By Helen Jupiter

Vegetarianism and veganism have received a lot of attention and promotion in the past few years. What was once a little-known dietary choice is now the celebrated lifestyle of celebrities from Alicia Silverstone to Paul McCartney. The movement has inspired a range of groundbreaking cookbooks and even claims its own dance troupe, the Vegan Vixens. While a lot of vegans cite animal rights as their main reason for abstaining from meat, milk and eggs, concern for the environment is another significant factor.

By now we've all heard the incredible statistics about the huge amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas — emitted by cows. The EPA reports that "ruminant livestock produce about 80 million metric tons of methane annually, accounting for about 28 percent of global methane emissions from human-related activities." In addition to the methane mess, there’s the matter of manure. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the mass quantities of waste emanating from livestock farms has been shown to "seriously threaten humans, fish and ecosystems" via environmental horrors such as polluted groundwater and "waste-lagoon" spills.

While more and more people are exploring both the health and environmental benefits of veganism — even just occasional veganism — the choice to go vegan is about more than what you eat. Case in point: Google "vegan belts" and you’ll find a long list of vendors selling nonleather, animal-friendly belts, and yes — there are plenty of handbags and shoes to match.

Renowned vegan cookbook author Sarah Kramer, whose titles include How It All Vegan, La Dolce Vegan and Vegan a Go-Go!: A Cookbook & Survival Manual for Vegans on the Road, explains, "Food is a very important part of veganism, but is just the tip of the iceberg. Veganism is a lifestyle choice from the clothes we wear, to the products we buy, to the life choices we make."

Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of celebrated vegan cookbooks such as Veganomicon and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, agrees with that sentiment. "Being vegan is about loving animals and treating them right," she says.

Which brings us back to the subject of vegan belts. Belts — and other clothing and accessories — are vegan if they’re not made from leather, fur, wool, silk or other animal products. Sound limiting and frustrating? Kramer says that if you’d asked her that question 10 years ago she would have answered “yes,” but things have changed.

"There are so many fabulous vegan choices in the marketplace now," she says. "Just go to Moo Shoes. You could spend your whole day shopping for vegan shoes and belts."

Moskowitz admits that sometimes it’s frustrating not to be able to walk into any store and get whatever she wants, but acknowledges, "There are more and more vegan stores popping up all the time." Among her favorites are Herbivore Clothing and Vaute Couture.

While there are a number of vegan belts that are made from natural materials, and even some that are handcrafted from 100 percent reclaimed inner tubes, many faux-leather belts are made from polyurethane. According to Greenpeace, polyurethane "uses several hazardous intermediates and creates numerous hazardous by-products." This creates a bit of a challenge for the consumer who is both earth- and animal-conscious. While it may seem like having to choose the lesser of two evils, taking the time to do your homework will uncover a growing selection of rewarding options. Look for belts, clothing, and accessories made from natural fibers, and seek out recycled, upcycled and handmade items.

Ten worthwhile vegan clothiers:

Herbivore Clothing Company

Moo Shoes

Vaute Couture

Truth

Humanitaire

Alternative Outfitters

Ragazzi Vegan

Pangea Vegan Products

Green With Envy

Etsy