Discard or Keep? - What to Do With Non-Vegan Items After Transitioning to Veganism
Updated: Jan 20, 2021
written by Ise
Veganism doesn’t demand perfection (what even does that mean?) but compassion and active consideration. The biggest step is already done - making the decision to go vegan.
All choices are personal, just as the choice to go vegan, and the unique set of reasons behind it. They are often a combination of ethical, environmental, political, and health concerns. While some are simply looking to eat plant-based foods, others eliminate animal-based products altogether. Suddenly, that down coat you bought last year, and your favourite pair of boots might make you feel uncomfortable.
So, what do you do with your non-vegan items after transitioning to veganism?
The beloved woolen shawl, leather boots and fur coat in your wardrobe, the non-vegan make-up and hair dye in the bathroom cabinet, and also the leather bag you used to bring with you every day. When I went vegan, I kept turning all the options over in my mind.
Using my non-vegan items until they were used up or until they wore out
Give them away or donate them
In the end, none of the choices would be wrong. Just like the choice for a vegan lifestyle was, this decision had to be one that resonated with me and that I felt most comfortable with. We have to be open to the idea that not all vegans are going to agree on what is the right thing to do, and that there are plenty of grey areas within veganism. How to deal with your non-vegan items is one of them.
Using up or wearing until worn out
You could choose to continue to use the items, if you would be okay with that. Also, not all items are ‘just things’. Some belongings were gifts from loved ones, others have precious memories connected to them. I’m thinking about my woolen shawl that my grannie knitted for me. Personally, I would be in an emotional conflict to donate or sell that. Additionally, it is more environmentally and ethically conscious to use up a non-vegan product than to throw it away. Yet, it is debatable whether ‘using up’ actually is the ethical choice here. What is more ethical: Maximising usage and minimising waste? Or no longer being dependent on animal products? Some say that choosing a vegan lifestyle and believing it’s wrong to use animals for our own means, the excuse “I already bought it” could be considered hypocritical. However, this doesn’t mean that keeping these products in your life is the same as turning a blind eye towards your ideals and what these items are. The most important thing is that you make a deliberate decision.
Giving away or donating
Another option would be to find a new home for your belongings with friends or family; or donating it to charity. This is a good alternative if you’re not comfortable with keeping them yourself, but if you don’t like the idea of them going to waste. Also, giving your stuff away to non-vegans allows for a conversation about your objections to these products and why you no longer support them. In addition to this opportunity, giving someone else a secondhand product prevents them from purchasing a brand new one. What you have to keep in mind that this behaviour implies that it would be okay for others to use animals, and that it’s simply a matter of personal choice that you don’t. Do you want others to wear or use the non-vegan products? Gifting a used product is of course different from directly encouraging the use of animal products and the purchase of new non-vegan items. Clear communication is very important here, and issues like these can also be addressed in your chat with your friend!
Gifting or donating your belongings will most likely result in you needing to replace some things, but can you afford to do that? It does provide you with the opportunity to make a kinder decision and support a certain brand or product that is vegan friendly and more sustainable! Yet, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone has the financial means to do so!
You could also choose to sell your non-vegan items, which would simultaneously cover for some of the money to buy vegan-friendly replacements. However, is it right to make a profit off the sales of animal products? There are some that assuage their inner conflict by giving the earned money to charity. You could also use the sales to raise money and awareness for an animal sanctuary or charity, and donate your money to their cause. Lastly, providing someone with a secondhand option might prevent them from buying a brand new product and further supporting the industry, the same way as giving away or donating would!
Lastly, there are no wrong choices when it comes down to deciding what the new destination for your non-vegan belongings will be. This is ultimately up to you. Veganism doesn’t demand perfection (what even does that mean?) but compassion and active consideration. The biggest step is already done - making the decision to go vegan.
Vegan or not, you should learn more about the impacts of animal leather, and the new alternatives on the scene!