The Vegan Overhaul: How to Shop Beyond Groceries
A Toronto Guide for Vegan Goods Outside The Kitchen
Like many people who journey into veganhood, I was a slow starter. I was a vegetarian for 16 years, at first for environmental reasons, then ethical, then health. I found being a vegetarian easy. I could get away with dining out at most restaurants (thank you ‘sides’). Most of my friends and family could still cook for me, even though I often was asked “you still eat fish, right?”. I very rarely got asked about the leather jacket I was wearing (only compliments, c’mon). I felt like I could live and move comfortably in the world, while still feeling satisfied that I was ‘doing my part’ to help save the planet and the animals on it. But as soon as I declared my veganism, I realized that I needed to modify way more than just my diet.
I’m talking about the classic contradiction that rookie vegans are first faced with - the willingness to cut meat and animal products out of their dietary repertoire, but not the rest of their lifestyle.
What about that parka you wear when it’s -30 degrees out? The mascara you put on every morning? Those dress shoes you wear to work? And of course, the leather jacket (sigh). Animal-harm is everywhere in the production of lifestyle goods.
There are obviously many reasons why people choose to go vegan, and definitions are blurred for that reason. For some, it’s just about diet and health, and for others, it’s about ethics and activism. But for those of you rookies out there who are just "veginning" and need to overhaul your everyday, here is a brief cross-section of an urban lifestyle and some places for you to explore, down the rabbit-hole outside your kitchen.
"Many major retailers carry alternatives these days, so make sure to search or look for ‘down-free’ or ‘down alternative.’"
HOME & DECOR
Believe it or not, your home may be full of barnyard relics. Think about it - what are filling your pillows and duvet? Is your couch throw made of wool? Leatherback chairs anyone?
Toronto’s 100% vegan boutique found in Parkdale is touting the latest (and coolest) in vegan home decor. The space is outfitted with animal-free products that don’t sacrifice style for ethics. You may never want to leave.
Many major retailers carry alternatives these days, so make sure to search or look for ‘down-free’ or ‘down alternative.’ Here are a few to help you get started on your shopping journey:
- Beckham Luxury Linen Down-Alternative Pillows & Duvets
- Seasons Collection Down-Alternative Duvets
- Isotonic Down-Free Pillows
The two brothers behind this company boast an impressive and fascinating history of R&D, patenting, and product development across many product types. This pillow is not only feather-free, but it has a lot of cool science behind its claim of a good night’s sleep.
A system of carpet squares that you can use to create rugs in any size or shape you’d like. Most are made from man-made recyclable materials.
"The mental shift of ‘thinking vegan’ when it comes to purchasing decisions may feel like a chore at first; it does for many rookies. But over time, it will just become your way of thinking."
Arm Yourself With an App
There are three great apps out there that are wonderful assistants to aid you in your cruelty-free shopping decisions.
Check if a company is cruelty-free! Bunny Free lets you search for companies by name and tells you whether or not they test on animals.
The Cruelty-Free app alphabetically lists over 200 American and Canadian companies that are certified under the Leaping Bunny Program. You can also use the search bar at the top and type in a brand name.
Scan an item and have an immediate response about its animal testing status. Share your results with friends on social media and also share your concern or praise with the company itself.
Canadian Beauty Brands
Canadian cruelty-free beauty brands are on the rise. Here are some of the best.
All ingredients are natural and harmless for both the environment and your body.They believe in compassionate business and as such, they are, and always will be, a cruelty-free company.
Both cruelty-free and vegan-friendly products are covered by Kaia Naturals, a skincare company that's best known for using bamboo as their key ingredient.
Proudly Canadian, vegan, cruelty-free, Green Business certified, Just Beautiful pledged, and part of Think Dirty. What else could you need from a beauty company? Amazing products? Oh right, good thing they boast that too.
Hailing from Cambridge, Ontario, Buck Naked has created a full line of all-natural, vegan, handcrafted skin care products. They are committed to being chemical-free, using only pure, natural ingredients.
The ultimate Canadian personal care brand, Green Beaver is a family company that has been around for more than 20 years. Their philosophy is to make products that do not harm animals, do not harm the earth, and also do not harm the consumer.
The Peta-approved brand is chemical-free and can currently be found a handful of stores in The Six, including the Stillwater Spa at the Park Hyatt Hotel (fancy) and Green Beauty Spa on Yonge.
Plant-powered, organic-when-possible, ethically sourced and made skin care for the luxurious at heart. None of their ingredients are common, easy to find (or inexpensive!) but they all lend-a-hand in steeply raising the bar in luxurious, efficacious holistic personal care.
A naturally-derived body care brand that has a vibrant side. The products are also designed for preference, not gender. They make them right here in Canada and all of their products are cruelty-free.
Bite Beauty is one of Toronto's proudest natural cosmetic companies. All of their products are handmade in the city. The award-winning brand creates natural lip products - hence the name.
Cake Beauty products hail from Kitchener, Ontario and are paraben-free, 100% natural, and of course, vegan and cruelty-free.
Also, check out the following retailers in Toronto for vegan and ethically responsible and beauty product sections:
Apparel & Accessories
When it comes to seeking vegan fashion in Toronto, one of the best things to do is simply read labels! Many large retailers offer animal-based alternatives (i.e. faux wool sweaters, faux fur coats, faux leather accessories) - you just have to look. Below are two great guides put out by Peta to help you in your search, as well as some impressive vegan brands that offer online shopping and shipping to Canada.
As mentioned, The Imperative is a great shop in Parkdale that sells everything from lifestyle products to clothing to accessories to home decor. The shelves are well stocked with animal-free products that don’t sacrifice style for ethics. Finally, a cool place for us to shop!
This once-small company from Montreal is now an international household brand for vegan fashion lovers. Committed to not using leather or any other animal-based materials in their designs, Mat & Nat continues to explore new innovative ways to remain sustainable and eco-friendly.
Canadian-made, premium vegan outerwear! For Wully, the benefits of a vegan product aren’t just ethical. In recent years, technical fabrics have come to outperform traditional down insulations, including having the ability to withstand harsher conditions. Field tested in all 13 provinces and territories of Canada, Wully makes products that serve anyone between our three coasts—and beyond.
A Peta approved brand and designed in Montreal, Noize develops unique collections season after season with a focus on high-quality faux fur and vegan leather accents. Each piece makes a statement embracing an unrivalled selection of warm and fashionable outerwear.
A Ryerson Fashion Grad, this young designer started making vegan belts out of her apartment in downtown Toronto. Creating functional and fashionable belts and accessories with ‘genuine non-leather,’ Truth Belts is a one-stop shop for your waist-cinching needs.
"Rising label, VAUTE” (VOGUE), is “the world’s first all vegan fashion brand”(NYLON), “breaking runway history” (CNN), “a vegan fashion empire” (PAPER), that “proves animal-free fashion can be cute, chic and sexy” (Oprah). Need we say more?
This fashionhaus for men doesn't believe animals belong in the fashion production system, or any industrial system for that matter. They invest in sustainable innovation, superior vegan materials, ethical labour, and classic styles made with quality.
Olsenhaus was created to illustrate plundering, cruelty, and greed are not synonymous with true style. The mission was to merge passions for design, fashion, function, and being a voice for animals, the environment, transparent business practices, and unwavering values in ethical and social responsibilities.
Hoodlamb started their mission in the early nineties, as the first company to make a winter jacket out of hemp. Their clothes, from durable outerwear to soft-knits, bring together the best organic and recycled materials with advanced eco-treatments to ensure pure comfort and total protection from the cold.
Save The Duck has been doing just that. Their products are 100% animal free and do not utilize any feathers, leather, hide, or fur. Save the Duck is a smart and ethical company that looks to the future, not just to capture the new trends and transform them into cutting-edge collections, but even more so to strive for a shared objective: living in a totally animal-cruelty-free world.
"Many large retailers offer animal-based alternatives - you just have to look."
Avesu was established in 2010 in Berlin and has become the go-to for vegan shoes in Germany, Europe, and now all over the world! They work closely with each of their suppliers and the 40+ brands they stock. All shoes and accessories in their range are made from ethically sourced, environmentally friendly materials by workers who are treated fairly and with respect.
Headquartered in Vancouver, People Footwear is dedicated to producing the next generation of casual footwear that is entirely man-made — no Bambis or Babes (or any other animal) were harmed in the creation of their shoes.
A ‘beast free’ company that can proudly boast that not a hair nor hide on any animal, anywhere, has been used in the creation of their products. They’ve even been certified by PETA as an approved vegan brand.
An independently owned vegan business out of Vancouver that carries shoes as well as accessories such as purses, bags, belts, wallets, and more. They ship nationally.
The first cruelty-free store of its kind in NYC, MooShoes was founded back in 2001 and continues to ship ethical animal-approved shoes and accessories internationally.
Yes, you read that right. They have created a vegan line for grudge lovers.
They too have created some vegan alternatives for the sportier animal-lover.
For the vegan skater boy!
Their vegan line is cool and animal-approved.
This eco-conscious company has shoes with not only unique style but also unique construction.
Kind Leather footwear and accessories are exclusive to NICORA. It is engineered to perform better than animal-leather and is the sustainable alternative to other plastic synthetics. It is made from natural and recycled fibers and contains NO plasticizers, PVC or animal products and it does not emit off-gasses. Kind Leather is non-toxic and long-lasting, made in a solar-powered, zero emission factory in Massachusetts.
Known for the classic slip-on, Toms has branched out to making sneakers and has such an impressive selection that it’s a recipient of Peta’s Compassionate Business Award.
One of the most famous skate shoe brands of all time, Vans has also made a name for itself in the world of vegan kicks with alternatives for cool dads, moms and their kiddos.
Located downtown Toronto and boasting an impressive collection of footwear, they always have vegan options to choose from, head on in and ask their sales reps.
This 100% vegan shoe company is based in Los Angeles but ships all over the world.
Nae (No Animal Exploitation) is a Portuguese vegan footwear brand. It proposes a fair and animal-friendly alternative against human exploitation and respect to the environment.
This could be an entire article on itself. But, for a quick idea of where to start when it comes to being and ethical and environmentally conscious parent, here are a few companies in Toronto, doing great things. They source and stock many vegan and plant-based childcare products, so be sure to explore and ask the staff about alternatives.
Organic and ethically and Canadian made basics for young humans available online or in two Toronto stores.
A Toronto based Canadian company that believes that as consumers we have the power to bring about positive change through conscientious purchasing.
Selling products based on guidelines of sustainability, non-toxicity, and overall quality. These guys understand that eco-friendly doesn't have to exclude style which is why all of their products are chosen with style in mind.
Why not buy second hand? Especially from these guys. Bumbleberry curates stylish and gently used children’s clothing, toys and gear, as well as maternity wear. Additionally, you can drop-off your used kiddy clothing for resale, or allow them to donate them on your behalf.
Everything from cloth diapers to natural creams and lotions. All items are eco-friendly and health-conscious, so you don't have to worry about nasty chemicals or plastics.
An independent shop based in Toronto's Bloor West Village specializing in cloth diapers and a wide variety of useful items for new and expecting families.
Through their quarterly print magazine and website, they strive to give you what you need to make responsible, sustainable and, most importantly, attainable lifestyle choices for your family.
"Have a furry friend and feel vegan-shame about feeding it beef every day?"
Have a furry friend and feel vegan-shame about feeding it beef every day? Here are two resources to help you sleep better at night.
Founded in 2013, Open Farm is a family-run business out of Toronto, focused on doing some good for pets, farm animals, and the environment.
Curious to know how ethical that kibble is that you’re buying for your non-vegan furry friend? Here’s a cross comparison of some of the big brands, so you can research a more environmentally friendly and ethical option for feeding your beast.
Considering adopting an animal companion? Someone to cuddle you in your new cruelty-free duvet at night? Consider these organizations instead of a heading out to a big box pet store:
Save Our Scruff is a non-profit organization located in Toronto dedicated to rescuing dogs and finding them safe and suitable permanent homes through adoption, advocacy and education.
Following no kill principles, the Toronto Humane Society aspires to be a best-in-class animal shelter – working in partnership with the community to find creative solutions and improve outcomes for all animals.
With three shelter locations around the city, Animal Services is finding responsible, loving homes for more than 4,000 animals each year.
The Etobicoke Humane Society (EHS) is an independent, all-volunteer, federally registered charity serving the Greater Toronto Area since 1987, caring for dogs and cats in need.
Rescuing and finding homes for abandoned, sick or injured cats from situations of abuse, neglect or imminent euthanasia.
PAWS proudly enforces a strict no-kill policy, while providing a unique free-roam shelter where homeless, abandoned and abused animals are given safe haven - indefinitely.
TEAM Dog Rescue provides a safe haven for dogs while they wait for their “furever” homes. Their focus is to rescue dogs from high kill shelters in Ontario and Quebec.
BUYING A CAR
So you eat your vegan breakfast bowl, put on your beast-free shoes and hop in your car only to realize that you’re sitting in leather seats. Here are some car companies doing some future-forward work, and that you can think of for your next automotive purchase.
Alas, your own home becomes animal-cruelty free, and you head on a work trip only to crawl into your hotel bed covered in down-filled pillows. There are options out there people!
Inspired?! Or exhausted? It is a lot to consider. But then again, so is the lifestyle choice of going vegan in the first place - so this is something you’re capable of! And, you don’t have to overhaul your life ALL AT ONCE (unless you’re totally that type of person). The mental shift of ‘thinking vegan’ when it comes to purchasing decisions may feel like a chore at first; it does for many rookies. But over time, it will just become your way of thinking. And slowly but surely, your diet, your home, and your life will be a carefree and cruelty-free one. Happy Shopping :)
This was by no means an exhaustive list! What did we miss? Let us know!