We are hearing more and more about vegan and plant-based lifestyles every day, and we couldn’t be happier. There is more acceptance, and alternatives today than ever before. Businesses are rethinking their existing product lines to adapt to these new needs.
Products today proudly borne labels like ‘vegan’ ‘plant-based’ or ‘ethically sourced’. However, a lot of these words are thought of as blanket terms for something that is ‘Healthy, non-animal based and ethical’ whereas that might not always be true.
Not everything vegan is sustainable, and not everything plant-based is 100% natural. And no, they don’t mean the same things.
Let’s make it a bit clearer:
1. First, the definitions
Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” in 1944 and this is the official definition:
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
So if you look closely, vegan simply means not derived from animals. Plastic is not derived from animals, nor is coal, or petroleum. Yet, these aren’t sustainable or environmental friendly resources. Plastic may indirectly even harm animals (plastic waste in the seas for example). But technically, it’s still vegan.
So vegan simply means a product is not animal-based, and need not necessarily mean it’s made of plants or is environmentally friendly, even in the slightest.
Plant-based is a term that comes from the world of diets, but is now applied to products too. Essentially it means a diet (or a product) that is primarily made of whole plant ingredients. ‘Primarily’ being the key word.
2. A history lesson: The origin of the terms
The origins and ideologies of vegan and plant-based materials is very very different. Veganism is a philosophy against animal exploitation. The core idea is to avoid anything that causes harm to animals.
Plant-based originated simply out of health concerns, as a diet. It focuses on plant materials that are whole, and not processed too much.. There is focus on the quality of plants and grains too, for health and nourishment purposes only. Ethical reasons weren’t a major concern here, at least at the start.
3. Vegan, beyond food.
Vegan is a wide, wide philosophy. It’s not restricted to food or products that contain animal ingredients. Some products may not contain any animal derivatives, but are still avoided by vegans because they inflict harm on animals like animal tested products, or cage-based zoos.
4. Plant-based? Read the fine print.
Many plant-based diets are MAJORLY made up of plant foods, but might contain small amounts of meat/dairy. Similarly, a plant based product would MAINLY consist of plant-based materials but might include some non-natural or animal based materials as well. That’s why they are called plant-based, and not something like, made of 100% plant materials.
While mostly plant-based products are all natural (so not much to worry about) there might be exceptions where they may consist of small amounts of animal-based/ non-natural materials.
Even 100% plant based materials like paper, or wood, if not sourced ethically, are not very sustainable.
5. Can vegan and plant-based overlap?
Yes, and they often do which is what leads to all this confusion. A lot of vegan alternatives are plant-based. Not all, but many. Like, Arture uses cactus leather and cork for its products, which is both vegan and plant-based, so it’s a win-win.
Many accessory manufacturers however, create “vegan” products using plastic, PVC, faux leather. These aren’t plant-based. While these don’t harm animals directly, they cause massive harm to the planet.
In the end, all you need to know is this: Everything that’s vegan is not plant-based and ethical. And everything plant-based might not be a 100% vegan and natural, it’s just that the major ingredient is plant-based.
You’re just going to have to read the ingredients list or research to be sure. *sigh*
The reason we must understand these terms is to steer clear from products that use them to cover their act, or falsely claim benefits they don’t have. It is natural to assume that a vegan product is good for the planet, but sadly, it’s not always true.
Choose products that are not just vegan but plant-based, made from natural sources, ethically. See the product’s impact on social environments, and their impact after they are discarded. What initiatives does that company run?
Remember, sustainability runs deep. It’s not limited to labels.
That’s why we did our homework. Find out more about Arture’s initiatives and materials here.