the leather DILEMMA
An interesting thing happened to me recently, that I’ve been thinking about for a few days. It led me to this question: When does your personal wants trump your ethics? I’ve been a vegetarian for the last 6 years and, as you can tell from my posts, I’ve started to delve deeper into veganism and ethical purchases on the non-consumable front. My makeup is all cruelty free, my toiletries are mostly eco-friendly, and I don’t really purchase or use items made from animals if I’m aware of it.
However, over the last week Disney announced a new Dooney and Bourke bag, inspired by Disney dogs. I didn’t really care for the color originally, but I loved the pattern and styles of bags. But, being a high-ticket item at $250 and knowing that people were waiting hours to get their hands on them, I filed it away as an item that I wanted and didn’t need.
Then I went to the park one night to hang out with my roommate when a very sweet cast member informed us that they actually had the bags in stock. Hype and impulse took me over and suddenly I found myself in line for a $158 bag after discount. At first I was excited, what I didn’t like about the bag diminished due to the exclusivity of it. The price was high, and I had already planned to use that money elsewhere, but I justified it as a gift to myself. I called my mom to get her opinion (as I always do with big purchases) and then brought it home. But only about 45 minutes after, before even getting to sit down and look at it, I started to feel a rock settle in my stomach as we were driving home.
Dooney and Bourkes are cute, but they’re leather. The fact that it was actually made from an animal escaped me at the time due to the exclusivity and the rushed thought process. Half the reason why I hadn’t yet bought a Dooney and Bourke purse alluded me, but now that my brain had slowed down, it had come to light. And for the next 30 minutes I had a battle.
If I wanted it enough, was it justifiable to compromise on my ethics? If I had been so good on almost all other fronts, was this a sacrifice that I could make? Was there a point where I could stop sacrificing the things that I wanted, but couldn’t really have due to their production nature? Was I having too much of an all or nothing attitude about a big life change?
To clarify this, I own animal products. My wallet is from Michael Kors and was gifted to me in 2015. I owned a Dooney back in 2011 before I sold it off. Some hair products I have been using up still include animal products as well, I believe. And I’m not a vegan on the consumable front either. But for something as luxurious as a purse, something I’m making a conscious choice on, can I really justify my outright refusal to acknowledge that it’s made from leather when I’ve actively been trying to change my lifestyle?
The answer basically came to no. I knew if I kept the bag I would be out money and I felt like I couldn’t really justify it with “I want it”. We all want things, but some stuff we don’t have because it doesn’t fit our lifestyle. Some people don’t eat at Chik Fil A because of the comments made by the CEO. We don’t shop at specific stores because how they treat their workers, or we don’t donate to organizations because we don’t believe what they stand for. So to me, this didn’t feel any different. Everyday I make decisions and purchases based on what I believe is right and what I want to support.
I don’t want to support the leather industry and that same day I made a purchase from The Package Free Shop (which I will be reviewing). It felt odd and laughable, that I could purchase items that would make the planet safer, cleaner, and greener, and then go off that same night and make a decision to purchase something that animals are killed for and an industry I didn’t support.
applying this theory to other topics
Obviously, you don’t have to agree. There are plenty of facts and articles and information in the world about all sorts of animal cruelty and on the leather industry. And if you don’t believe it, that’s fine too. But I did find this to be an interesting feeling. To go through the motions of recognizing why I feel and believe the things I believe and how they have an impact on how I feel emotionally and how it affects how I shop. This can apply to all sorts of topics and a variety of issues not even related to animal cruelty.
Another example is thrift shopping and when you’re not supporting the brand outright monetarily. Perhaps you find a leather bag at Goodwill that you really like. You’re not giving money to the company and if you don’t buy it, eventually it’ll probably go to the landfill. So is it okay to buy leather secondhand? It really just depends on the person. In the video below My Green Closet illustrates how that’s the best option for buying the material.
I personally don’t shop at fast fashion brands anymore. But almost everything I find at Goodwill is fair game for me, because my main issue is that I don’t want to to monetarily support those brands. Since I know that money won’t go to the production of more wasteful clothing items, nor the brand who are using underpaid labor, I don’t have an issue purchasing them. But, I would never purchase them straight from a rack. And Goodwill doesn’t work on a supply and demand system. They get what they get, from consumers, so shopping at Goodwill doesn’t create anymore waste than already exists or is created from the consumer industry.
consumerism in general
This is a long post, so I’ll end it here. This past week was Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I visited the Outlet Mall recently to look for Christmas gifts beforehand, and it was incredible to see the amount of consumption happening. Families were carrying out bags and bags of items. And I probably used to be one of those people. It didn’t matter the fabrics, the production, the value or quality, it only mattered the deal and whether I wanted it. Where it went after I was finished was out of sight out of mind.
I hope that soon we can all come to understand how mass and extraordinary consumerism is unsustainable, harmful, and even emotionally draining. Take a look around, what do you cherish? Do you want your home to be filled with cruelty-free, clean, and safe products that you know will have a minuscule impact on the future of our planet? Things you still love?
If you want to learn a bit more about the animal materials and vegan synthetics you can watch My Green Closets video here: