The vegan movement has really taken firm hold of the food industry, with vegan restaurants now in the mainstream and supermarkets like Waitrose devoting entire aisles to vegan food.
This movement is not all about being against the consumption of animal-based products in any form, but also about sustainability, clean living and creating less of a negative impact on the Earth.
While veganism and the ‘clean’ movement is already changing the way we think about food, fashion and cosmetics / beauty, it’s also starting to influence interiors.
So what are the plant-based, vegan or sustainable alternatives to common interiors products. Here are a few of the key substitutes that are now relatively easy to come by and making a big impact on the design industry:
Fabric is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to being clean and green… it requires large areas of land as well as energy and a vast amount of water. Cotton requires a massive amount of water and is being responsible for all sorts of natural disasters around the world that are due to huge water consumption for the fashion and fabric industry.
Hemp and bamboo silk mixes, jute or sea grass products are all great alternatives to wool, and also fairly mainstream. These provide alternatives for all sorts of items from cushion covers to hardwearing hallway rugs.
Silk is a luxury fabric made from silkworms, and being successfully replaced by banana silk and Tencel (made from fibre found in wood pulp).
Banana fibre, also known as musa fibre is one of the world’s strongest natural fibres. Biodegradable, it’s made from the stem of the banana tree and is incredibly durable. It’s been used for centuries, but now making its natural comeback.
Leather is being replaced by ingenious faux-leather such as Apple Ten Lork, a “vegan leather” derived from apple cores and other waste from the apple industry and Piñatex, a leather alternative made from pineapple leaves. These are already widely used in fashion (for leather accessories, watch straps, shoes and clothing) and now the likes of Philippe Starck is pioneering faux leather in furniture and interiors.
Suede is difficult to recreate due to its softness but a product called mushroom mycelium is being used to produce suede-like home furnishings.
There are lots of plant-based alternatives, such as organic buckwheat, millet seeds or bamboo fibres. Another good way of being sustainable, if not vegan, is using old clothing to stuff your cushions! It's not just about being vegan, it's also about recycling and re-purposing to create less waste.
Wall paints often contain casein, traditionally used as a binder, which is made from cow’s milk. Paint can also contain shellac, a resin secreted from the female lac bug and ox gall. There are quite a few vegan paints out there now (thanks also to Meghan Markle, they’ve become quite trendy!) and bypass animal products by using vegetable casein or legumin.
Of course when it comes to furniture and other interiors items like lampshades, pendants, tables and chairs, bamboo and sustainably-grown woods are very popular and easy to come by these days and bamboo is definitely very much on trend for 2019/2020 in the world of interiors.
Aside from what we use, it's also about how we use it and while being green can be about using sustainable and plant-based products, we can also be more environmentally friendly by creating less waste through re-purposing and up-cycling old furniture, rather than just throwing it away.
When you're thinking about your next renovation or interior design project, just consider the vegan or more eco-friendly alternatives. While most of the vegan alternatives above are more expensive than their traditional non-vegan counterparts, the more they're adopted and the more they enter the mainstream, the cheaper they'll become.
Read this article in the LA Times about how veganism in interior design. https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2019-10-30/vegan-furniture-home-design
Main photo: Bompas & Parr creates "world's first" vegan hotel suite