What is Vegan?

Want a fashion update that won’t harm the planet? Go vegan.

As livestock and poultry production tipped the scales in 2009, claiming responsibility for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions (according to the Worldwatch Institute), many environmentalists began to avoid animal products as the next step in an ongoing search to shrink their carbon footprints.

Who’s gone vegan? According to the Vegetarian Times, nearly one percent of Americans—more than one million people—neither consumer nor use any animal products, while seven million of us are vegetarians, and more than 22 million primarily follow a plant-based diet.

Typically, vegan products contain no animal ingredients such as wool, fur, leather or even silk, nor are they tested on animals. But veganism isn’t a science, and those who live cruelty-free make their own decisions when it comes to what they will or will not wear.

Some vegans flat-out won’t wear anything made from animals; others will wear “humanely-harvested” sheep’s wool or “peace silk,” in which the worm is allowed to live out its lifecycle while sharing silk with harvesters.

Any many vegans also support sustainable fashion, eschewing petrochemically derived plastics like PVC in favor of organic, recycled and upcycled materials.

Reportedly, vegan celebrities include Alanis Morrisette, Alicia Silverstone, Alyssa Milano, Andre 3000, Chrissie Hynde, Daryl Hannah, Elijah Wood, Ellen Degeneres, Emily Deschanel, Erykah Badu, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jenny McCarthy, Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Harrelson and Zooey Deschanel, to name a few.

Think cruelty-free might be for you? We launched a Veganista column in 2010, to prove you can be as sexy and sustainable as the next ecoista—without harming a soul.