vegan

5 Sustainable Vegan Purses & Handbags Under $100

I hand selected products and brands for this co-sponsored post. Contains affiliate links.

affordable sustainable vegan handbags under $100 stylewise-blog.com

For some reason, I always get the urge to change my handbag in the fall.

It's probably the back-to-school scheduling that's been reinforced since kindergarten, but I also think it has something to do with pre-winter nesting. "Get your act together, Leah. The cold days will soon be here."

There are a lot of ethical brands that sell beautiful, vegetable tanned leather handbags, but honestly, I'm trying to get away from new leather goods for both environmental and ethical reasons. I recently befriended a shoemaker who gave me some pretty startling information about the nature of leather and its relationship to the meat industry and

read this post on child labor

by my friend, Tavie, and it made me realize that if I'm serious about conservation and ethics, I need to do more to reduce the use of animal products in my life. (The shoemaker will be featured in an interview next month, so I'll let her fill you in on the details later).

There's also an issue with

PVC and PU fake leathers

since they're derived from crude oil and not biodegradable.

The bags - and brands - in this roundup are made with minimal leather (only one has a leather strap) and either renewable or zero waste, upcycled resources. They prove that it's possible to create a sturdy statement piece while prioritizing labor ethics and sustainability.

5 Places to Find Sustainable + Vegan Handbags

affordable sustainable vegan handbags under $100 stylewise-blog.com

1 | grünBAG

The Story: 

A company that takes upcycling seriously, grunBAG makes backpacks and purses out of recycled lifeboats, banners, sails, and industrial tarps used in the trucking industry. Since these textiles have already been weather proofed, they are perfect for go-anywhere bags. 

Learn more here

 ☞

The Bag:

 The

A-Bag in Green

is made with surplus tarp used to cover trucks, and has a nice fold-over style that allows you to load it up with souvenirs, notepads, or whatever else you may find yourself carrying throughout the day. I especially like it for travel since it's water proof.

The Price Point: 

$75-200

☀︎

SHOP GRUNBAG

 ☀︎

affordable sustainable vegan handbags under $100 stylewise-blog.com

2 | Malia Designs

The Story:

A longtime favorite - my sister and I both already owned Malia Designs' bags and my mom has a wallet - Malia Designs makes bags out of recycled cement and feed bags + classic screen printed canvas, paying a fair wage to artisans in Cambodia and giving back to anti-trafficking organizations in both Cambodia and the US.

Learn more here

The Bag:

The

Blue Dragon Bag

is made from a cement bag, lined in cotton, and full of storage pockets, perfect for holding a cell phone (or your pet rat - I'm holding my rat, Rosemary, here).

The Price Point:

Most products under $50

☀︎

SHOP MALIA DESIGNS

☀︎

affordable sustainable vegan handbags under $100 stylewise-blog.com

3 | Mother Erth

The Story:

Mother Erth makes artful handbags out of discarded plastic laminated foil from the packaged food industry. Women artisans in the Philippines are paid over 3x the standard wage, and don't have to relocate from rural villages in order to make a living.

Learn more here

 ☞

The Bag:

While Mother Erth also produces more neutral, minimalistic designs, I really wanted to photograph a bright piece that showcases the raw materials. This multi-color

Top Handle Bag

features sustainably sourced rattan handles, a recycled woven body, and an open silhouette.

The Price Point:

$85 and under

☀︎ 

SHOP MOTHER ERTH

☀︎

affordable sustainable vegan handbags under $100 stylewise-blog.com

4 | Ten Thousand Villages

The Story:

Credited with launching the fair trade movement as we know it, Ten Thousand Villages works with hundreds of artisan partners, providing fair wages while offering innovative, artisanal goods that make great gifts.

Learn more here

The Bag:

The

Essential Companion Tote

 is a spacious, structured bag woven with palm leaves and finished with sturdy leather straps (this is the one leather item featured). A reviewer on the site says she's had her bag for 10 years and it still looks new! So far, I've used mine to store items for photo shoots and to carry books. Ten Thousand Villages has lots of

fully vegan options

, too.

The Price Point:

Varies, but most are under $100

☀︎ 

SHOP TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES HERE

 ☀︎

affordable sustainable vegan handbags under $100 stylewise-blog.com

5 | EcoVibe Apparel

The Story: 

EcoVibe specializes in fashion forward, affordable clothing and accessories made with ethical labor and/or sustainable fibers. Their items are well curated and always contain special details that set them apart. 

Learn more here

 ☞

The Bag:

 The

Natural Cork Clutch

(with a detachable strap) was handmade in Portugal with sustainably harvested cork and costs $112.

The Price Point: 

$80+

☀︎ 

SHOP ECOVIBE APPAREL

 ☀︎

affordable sustainable vegan handbags under $100 stylewise-blog.com

12 Places to Find Eco-friendly & Ethical Vegan Shoes

ethical and eco-friendly vegan shoe companies
When it comes to ethical credentials, some are more straightforward than others. 

The Vegan designation, for instance, is complicated. If something is labeled vegan, it simply means it was produced without the use of animal products. It doesn't, however, account for the environmental costs of production, biodegradability, or toxicity, which means a whole lot of vegan products are made with synthetic, oil-based materials that are bad for people, animals, and the ecosystems both parties depend on. Read more on that here.

This doesn't seem to ring true to the broad ethos of veganism, which is to respect all life. Though I'm not vegan personally, I respect the arguments of those who avoid leather and other animal products and figured it was time to create a resource that pairs the vegan label with ecological sustainability and human rights.

Tip: When shopping for eco-vegan shoes, look for materials like cork, canvas, Pinatex, and recycled fibers. 

Contains a couple affiliate links

12 PLACES TO FIND SUSTAINABLE VEGAN SHOES

Bhava

Made ethically with organic, natural, and recycled materials. Boots, flats, mules, and more.

Nicora

Made with recycled faux leather (called Kind Leather) in the USA. Classic combat boots, flats, and more.

VEJA's Vegan Line

Made ethically with natural rubber and canvas. Sneakers.

Po-zu's Vegan Line

Made ethically with cork, Pinatex (pineapple fiber), and other innovative materials. Sneakers, flats, and more (+ Star Wars exclusives).

Bourgois Boheme

Made ethically with more eco-friendly PU and sustainable materials like Pinatex. Flats, boots, sandals, and more.

Etiko

Fair trade and made with canvas and natural rubber. Low and high top sneakers.

BANGS

Made ethically with canvas and rubber, with 20% of profits benefiting Kiva entrepreneurs. Low and high top sneakers.

And don't forget the secondhand option! Because secondhand shoes have already been produced and purchased once, they are a more sustainable option than buying new even if they weren't produced with natural fibers.

Tip: When shopping for secondhand shoes, aim for higher quality brands with minimal wear.

Secondhand Marketplaces

ethical and eco-friendly vegan shoe companies

The Wolf Shall Live With the Lamb: A Christian Exploration of Vegetarianism

The Wolf Shall Live With the Lamb: A Christian Exploration of Vegetarianism
Last week, my church put on its annual Lessons & Carols service, an Advent celebration that includes nine Bible readings and nine carols that anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas. Though a lot of Americans think we're already celebrating Christmas (It's December! Pass the eggnog! Play festive music!) in churches that use the traditional Christian calendar and follow the liturgy, we are in what's often termed a mini-Lent, preparing our hearts and minds for the miraculous incarnation of Jesus.

As such, the lessons in the Lessons & Carols service, and, in fact, all of the Sunday Bible readings throughout Advent, draw heavily upon the prophetic texts of the Hebrew Bible, the ones early Christians used to confirm that Jesus was the Messiah they'd been waiting for.

I was particularly struck by the second half of the reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 11: 1–3a; 4a; 6–9 to be exact), because it speaks of an ideal future that includes a totally transformed food chain:

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

It is apparent that the writer of Isaiah was moved by the violence of the predator-prey relationship and felt that a restoration of the world would include total abstinence from killing and eating meat. The text stands out, because, while the Bible often talks about eating - Kosher food law, ritual sacrifice, manna in the desert, the Last Supper, Peter's vision of unclean animals, the feeding of the 5,000 - most of those conversations have more to do with God and humans than with the animals themselves. In this text, the animals are vegetarians.

Notably, however, Kosher food law as it pertains to meat does seem to approach a sort of empathy toward the animals' feelings (Deuteronomy 14:21b, Exodus 34:26b, Exodus 23:19b ):

 You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

But what does this mean? According to chabad.org, there are a few Rabbinic interpretations, but for the sake of brevity, I'll highlight the one that pertains to this discussion:

"...it is cruel to cook a baby in the very milk that was intended to nourish it."

I first learned about this interpretation from a Jewish professor who gave a presentation in my Food Ethics class. It's compelling, because it challenges the widespread idea that the animals we eat don't deserve to be recognized as sentient beings that experience pain and sorrow. Keeping Kosher is no easy feat - it requires extra appliances, extra dinnerware, lots of pre-planning, and careful consideration - all in the name of honoring God, but with the side effect of forcing adherents to understand what they're eating and why. In fact, I know a Jewish couple who decided to keep a vegetarian kitchen because it's much easier to follow Kosher food law if you eliminate meat from your home altogether. The Jewish professor was a pescatarian for similar reasons (fish aren't categorized as "meat" in the Kosher food tradition).

It should also be noted that Adam and Eve were presumably vegetarians before the Fall. They were not required to till the ground or produce their own food until after their eyes were opened to good and evil, and to moral ambiguity. God made clothing of animal skins for them only after they became aware - and ashamed - of their nudity.

The Bible then, seems internally consistent as it pertains to the ideal of a flattening of the predator-prey hierarchy. It is considerably less consistent on any point that specifically talks about what humans should be eating.

Perhaps the most compelling case for meat eating is found in Acts 10:9-16:

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 
 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

This passage seems to completely override Kosher food tradition when read at face value. But it should be noted that the passage has layered meanings. In the early church, converts from Judaism often insisted that converts from other traditions be circumcised before they could fully enter the Christian community. The vision is very likely an attempt to show these Christian Jews that God accepted the uncircumcised into his community - no painful procedure was required for new converts. Adult circumcision would have been a significant barrier to conversion, particularly in a pre-pain killer era, so there are good reasons to read the passage this way.

The Wolf Shall Live With the Lamb: A Christian Exploration of VegetarianismThe other potential context for the vision's commands may have something to do with temple sacrifice. In Jewish tradition, an animal sacrifice was periodically made at the temple and, depending on the type of offering it was, portions of the animal would be eaten by the offerer and his family. Some scholars suggest that meat offered sacrificially would have been the main event for meat consumption in the life of Jewish adherents into the early Common Era (and that, in fact, it was unlawful in early Israelite practice to kill an animal outside of temple sacrifice). If this is true, it means that there wasn't a strong food tradition around meat outside of temple sacrifice and thus, when the temple was destroyed in 70 CE, meat consumption dropped off.

Christianity did away with the necessity of animal sacrifice altogether, which means that early Christians may have been largely vegetarians or vegans. The vision gives Christians permission to eat anything, but it doesn't mean they would have had access to much meat, and certainly not on the scale we have today.

So, what does this mean for contemporary Christians? 


Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

According to the above passage (Luke 17:20-21) the Kingdom of God is already here, but it isn't completed yet. I reflect on this passage often, because it reminds Christians that we have a part to play in restoring the earth, in making it good. The Kingdom of God is both present and future, and we can do our part to extend grace, to build bridges, and to love one another so that glimpses of that future Kingdom are apparent. We can offer tangible, everyday hope. The passage reminds us that the work is ongoing.

But what does that mean for the Isaiah passage? If an ideal world means total pacifism, even as it pertains to the animals, what responsibility do we have to usher that in now? We can't turn lions into vegetarians - even domesticated cats need meat - but maybe we have a hard choice to make in our own lives.

Undoubtedly, the world is a violent place, and the daily violence that occurs for the sake of survival is perhaps the hardest to grapple with, because it's built into the natural order. But humans are an anomaly in some ways. Not only are we omnivores, and thus capable of enjoying a more varied diet, we're also incredibly aware of our options.

And in the US and other industrialized nations, we have greater access to food than our predecessors. We can eat anything we want, and we seem to be choosing meat.

So, the big question: should Christians be vegetarians?

Yes, and no.

The fact of the matter is it's not totally clear. What is clear, to me at least, is that we should envision as the ideal a world where no violence occurs, even if it's not yet achievable. That means considerably reducing our meat consumption, ensuring that the meat industry is well regulated and takes animal welfare into account, thinking long and hard about the meat we do choose to eat, and seeing animals as fellow creatures on this complicated planet.

Just because the New Testament does not make it morally wrong, or sinful, to eat meat doesn't mean that God calls it good. The Bible makes a compelling case to moving toward vegetarianism even if we don't fully embrace it.

I don't totally rule out meat consumption because I know that some people, whether due to food access or culture or due to specific nutritional needs, benefit from eating meat. I think we need to be aware of the shortcomings of our bodies as they've evolved in relation to meat consumption, and not shun those who thoughtfully consume meat. But we must come to terms with the fact that animals with feelings, relationships, and individual personalities must die if we want to eat meat.

As in matters of war, child bearing, and end-of-life care, eating meat is a life or death decision that must bear weight. 


From the Isaiah passage, we can also extrapolate a larger calling to pacifism. In order to live out the Kingdom of God, we need to ask hard questions about the death penalty, the prison system, war, and military occupation. We also need to seek to build systems that reduce drug-related and domestic violence, abortion, hate crimes, and suicide. We need to build communities and systems that offer access to care, preventative services, economic empowerment, hope, and restorative justice.

Nothing is cut and dried. We are all going to make moral choices based on a unique combination of life experiences. But I think the Bible, at the very least, calls Christians to serious work toward an all-encompassing peace, and that includes thinking long and hard about our meat consumption.

Food for thought this Holiday season.

---------

This piece doesn't even get into issues of environmental stewardship or a discussion of the Eucharistic feast. It also doesn't attempt to respond to non-religious ethical arguments about meat consumption. Maybe I'll get into that at a later date.

Interview: Stephanie Nicora of Nicora Shoes

This post originally appeared on My Kind Closet.
nicora shoes interview
From Stephanie of My Kind Closet:

A couple of years ago I was on the hunt for a pair of nice looking heels that I could pull off at a fancier affair, like a wedding, but that would also get a lot of use of for more casual occasions.

The catch? This was one of my very first purchases after having gone vegan, so I wanted something that was free of leather made from animal skin, but I also wanted something that was high-quality and made well. This was also around the time I really started considering how and where the things I bought were made…And while it was certainly true that there were plenty of non-leather options around, they were cheap in both construction and in price, so I couldn’t be sure of where they came from or what they were made of.

After a doing some research I came across the Priscilla heels, by Nicora Shoes. I loved their natural wooden heel, the elegant strapping detail, and the fact they were American made by a brand committed to social and environmental responsibility and a love for animals.

I reached out to the e-mail address on their website as they were out of stock, and Stephanie, one of the co-founders, was kind enough to e-mail me back and connect me with a shop in Chicago who carried the heels. If that’s not commitment to your customer, then I don’t know what is! A couple years later, the heels are still looking great and I wear them often.

In any case, founded by Stephanie Nicora, a third generation shoemaker, and Reyes Florez, who left Wall Street to pursue something that would enable him to have a positive impact on the world, Nicora Shoes has grown quite a bit in a short couple of years, now supporting approximately 35 American jobs. 

Their commitment to people, animals, and the planet is stronger and more evident than ever.

Stephanie Nicora, the namesake and head designer of Nicora, was gracious enough to answer some questions and tell me a bit about the brand, their production, and the values that drive them.

WHAT'S YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW DID YOU COME TO START NICORA SHOES?

I am a 3rd generation shoemaker. I began apprenticing in shoemaking in 2012 and practiced making shoes in my home. I used repurposed furniture upholstery and any materials I could get my hands on. Simultaneously, I began researching materials. It was evident right off the bat that traditional materials, namely leather or foreign produced plastics did not align with my ethics. I source only USA made eco materials and as I started moving along in my shoemaking, I realized I was the only person doing so. The interest for my designs grew through social media – and before I knew it I was selling online and now we are a fully grown brand, making shoes out of Los Angeles.

CAN YOU PLEASE DISCUSS WHERE YOUR MATERIALS ARE SOURCED AND WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR TO KEEP PRODUCTION IN THE USA?

We are committed to US production because we are committed to people. 

We decided we wanted to build communities and impact people’s lives in our own backyard. Our teams of artisans are absolutely amazing! We feel really good that they are able to live an enriched life practicing the skills they have honed for generations. We don’t have to rely on audits or reports to tell us whether our artisans are being treated the right way. We know they are, because we are in the factory with them, side-by-side, making great looking shoes.

On the supplier side we have found that because many of our vendors can’t compete on price they compete on quality and sustainability.

So by sourcing American materials we are getting the highest level of quality you can imagine. 

It is the craziest thing to travel to an old mill town community in South Carolina and find companies that are utilizing the latest advancements in textile technology to produce some of the most sustainable textiles in the world. Who would have thought!

From Stephanie of My Kind Closet: Fashion Revolution week focuses on empowering consumers to help make positive change within the industry for the people who make our clothes, many of whom are sadly underpaid and work under poor conditions. There are people who view veganism as a movement only for the animals, when it really is so much more – I’d like to discuss how veganism is a choice that helps people too- even in fashion:

The leather and tanning industries are among the most toxic and harmful industries in the world (in 2012 Human Rights Watch published a 102 page report documenting the health repercussions for individuals working in a leather factory in Dhaka and the implications for the entire community.)… 

CAN YOU TOUCH UPON THAT AND WHY YOUR VEGAN MATERIALS ARE BETTER AND SAFER FOR THE PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH THEM (AND THE ENVIRONMENT)?

You hit the nail on the head in saying that vegan is much broader than animals or diet. It really is about a worldview that says, “I am going to be thoughtful and aware about the impact my choices have on the world around me.”

Leather, as you mentioned, is not only incredibly harmful to people working in the tanneries, but also to neighboring communities. Our materials are better in a number of ways. First they don’t require anywhere near the amount of natural resource inputs that leather does. Second we use the latest in engineered textiles, so our materials are premium quality without all the nasty plasticizers or off-gassing that is often a part of other engineered materials. Lastly, the bulk of our materials have some recycled component to them. For example fabric dyes used to color our latest release, the Goodall, actually comes from the use of recycled ketchup bottles and old x-ray film.

It is very much part of our mission to continue researching, learning and collaborating with textile manufacturers to find a better and smarter way to do things. 

We believe there is always room for improvement. We are excited about what the future holds in this arena.

nicora vegan shoes interview

DO YOU FEEL AS THOUGH THE DESIRE TO BUY LOCAL AND/OR ETHICALLY MADE PRODUCTS IS BECOMING MORE MAINSTREAM?

Yes we do. Whether it is due to a desire for quality or out of support for a social mission – or some combination of both – we see more and more people choosing locally produced / ethically produced products. Today’s consumer is incredibly connected with the products they buy and as a result they want to get behind something that shares their values. It has never been easier to research companies to understand production processes and supply chains and consumers are really taking advantage of that. It is an incredibly positive movement.

FAST FASHION HAS GIVEN MANY CONSUMERS THE FALSE NOTION THAT CLOTHING, SHOES, AND ACCESSORIES SHOULD BE CHEAP, SO THE STICKER SHOCK FOR ETHICALLY MADE PRODUCTS CAN INITIALLY TURN SOMEONE AWAY FROM MAKING THAT PURCHASE - HOW DO YOU THINK WE CAN APPEAL TO THAT CONSUMER?

Being American made, obviously our inputs are more expensive than someone who is sourcing globally. But we are ok with that. While the extra production costs results in higher sticker price, we like to think about things in terms of cost per wear. We build our shoes to last, every NICORA shoe is repairable and resoleable. We also think about sustainability from a design angle, and create pieces that are meant to be versatile and cross seasonal. So when you buy a pair of NICORA’s you are buying life partners. When you consider that the cost of each pair is spread out over years of wear our shoes are actually a better value. This also translates to a win on the environmental front as well, by creating high quality heirloom like pieces we keep more waste out of landfills.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ETHICAL BRANDS?

Just to name a few…Vaute Couture, Brave Gentlemen, Groceries

Shops: Bead and Reel*
---


I, like Stephanie, love the Goodall sandals for summer. Read more posts by Stephanie on her blog, My Kind Closet.

*All photos belong to Nicora Shoes.