Best Alternatives to Milk

Alternatives to cow’s milk are sweeping into coffee shops and supermarket shelves with more and more success in recent years. Whether you are vegan, trying to cut down your dairy intake ,or curious about small sustainable swaps you can make in your everyday life, milk alternatives might be of interest to you. The One Edit is on hand to guide you through some of the burning questions around alternatives to milk. Read on to discover which milk alternative could become your new favourite!

Table of Contents:

  • What is Alternative Milk?
  • What is Alt Milk?
  • How Are Milk Alternatives Made?
  • 3 Benefits of Milk Alternatives
  • Which is the Best Milk Alternative For You?

What is Alternative Milk?

‘Milk alternatives’ or ‘Alternative Milk’ are terms used to refer to any cow’s milk substitute. Rather than coming from dairy farms, alternative milks tend to be plant based.

Milk alternatives aren’t a new concept, having been used in the past by people with allergies and dietary restrictions. However, in recent years milk alternatives have started to reach more widespread popularity as they are considered a healthy and sustainable substitute for mainstream cow’s milk. It’s even thought that 1 in 3 Britons now drink alternative milks

What is Alt Milk?

You may have noticed the phrase ‘Alt Milk’ popping up on menus or ingredients lists in recent months. Alt Milk is simply an abbreviation of alternative milks. Due to a decision passed by the EU, purely plant based products cannot be marketed as milk which is why you might see ‘alt milk’ or deliberate misspellings such as ‘mylk’ and ‘m*lk’ frequently being used. 

How Are Milk Alternatives Made?

Although there is a wide range of milk alternatives available, most of them are produced through similar processes. Most alternative milks are made by soaking the main ingredient (usually a nut, legume or grain) in water for several hours, before blending into a puree. This puree is then filtered to separate any lumps from the liquid. The liquid is then boiled to sterilise it and lastly flavouring might be added. Another method of making alternative milks is to grind the main ingredient into a paste or dry powder before water is added. 

3 Benefits of Milk Alternatives

Alternative milks are gaining popularity as awareness of their many benefits grows. Here are three of the top reasons why alternative milks may be seen as superior:

  1. Alternative milks are considered to be more sustainable – Milk is a dietary staple that most people would struggle to stop using. However, dairy products and their manufacture can have a significant impact on the environment. On average, alternative milks produce 70% less greenhouse gas emissions compared with cow’s milk. It is also thought that cow’s milk produces more waste and uses up more water than alt milks. For conscious consumers, alternative milks are perceived as a more sustainable option. 
  2. Alternative milks are potentially healthier – The essential sodium and potassium which humans acquire from cow’s milk are also present in plant based milk alternatives. However, according to UCLA Health, plant based alternatives are between 37% to 75% lower in unhealthy fats than cow’s milk. There are also ongoing investigations into how much of the cow’s hormones make their way into the milk. It is thought that ingesting additional oestrogen through cow’s milk could increase the risk of breast, uterine and prostate cancers. Alternative milks could be considered to have the health benefits of conventional milk without the risks. 
  3. Alternative milks are cruelty free – There is no risk of animal cruelty with alternative milks since they are made from plants. Although not universal, sometimes dairy cows can be separated from calves, and restricted from grazing and moving around. Alternative milks are considered cruelty-free because they are free from these practices. 
Fresh white alternative milk is poured into half a cracked coconut.

Which is the Best Milk Alternative For You?

The best milk alternative can depend on personal preference. There are plenty to choose from all with slightly varying qualities. Looking at the environmental impact, health benefits, flavour and more will help us figure out which the best milk alternatives are. Next time you are adding a splash of milk to your morning cup, no matter the type of coffee, consider one of these milk alternatives:

  1. Soy Milk
  2. Pea Milk
  3. Oat Milk
  4. Almond Milk
  5. Cashew Milk
  6. Coconut Milk
  7. Camel Milk

1. Soy Milk 

Soy milk is one of the longest running alternative milks and is thought to have the closest nutritional resemblance to cows’ milk. 

High in protein (8g/cup).
Filled with antioxidants.
Filled with fibre.
Soy is one of the eight common allergens that people may be intolerant or sensitive to.Naturally quite bitter so often is sweetened. Works well in savoury dishes.

 One of our favourites is Rude Health’s Soy Drink which is sweetened with organic rice syrup instead of sugar. Rude Health also donates 5% of their profits to charities such as Chefs in Schools and Age UK.

2. Pea Milk

Pea milk is relatively new to the table but that doesn’t mean it should be discounted as one of the best milk alternatives.

High in protein (8g/cup).
Contains an omega-3 fatty acid that’s linked to immunity, heart health, and cognition. 
Sustainable water usage as peas are grown in areas which receive lots of rain.
Doesn’t contain ‘complete proteins’ which means it is missing the amino acids we can’t create but need to survive.Creamy and thick with an earthy flavour.  

If you are looking for a more environmentally friendly option that has a similar mouth feel to dairy milk, pea milk would be good to try. One of our favourite pea milk brands is Ripple who explain that drinking their milk alternative has a positive ripple effect on the planet. 

3. Oat Milk

Oat milk was the most popular alternative milk bought in the UK in 2020. It is also one of the best milk alternatives for not curdling when added to hot coffee or tea.

Eco-conscious option (growing oats requires 1/6th of the water that almonds need).
High in healthy fibre.
Keeps you fuller for longer.
Middling in proteins (3.5g/cup).Sweet, thick and creamy with a porridge-like flavour.

 Oatly is a leading oat milk brand and for good reason. They are committed to helping the planet and are involved in multiple initiatives to improve the sustainability of the food industry. We particularly love their oat ice cream line. 

4. Almond Milk

 It is believed that almond milk was first brewed in the 1200s in the Middle East as it didn’t spoil as quickly in the heat as cow’s milk. Nowadays it is one of the best milk alternatives if you are looking for a healthy but sweet option.

Low in calories so works well for a healthy milk swap.
Rich source of vitamin E which is good for heart health.
Low in protein (2g/cup).
Can be produced using an unsustainable amount of water.
Almost identical to Cashew Milk.
Light and sweet.
Works well in baking and milky coffees. 

One important thing to consider before purchasing almond milk is that not all brands are good for the environment. Many almonds are grown in heavy drought areas, and they require a vast amount of water to grow. If you do purchase almond milk, it’s essential to double check where it comes from. Our recommended brand is Plenish who are a B-Corp and make delicious almond milk.

A light blue mug with cloud design is filled with a cappuccino made with milk alternatives on a table near a bunch of flowers.

5. Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is often considered a more eco-conscious version of almond milk. Whilst the flavour is almost identical, cashew nuts can be grown in areas where water isn’t scarce whilst almonds usually can’t. This means cashews are less of an unsustainable drain on natural resources.

Full of zinc, copper & magnesium which support a healthy immune system.
Copper is also a key component of healthy skincare.
Rich in antioxidants which support eye health. 
Middling in proteins (3g/cup).
Problems with working conditions for cashew pickers sometimes being unethical.
Almost identical to Almond Milk.
Light and sweet.
Works well in baking and milky coffees.

However, if you do opt for cashew milk, we strongly urge you to check the company’s labour policies. A high percentage of cashews are picked in India and Vietnam under harsh working conditions and even in labour camps. If a company is not transparent about where their cashews come from, this is usually not a good sign. We recommend Pacific Food’s Cashew Milk which is made with Fair Trade CertifiedTM cashews.

6. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is one of the best milk alternatives to try if you want your milk to add a little extra flavour.

Packed with vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, and vitamins B, C and E.
Coconut trees are considered very environmentally friendly as the whole plant can be used. 
High in unhealthy fats (1 cup can contain up to 20% of your daily recommended saturated fat intake).Silky with classically fresh coconutty taste.
Refreshing and works well if you want your milk to add flavour.

The tropical taste is inescapable so if you’re a fan of piña coladas or Bounty chocolate bars, this is the milk for you! Our top pick is Alpro’s Coconut Original Chilled Drink which is made with no added sugar.

7. Camel Milk

Although camel milk is not plant based, it is still one of the best cow’s milk alternatives. Camel’s aren’t ruminant animals like cows which means they don’t contribute such high amounts of methane to the earth’s atmosphere.

High in calcium.
High in protein (6g/cup).
Rich in Lactoferrin which is great for gut health.
Low in unhealthy fats.
Not vegan.
Potentially high in environmentally friendly air miles depending on brand.
Smooth and refreshing with an ever so slightly salty taste.
Very similar to cow’s milk.

At the moment, camel farming is considered to have a low environmental impact however there are fears that if camel farming intensifies, unsustainable practices might emerge. For some camel friendly milk, why not try Tribal Milk’s Original Camel Milk or even treat yourself to their Cold Brew Camel Vanilla Latte?

Alternative Milks for the Future

The next time you are brewing your morning ethical coffee, why not add a splash of alt milk? From health benefits for you, to eco benefits for the planet, making the simple swap to alternative milks is an easy way to have a positive impact. If you’re interested in learning more about how your everyday choices can affect the environment, have a look at these eco-bloggers. Wherever you are in your sustainable journey, The One Edit is here to help. 

Alcohol-Free Beer: How It’s Made & Brands to Try

Whatever your tipple, alcohol free beer is a great alternative to your regular drink of choice this summer. Discover the world of alcohol free beers, whether they’re healthy, and how they’re made. Find out the best alcohol-free and low alcohol beers to try this year as you relax in the sunshine.  

What You’ll Learn:

3 Sustainable Alcohol Free Beer Brands to Try

When you’re looking for an alcohol free beer to try, why not select from our top picks of breweries that consider the planet too. 

Toast Ale 

Enjoy a pint responsibly with Toast, a UK based brewing company that wants you to raise a toast and save the world. They use surplus bread to replace barley in their beers, which saves land, water, and energy. 

They give their profit to charity, they’re funding systemic changes across the world. Their low alcoholic beer is 0.5% ABV with a taste of citrus, spice, and hoppiness. 

Drop Bear Beer Co. 

Put down your usual lager and pick up a low-alcohol beer crafted in the UK by Drop Bear Beer Co. Officially launched in 2019, they’re on a mission to offset their emotions they can’t eliminate, and are certified Carbon Neutral. 

All their 0.5% ABV beers are vegan, low calorie, and gluten-free. With four unique brews to try, you can even get a subscription to this B-Corp and have low-alcohol beer delivered to your door!  

Lucky Saint

You may have already taken a long rewarding sip from Lucky Saint, and for good reason! This delicious low-alcohol beer (0.5% ABV) is brewed using centuries-old techniques, and unfiltered to allow for exceptional flavour without the alcohol. 

Having achieved their B-Corp status, they’re committed to continuous improvement, transparency and accountability throughout their business. You can enjoy a bottle, a refreshing pint on draught, or even visit their very own pub in Marylebone, London.

Is Alcohol Free Beer Healthy?

The answer isn’t yes or no. Alcohol-free beer, and low alcohol beer are great options if you often find yourself reaching for an alcoholic beverage at the end of the day. We know alcohol can harm your health, and even low amounts on a regular basis aren’t a great idea. Why not swap out your regular choice for an alcohol free beer? 

Whilst alcohol free beer does have the health benefit of no or low ABV. This means you can stay within recommended guidelines more easily, and means you can stay within the legal limit for driving more easily. In fact, one in four adults reached for low or alcohol-free beer in 2021

two hands holding glasses of beers over a white outdoor dining table

Despite this, alcohol free and low alcohol beers are not exactly healthy. While they may be better than a regular pint, they are still high in carbohydrates and should still be consumed in moderation. 

How is Alcohol Free Beer Made?

Alcohol free beer is made with very similar ingredients to your expected pint. Whilst each beer’s ingredients will vary slightly, these are the building blocks: water, grains, hops, and yeast  

Sugar from the grains allows the yeast to ferment, which is what creates the alcohol. Hops are where the signature flavour and smell comes from. 

The four methods of brewing alcohol-free beer are: 

  1. Controlled fermentation
  2. Dealcoholisation
  3. Dilution
  4. Stimulated fermentation

1. Controlled Fermentation

This is the most common method to make alcohol free beers. This means making the beer as usual, but then stopping the fermentation before the usual level of alcohol is produced. That way, a low alcohol or non alcoholic beer is produced. 

2. Dealcoholisation

This process is removing alcohol from beer to reduce the ABV. This is commonly done by adding water or steam and boiling the liquid. The alcoholic vapour is then collected and sent away, leaving an alcohol free or low alcohol beer.  

a copper alcohol brewing apparatus

3. Dilution

Diluting means adding water to the beer to reduce the proportion of alcohol content. Depending on how much alcohol is in the first batch, the amount of water used to dilute differs. The result? A beer alternative with a lower ABV. 

4. Simulated Fermentation

Another way to create an alcohol free beer is to stop the sugars and yeast fermenting altogether. Enzymes and other ingredients may be added to recreate the similar effect, without the fermentation.  

a lit up pub garden sign saying "beer"

What Counts as Alcohol Free Beer?

Laws for the ABV values of regular and alcohol free beer are not the same across the world. 

In the UK:

  • Low alcohol beer must be at 1.2% ABV. 
  • “Alcohol free” means 0.05% or less
  • Some breweries remove the alcohol from their beer after fermentation, and this will be labelled “de-alcoholised” if it’s up to 0.5%.  

Be Better for the Planet

At The On Edit, we’re passionate about empowering people to make better choices through the products they buy. Whether you’re searching for vegan milk-alternativessustainable food boxes, or ethically-sourced coffee, we’re on hand to help. Join us as you explore the world of eco-friendly options, and see what you discover!

Electric Bikes: The Complete Buyers’ Guide

What is an electric bike? is a question you may have found yourself asking as the world of electric vehicles and transport takes the world by storm. Electric bikes can help you get to work on time, make your weekend mountain ride last even longer, or enhance inner-city travel. Discover everything you need to know with our complete guide. 

What You’ll Learn:

  • What is an Electric Bike?
  • What Are the Different Types of E Bikes?
  • How Do They Work/ Do I Need to Plug It In?
  • How Fast Can I Go on an Electric Bike?
  • How Far Can I Go On an Electric Bike?
  • Do I Need a Licence to Use an Electric Bike?
  • What is the Difference Between an E Bike & an E Scooter? 
  • Are E Bikes Good for the Planet?
  • How Much Does an E Bike Cost?
  • Where Can I Buy an Electric Bike?

What is an Electric Bike?

An electric bike or E Bike, is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor and battery that assists you as you pedal. This means that an E Bike can help to reduce the effort needed to pedal; making it easier to climb hills, ride into headwinds, or cover longer distances. 

What Are the Different Types of E Bikes?

E Bikes are available in a variety of forms, each tailored to supporting a different aspect of your life. From hitting the trails to exploring the city, you’ll need the type of E Bike that suits your needs. 


Designed for comfort and convenience, rather than speed and durability. From getting to the office in time, to exploring your city at the weekend, these types of electric bikes can get you there without you having to break a sweat. 


These electric bikes are built for one thing: speed. Thinner tyres (23-28mm), lighter frames, and an aerodynamic design get you where you need to go. If you’re used to pedalling on the tarmac with a road bike, why not try switching to an E Bike?


E Bikes aren’t just for the flat – these types are designed for more challenging terrains. Loose dirt, rocks, sand, gravel, and an ever changing gradient is where these bikes are at their best.

two electric bikes with wide tyres with a sea scape behind them

Wider tyres (48-65mm), sturdy frames, and a lot of suspension; they’re designed like a mountain bike, but with that added motor to help you along the way. 


Cargo bikes are designed to let you carry as much stuff as possible. Whether that’s in front of the handlebars or behind your saddle, you’ll be able to have everything you need with you, even when travelling by e-bike.


These bikes prioritise collapsibility and storage over speed. They come with 40-50cm wheels, and crucially can be taken onto the tube, trains and buses (buses are at driver discretion during busy times). Say goodbye to a bulky bike, and say hello to travelling at ease, with an electric bike that’s convenient to store at home or at work. 


Although most bikes are considered ‘unisex’, it is possible to purchase E Bikes that have been designed specifically with a wider saddle, a shorter reach to the handlebars, and a smaller design in general. 

How Do They Work/ Do I Need to Plug It In?

Electric bikes work similarly to a regular road bike, from a user perspective. In fact, there are only two real differences when comparing an electric bike to a road bike: the addition of a battery and motor. The motor is what assists you with the pedalling, and is found either in the hub of the wheel, or in the bottom bracket of the E Bike. 

The battery is what powers this motor, and is usually found in or on the frame of the E Bike. Batteries can be charged on or off the bike, but it is always recommended to do the charging indoors, especially when considering the rain. 

Charging an electric bike usually takes between 2.5 – 8 hours, depending on the battery capacity. While a lower battery capacity takes less time to charge, a larger capacity will take you further on one charge.

How Fast Can I Go on an Electric Bike?

Road legal electric bikes will assist with speeds up to 15.5 mph, but if your legs can go faster, your bike will go faster. That means that you can go as fast on an E Bike as you can on a road bike. 

How Far Can I Go On an Electric Bike?

You can technically go as far as you want on an electric bike. Some e bike batteries are bigger than others, so an electric bike with a larger battery life will take you further than one with a smaller capacity. 

However, electric bikes can also be used as a regular push bike even once the battery has run out, so you can continue to pedal to your destination. 

Do I Need a Licence to Use an Electric Bike?

Electric bikes that assist with the pedalling (‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ – EAPCs) are legal in the UK if you’re over the age of 14, and do not require tax and insurance, if:

  • It has a maximum power output of 250 watts
  • It does not propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5 mph.

The electric bike must also show either; the power output, or the manufacturer of the motor, and shows either; the battery’s voltage, or the maximum speed of the bike. If all of these criteria are met, an electric bike is considered to be just like any other bike, and so can be ridden where any other bike could legally be ridden. 

Whilst the motor cannot propel you faster than 15.5mph, it is possible to travel faster on an E Bike. Any additional speed must come from your own effort and exertion, rather than the motor. 

What is the Difference Between an E Bike & an E Scooter? 

When comparing an electric bike to an e scooter, the most obvious difference is how you ride them. Where a bike is sat upon and operated by pedalling, an electric scooter offers a standing structure where you are propelled forwards by a motor whilst standing on a small platform and holding onto handlebars. 

Are E Bikes Good for the Planet?

When compared to a push bike, e bikes produce 1.56 times more CO2 emissions over their lifetime, with the majority of this increase coming from battery production.

a cyclist wearing a white t shirt rides an electric bike beside a body of blue water

The easiest way of comparing how good a form of transport is for the planet is to look at the grams of CO2 produced per kilometre travelled (g/km). 

Electric bikes would typically produce 2-5 g/km depending on the power mix. 

Whereas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Cars emit about 150g of CO2 per passenger kilometre (kpm).
  • Public transport emits between 50 – 110 g/pkm. 

Compared to all other means of transport, electric bikes are significantly lower in emissions.

How Much Does an E Bike Cost?

Electric bikes can vary in price, depending on the size of the bike, the capacity of the battery, and the type of terrain it is designed for. 

  • Lower range (< £2,499)  Electric bikes can be purchased for as low as £1,000, but the most will cost you around the £2,000 mark. The bikes at this price point tend to be for a general commuter bike, rather than those designed for mountain biking or road speed. The range of the battery will be around the 50-80 km mark.
  • Mid Range (£2,500 – £5,999) – A good quality electric bike will usually cost around £3,000 – £4,000. As with anything, you get what you pay for: a sleek frame, and more technical performance. The sleeker frames will tend to hide the batteries better in the frame, making it more discrete. 
  • High Range (£6,000 and up) – If you’re looking for an electric bike that’s more technical and offers high performance for mountain biking or road biking, then you’ll tend to find them at this price point. 

Where Can I Buy an Electric Bike?

E Bikes can be purchased direct from most bike manufactures online, but if you’d like to try them out before purchasing, there are a variety of retailers that can be explored:

Fully Charged

Specialising in only E Bikes and based in London, Fully Charged is a great option for those who are looking for higher quality electric bikes. With a range of different E Bikes available, they cater for a range of requirements.


The UK’s largest retailer of automotive and cycling products, with over 384 stores in the UK. Halfords has a range of E Bikes to choose from, specialising in the more cost-friendly E Bikes.

Rent One in Your Local City

In most major cities it is becoming commonplace to see rental options dotted across town. 

a row of green electric bikes on a pavement in London

In London for example, you can currently rent an E Bike by-the-minute from 4 retailers:

  1. Lime
  2. Human Forest
  3. Dott
  4. Tier 

Specialising in last mile transport options, electric bikes can often be a greener, healthier, and cheaper way of getting to your destination. 

E Bikes for the Future

If you’re looking for ways to make conscious decisions in your life, The One Edit is on hand to help. Whether you’re searching for bamboo toilet paper to complement your men’s vegan skincare essentials, or alternatives to fast fashion, we’re here to highlight the best ways to consider the planet in your everyday life now.

What is the Better Cotton Initiative?

 The Better Cotton Initiative is here to help change the way clothes are made and bought, and what impact they have on the environment. We all know that the way we buy and use our clothes can affect the planet. Fast fashion and low-quality clothes have negative impacts on the environment and the way we view our clothes. While as consumers we can adapt our shopping habits, what happens when the brands themselves source their materials responsibly? We explore what the Better Cotton Initiative is, what it means for the planet, and which brands are leading the way towards a more sustainable future.

What is the Better Cotton Initiative?

What is the Better Cotton Initiative?

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a global not-for-profit organisation and the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. The BCI seeks to make global cotton production better for those who produce it, the environment it grows in, and the future of the industry. 

The BCI, together with their partners, provide training on more sustainable farming practices to more than 2.3 million organic cotton farmers in 23 countries. The Better Cotton Principles and Criteria require BCI Farmers to: 

  • Minimise the harmful impact of crop protection practices
  • Promote water stewardship
  • Care for the health of the soil
  • Enhance biodiversity and use land responsibly
  • Care for and preserve fibre quality
  • Promote decent work
  • Operate an effective management system

Knowing where the cotton a company uses is from (known as cotton traceability) and who grew it makes sure the farms use fair and safe working conditions, provide fair pay, and practice good safety and environmental methods.

What are the Environmental Impacts of Cotton?

Cotton is the biggest non-food crop in the world that can be turned into a profit. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the cotton industry has a massive impact on the environment. Its production employs more than 250 million people worldwide and is responsible for almost 7% of all labour in developing countries. Around half of global textiles are made of cotton. Cotton production in its current way, is environmentally unsustainable. 

Better Cotton Initiative

Growing cotton often requires fertilisers and pesticides. These chemicals can threaten the biodiversity of the environment in the soil and water systems nearby. These chemicals ‘run off’ the crop fields and can affect water supplies for other crops as well as for human consumption. Cotton production using traditional methods uses a lot of water which can cause water management problems. 

These negative environmental impacts lead the Better Cotton Initiative to begin. This way, organic cotton is grown using methods which require less water, no artificial pesticides and fertilisers and secure a fair wage for the farmers that grow it. 

Who are Better Cotton Initiative Members?

Brands leading the way by using organic cotton in their manufacturing which is part of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) are helping to lower the negative impact of unsustainable cotton on the environment and the farmers growing it. Popular brands committing to the BCI are IKEA, and Adidas.  

Better Cotton Initiative Members

Sustainable brands like Kotn, named after the phonetic spelling of the Arabic word for cotton, use organic cotton in line with the Better Cotton Initiative in their products made in Portugal. This is to ensure the organic cotton they use is produced using the most ethical and sustainable methods possible. 

All Saints have been members of the BCI since January 2020, as well as online fashion moguls ASOS who have been members since 2014. Designer brands such as Burberry (since August 2015), Fred Perry (since June 2019), and Hugo Boss (since March 2017) are all members. You can find Better Cotton Initiative members on the BCI website and find out more about what the BCI is doing for the planet.

better cotton initiative clothing

Better Cotton For The Future

The Better Cotton Initiative is just one way in which brands can help to aid in a more sustainable production process. While some brands source their organic cotton using the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification, others may use recycled materials to the Global Recycling Standard (GRS). Whatever the certification, it is clear that brands are leaning towards slow fashion and beginning to proactively ensure their textiles and raw materials are responsibly sourced. 

The Better Cotton Initiative allows consumers to vote with their wallets and align what they buy with their values. There is a growing demand for businesses to source more responsible, eco-friendly materials. Shoppers have the power to reward or punish businesses through the way they buy. By choosing brands committing to the Better Cotton Initiative you know you are helping to provide a more transparent and sustainable future for the fashion industry.

Better Cotton Initiative

You can learn more about Better Cotton, who they are, what they do, and how they go about their mission to “help cotton communities survive and thrive, while protecting and restoring the environment”, through their website.

A Guide to Vegan Leather Alternatives

Vegan leather alternatives seem to be the new pleather – but what does the term even mean? Whether you are vegan, or not, you may have heard of vegan leather and be interested to know more. There are multiple ways brands can recreate leather without using animal products. We’re taking a look at vegan leather alternatives, how they are made, and why they can be great options.

What is real leather?

Leather is a durable, flexible material made from the skin and hides of animals. It is treated to prevent decay and can be dyed different colours for use in clothing, footwear, and home furnishings. Leather requires large amounts of chemicals and energy to be made into a fabric. It also requires animal products to be made which does not coincide with a vegan lifestyle and also requires large amounts of land for the animals for the leather trade. 

There are multiple leather alternatives available as vegan, animal-free substitutes which work just as well as real leather. The benefit is the reduced need for energy, water, and chemicals, as well as of course not needing to use animal skin to make them. As a vegan lifestyle becomes more popular, from food to makeup to clothing, the vegan leather industry is growing, estimated to be worth $85 billion by 2025.

Many brands are taking steps to remove real leather from their products. Sustainable sneaker brands like 8000 Kicks use hemp to avoid using animal products, like leather, and high-impact materials in their sneakers. So we’re asking the question: what kinds of vegan leather alternatives are available?

vegan leather alternatives

Types of vegan leather alternatives

  • PU or PVC Leather
  • Microfibre leather
  • Cactus leather
  • Cork leather
  • Recycled rubber leather

PU or PVC Leather

You may have heard of vegan leather referred to as ‘pleather’ which means plastic leather. Although these leather alternatives are free from animal products, they are made from plastic and so the question as to their sustainability is raised. This pleather material is usually a blend of polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride, and is made by attaching the layer of plastic to a fabric backing.

The production of PU or PVC leather is thought to release harmful chemicals into the environment, and the resultant fabric does not biodegrade and therefore has a similar lasting effect as plastic products do. So, although animal rights activists and those searching for a vegan lifestyle might be happier choosing PU or PVC leather, it may not be as sustainable an option as possible.

The production of PU and PVC leather is easier than leather, because it uses fewer resources and it is cheaper to buy for consumers than leather goods. Although this material is vegan, it is less sustainable than leather alternatives made from plant materials. 

Microfibre leather

Microfibre leather is a type of polyurethane synthetic leather, also known as faux leather. It is a non-woven fabric coating made to replicate real leather without using animal products. Microfibre leather feels like real leather, is strong, with a breathability that doesn’t come with real leather. It is more eco-friendly than real leather and has the advantage of not needing animals to be made. It is known as the highest quality of synthetic faux leathers. It is, however, still considered to have a bigger negative impact than plant-based leather alternatives. 

Cactus Leather

One type of vegan leather alternative is cactus leather. A low-impact material made from cactus leaves. Cactus leaves are a great raw material because cactus plants don’t require large amounts of water to grow. 

Cactus leaves are harvested, cleaned, mashed, and dried before being processed, coloured using natural dyed, and turned into the fabric. Cactus material is sustainable because of how low impact cactus plants are. They do not require large amounts of water, or large areas of land like animal rearing animals for leather does. Cactus plants can grow in land that would not successfully grow other crops, so it’s a great use of normally inhospitable land. Cactus, as a plant, also absorbs carbon dioxide which offsets carbon produced in the production of the cactus leather. 

The cactus leather was first made by Mexican company Desserto. The aim was to offer cruelty-free, sustainable alternatives, without the use of toxic chemicals. The resulting cactus leather is partially biodegradable, organic, breathable, as soft as leather, and doesn’t require animals in order to be made.

Eco-friendly phone case brand, Wave Case, make a card holder out of vegan leather made from cactus. It is a sustainable, plastic free and low impact material alternative to a leather wallet.

cactus leather vegan alternative

Cork Leather

Cork is one of the most sustainable leather alternatives because it is a natural, recyclable product. It is sourced from cork oak trees found in Europe and Africa. Cork trees are harvested every 9 years and have a lifespan for over 200 years. The cork is naturally waterproof, durable, lightweight, and easy to maintain. 

Cork leather is made from the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark is stripped from trees that are around 25 years old, it is then left to dry out, before being steamed and boiled to become more elastic. The bark is cut into thin sheets and backed with fabric to be used in upholstery and clothing. Cork trees also absorb carbon dioxide from the air which is a great way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Cork leather is eco-friendly, natural, sustainable, plant-based and cruelty-free. 

Vegan fashion collective, Immaculate Vegan, have a collection of vegan cork leather bags and accessories made of vegan cork leather from Portugal. 

vegan alternative cork leather

Recycled Rubber Leather

Recycled rubber is a great alternative to leather which requires no animal products and gives rubber a second chance at life. Recycled rubber leather is a good material to be used for more durable products like trainers and bags. Recycled rubber comes from reclaimed rubber from scrap materials like rubber tyres which are chopped into small pieces. This reclaimed rubber is given a second chance at life, repurposed, and it prevents it from sitting in landfill. The density of the resultant “leather” product makes it perfect for use in products such as handbags and shoes. 

recycled rubber leather

Vegan Leather for the Future

With these different vegan leather alternatives available, it’s becoming easier to avoid real leather products. From cactus leather to cork, to recycled rubber, vegan leather is becoming more popular and more available. More sustainable fashion brands are making the shift to remove real leather from their products and choose vegan alternatives. This makes the future of fashion more animal friendly and more sustainable as the reliance on real leather is reduced. Whether you’re looking to follow a more vegan lifestyle, or want to find out how to reduce your impact on the environment through your fashion choices, choosing products made from these vegan leather alternatives is a good place to start.