November 1 is World Vegan Day, kicking off World Vegan Month, both designed to raise awareness of ethical treatment of animals, as well as the environmental impact of animal-based products.

While you may know that “vegan” describes a 100% plant-based diet with no elements derived from animal sources – including beeswax and honey – you may not be aware that the term also applies to a broader philosophy of avoiding animal products altogether.

From the Vegan Society:

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.”

Knowing the elements and origins of the products you offer is always important, but for promo clients who embrace veganism or serve a vegan clientele, this information can make or break a project. Here are a few basics:

1. What is vegan leather? Leather made from animal skin of any kind (cow, crocodile, etc.) is not vegan. Vegan leather, usually made from a combination of synthetic polymers (polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride, aka PVC), can take on many different colors and textures. It’s also lighter and thinner – and less expensive – than real leather.

Kelly Brown, director of marketing and operations with Green Giftz, a Michigan-based distributor specializing in sustainable and charitable promo, recommends the Numo vegan leather line.

“They have a lot of different shapes, and then every shape comes in a different fabric,” she says. “Their vegan leather comes in a few different textures, and our clients who have ordered anything in that material have been really happy. It feels very high-end, it feels very close to a true leather without the smell, and it’s got a really nice soft interior.”

2. What fabrics are vegan? Silk (spun by silkworms) and wool (whether from alpaca, goat or sheep) are not vegan. Neither are feathers (down, marabou). Cotton, hemp and linen come from plants, so they are vegan.

“If we want to be supportive to vegan wearables, our best offering is sustainably sourced cotton and hemp,” says Michelle Sheldon, president of Illinois-based distributor Eco Promotional Products, whose company specializes in eco-friendly products.

Other vegan fabrics include Tencel (the brand name for a specific kind of modal fabric made from wood pulp) and polyester. Look for recycled fibers for better environmental stewardship.

3. Be careful with dyes and other decoration methods, as some dyes include insects and other animal-derived ingredients. Various certifying organizations (GOTS, OEKO-TEX, etc.) can help you find vegan and sustainable fabric dyes.

“One decoration method that we really explored this year and have been doing quite a bit of is debossing on apparel,” says Brown. “In that instance you don’t have the inks, and debossing works great on vegan leather.”

4. Watch for new non-petroleum-based vegan materials, such as a coconut/rubber blend and mushroom-based vegan leather – with one supplier already working with Adidas, Patagonia and Stella McCartney.

Although most promotional products distributors aren’t fielding many requests for vegan products, it’s worth keeping in mind that veganism can be considered another aspect of the overall trend toward more conscious consumerism, which is definitely percolating into the promo market.

In general, customers are more interested in sustainable, ethical, eco-friendly products, so suppliers with B Corp, Fair Trade and other certifications are a good place to start. Here are a few vegan-friendly promo garments and accessories to consider:

bearded man wearing blue T-shirt

This carbon-neutral Unisex Tri-Blend Tee offers softness and sustainability with a cotton/recycled polyester/Tencel blend that includes an equivalent of roughly six recycled plastic water bottles. Available in 18 colors (azure blue shown) and sizes S-2X.

Allmade Apparel / PPAI 743984, S1 /

woman wearing black space dye doodie with large front logo

Plant 10 trees with any tentree garment, like the Space Dye Classic Hoodie, made of organic cotton and recycled polyester. Available in gray or black (shown) and women’s (XS-XL) or men’s (S-2X) sizing.

PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 /

plain off-white baseball cap

Options abound for vegan-friendly caps, like this Organic Cotton Twill Unstructured Baseball Hat, made of 100% certified organic cotton. The brand (econscious) is a member for 1% For The Planet. Available in 11 colors (shown in dolphin).

alphabroder|Prime Line / PPAI 156993, S16 /

  woman wearing black vegan leather puffer coat with hood with brown faux-fur trim

This Unisex Vegan Leather Puffer jacket uses a polyester fiber made from recycled materials, including plastic bottles. The jacket includes a detachable hood with metal snap buttons and detachable faux fur trim. Black only, XS-3X.

Threadfast Apparel / PPAI 622344, S6 /

pair of custom printed garment bags, one pink, one blue

Keep your clothes protected on the go with the vegan leather Fancy Pants Adult Garment Bag, available in two different textures. Prices include a full-bleed digital imprint on the entire item (22.5 x 44.25 inches) for a custom full-color imprint. “It ends up looking completely unique to you,” says Brown, “like a one-of-a-kind piece.”

Numo Mfg. / PPAI 112597, S9 /

custom printed teal retro bowling bag with pink nylon strap

Perfect for an overnight trip or carrying your gear to and from the gym or office, this vegan leather Retro Bag, inspired by old-school bowler bags, features a zippered closure, adjustable nylon shoulder strap and a lined interior with over 1,000 cubic inches of storage space.

Numo Mfg. / PPAI 112597, S9 /