester or rayon. Even some interior house paints contain milk proteins and shellac (used for wood finishing) is derived from beetle secretions. “There are a lot of new innovative materials that don’t require [the use of] animals and insects and are just as good, if not better quality.”
2. Buy second hand furniture to reduce your carbon footprint
“For furnishing my own apartment, I like to use Craigslist or look for vintage pieces at flea markets,” explains Wilde. “I have a dog and a cat, so I can’t have anything too shmancy!” Even if you’re paying top dollar for an ethically-made, sustainable wood dining table, it’s still a new product that requires manufacturing. Haggling for a gently-used item on Facebook Marketplace saves not only money, but water and carbon emissions, too.
3. If you must buy something new, customization is key
Photo: Peter Adams
“When it comes to purchasing something new, I like to be able to customize it to meet our [vegan] requirements,” says Wilde. Vegan Scene boasts custom-made crushed velvet sofas and chairs that are stuffed with a down alternative. For the store’s new location, Wilde commissioned custom-built galvanized pipe and wood shelves, but with a twist. “A lot of wood glue isn’t vegan, so we went with Weldbond, which is a vegan-friendly, all-purpose glue.” Even the smallest details have to be considered if you want to achieve a truly vegan interior.
4. Educate yourself about ‘hidden ingredients’
“Even if you’re not ready to adopt a vegan lifestyle, knowing which chemicals to watch out for can help you become a healthier, more informed consumer and reduce your carbon footprint,” notes Wilde. “Skin is our largest organ, so you want to be careful about what you come into contact with in your house.” Unless you have a PhD in chemistry, long-winded ingredient lists can often cause confusion. Wilde recommends consulting The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that gives consumer goods a hazard score and helps you pinpoint safer alternatives if the product isn’t up to snuff.
5. Consider the workers who made the product you’re consuming
“Being concerned about the wellbeing of animals and the environment is great, but we should also ensure that the workers making our products are being cared for, too,” says Wilde. “We as a society need to recognize that really, really low prices mean workers are being taken advantage of — corners are being cut.” Shop for home decor at fair trade retailers that provide a living wage for artisans and factory workers, such as Ten Thousand Villages, The Little Market, Accompany or Fair Trade Winds. “Veganism makes you conscious about everything, it’s a people issue, too,” adds Wilde.