Flick through the docos on Netflix and Stan and you'll have noticed that Veganism is in the spotlight globally right now. But while more and more people are experimenting with a vegan lifestyle, many still feel unsure of how to realise their lifestyle choices in a way that still suits their aesthetics and style.
"It can be completely overwhelming when you first go down the vegan path", says A Good Scout Founder Bianca Millar. "I've learnt a lot – sometimes the hard way. Especially trying to process all the information and make choices that suit your taste, while also being vegan & eco."
The ongoing accumulation of all her findings is A Good Scout, a Vegan Marketplace that serves to support people on vegan journey, without compromising on style. Millar is constantly scouting around to find the most gorgeous, stylish and practical vegan & eco gifts, lifestyle products and homewares around.
"We want it to make it easy for conscious consumers to locate and buy gifts and products that are ethically made, cruelty-free & environmentally friendly, whilst also being desirable and appropriate for all sorts of occasions", she says "and we do it by supporting the grassroots, trailblazing eco and vegan brands that relinquish the status quo."
Connecting conscious consumers with these brands and making it easy and a joy to make great choices is only part of her mission. Later in the year A Good Scout Vegan Resource Hub will come to life offering support for people on their vegan journey by putting forward an accessible, inclusive, supportive and fun approach to living a green and kind life.
"We celebrate the vegan allies, the vegan curious, the newbie vegans and the completely committed vegans. A Good Scout supports anyone, wherever they are on their vegan journey. There's no judgement here."
The challenges of becoming vegan are emotional, social and practical by nature. However, as the numbers of conscious consumers continues to rise, so will the popularity of helpful resources like A Good Scout. And that's got to be good for the planet, good for animals and good for all of us.
Question: What inspired you to create A Good Scout?
Bianca Millar: A few years ago I adopted a vegan lifestyle. Last year my youngest son was about to turn two, we had a very low key gathering at a local market and food truck event. I really dreaded ending up with a whole heap of plastic toys that would end up in landfill, so I put on his invite "no presents please" He's such a happy little boy who had already received presents and at the time wouldn't have noticed if he was inundated with presents or not! He was so busy being 2 and having fun it really wouldn't have fazed him. Some guests happily accepted the "no presents please" request, but the majority were either confused by it, ignored it or sheepishly asked if I'd mind if they actually brought a present!
On reflection I realised that our friends really wanted to celebrate Dusty turning 2. People want to give to those they love and care for. They want to give gifts to celebrate, to recognise, to show love or just for fun. So this led me to think, how can we still live a meaningful life of connection with others, celebrating good times with our loved ones and support animal welfare and the health of the planet all at the same time? This is why I started A Good Scout.
Question: What is A Good Scout?
Bianca Millar: A Good Scout is an online marketplace with a handpicked, beautifully curated range of stylish ethical vegan and eco gifts, homewares and lifestyle products. We aim to support conscious consumers to make great choices. Doesn't matter if you're in it for the earth, the animals or your health, you should find something to tickle your fancy here. You don't have to be a vegan to shop at A Good Scout. Perhaps you're a little vegan-curious and interested by the lifestyle. Or maybe you're a wonderful vegan ally and want to give your vegan friend a gift that they'll love. You may be interested in low-impact living out of concern for the planet or the animals or you may just love beautiful things. Whatever you're into, it's ok. There's no judgement here.
Question: What was the biggest challenge for you, starting A Good Scout?
Bianca Millar: As a creative I'd have to say the tech stuff, which thankfully I have fantastic support with. Other than that, the struggle of balancing young children and a new business is real. A new business is like a new baby in itself – it is very time consuming and needs lots of attention, love and care. I affectionately refer to A Good Scout as Scoutie – my third child! The daughter I never had! There have been times, when I've needed to put my son in for an extra day of care in order to get stuff done. I think as parents we are always a bit torn between our kids and our careers. It's an ongoing balancing act.
Question: Why do you think veganism still holds a negative stigma?
Bianca Millar: There are always many sides to every story. Everyone has their own reality. We are all on different journeys. Sometimes vegans can become very passionate about their beliefs and want to share their truth with others. This is usually done from a place of love, compassion and kindness, however if your belief system is counter to that it can totally come across as judgmental or critical and be offensive. Stereotypes are always a very narrow viewpoint. I'm a blonde and I'm intelligent. I'm a female and I'm capable. I'm also a vegan and I love beautiful things and I respect other people's realities, as just that. I'm not trying to convert anyone.
Question: How can vegans educate their friends on veganism if they're feeling judged?
Bianca Millar: If someone feels judged they will not be open. In my personal life I'm very discreet about my veganism. I've learnt to be this way (I was a bit more hot headed in the early days!) if it comes up I always try to be considerate of the non-vegans around. The reason for this is because I know that if they feel judged, or criticised then they will never be open to have a chat about it. If they want to discuss it I'm always willing to, but I wouldn't bring it up. I used to, but I soon learnt that people don't want to be told. I think it's much more effective to lead by example than to preach. This is something I chat with my 10 year old about regularly. As none of his mates are vegan it's important that he's not a being a preachy vegan. He's quite passionate about his decision! ** skin plant-based diet. One of the hardest things is explaining to kids why others eat animals. They are good people, just raised differently. But none of his friends are vegan and it's important that he doesn't come across as a know-it all trying to convert everyone. He gets it. We talk about how we love our friend and family, regardless of their choices to eat meat etc. Everyone is on their own journey and you're better off leading by example than trying to convince someone – even if you have their best interests at heart.
Question: Why was it important for you to offer ethical vegan and eco options, in the marketplace?
Bianca Millar: The whole premise of the site is based on vegan and eco products. I had an opportunity to start an online business, however at the time my awareness of environmental issues, vegan issues and the impacts that our daily choices can have were becoming more and more apparent. I wanted to be part of something that encourages good practice. Helps conscious consumers to make good choices easily. Support people who care about how they spend their dollars and also support the brands that are coming through with good intentions and great products. I want to make giving ethical vegan gifts easy and a joy. Question: How can we reduce our environmental impact, with these items?
Bianca Millar: Each product is unique. You'll find the products are made without animal products, using sustainable practices and materials. Natural fibres such as bamboo, organic cotton, Pinatex, Belgian eco linen. We stock coffee keep cups made out of bamboo fibres, Beautiful macrame market tote bags for your groceries, stationery that is made in Australia out of 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper and printed with vegetable based ink and 100% carbon neutral. We have some stunning high-end products such as Pinatex (a plant based leather derived from pineapple fibre) handbags and dog collars and leads. Belgian eco linen bedding and table wares. Mostly the skin care products come in glass, some are in plastic however if so it's always PET recyclable. All of our vendors are innovative and care about the planet and the animals. It's really amazing to see what they are doing to create low impact and eco-friendly products with heaps of style. It's inspiring and I love supporting them on their journey.
Question: What advice do you have for those of us who want to become more of a conscious consumer?
Bianca Millar: Conscious consumers are simply humans who think about the impact of their choices. They don't walk around blindly consuming – like most big brands want them too. They make considered decisions based on values that are important to them.
Everyone's journey is unique, so work out what's important to you and why. Is it the ocean or climate change or animal welfare, or all of the above!? Then have a look at your behaviours and habits and see if they are conducive to what matters to you. Each thing you do has consequence. Every dollar you spend either supports your cause or it doesn't. As consumers we actually have power to create the demand for the kind of products and world we want to live in. I don't want our oceans to be suffocating in plastics, so I make choices to reduce my single use plastic consumption each day. I also don't wish to ruin the natural habitat of the orangutans so I avoid palm oil products. We are all consumers. Being conscious means you are just a bit more mindful about how you consume.
Question: How can we start being a more conscious consumer?
Bianca Millar: That's the exciting thing - there are so many ways! I could go on about this for days!
A good place to start is to think about your waste output. We used to fill up out rubbish bin each week, now it's usually around ⅓ full. This is so rewarding and a great way to measure success.
We reduced our waste by going to places such as The Source for plastic free bulk purchasing. We save up our jars and take them in. We fill them up with peanut butter and all other dry goods. We've worked out that in the year of doing this we have saved over 20 peanut butter jars and around 50 soft plastic oat bags! How cool is that?
Trying to avoid soft plastics that can't be easily recycled is key. When ordering vegan sushi I always ask for brown paper bags and use the sauce on the counter. If you've ever done a beach clean you'll see there are so many little plastic soy fish containers on our beaches. Not the type of fish that should be in our seas.
If you do have some soft plastics, make sure you take them to the recycle bins at the supermarkets. I save them up and put them with my market tote bags.
Check out the Zero Waste Collection at A Good Scout. We have some really great products in there to help you transition to a low impact lifestyle. Such as produce bags for your beans etc. Gorgeous metal straw kits, coffee keep cups and beautiful market bags that attach to the bag holders at the supermarket really easily.
I'm lucky to live on the Mornington Peninsula and I have Red Hill Fresh deliver my fruit and vegetable - all organic, all local and no plastic! It feels very good to support this local business and the local farmers.
If I do need to go the supermarket I never buy any vegetables wrapped in plastic. That's a choice you can make every time. Also check where the products come from - no need to buy imported vegetables. Generally just eating seasonal produce is a good guide.
All the products on A Good Scout are made by eco and vegan brands who are contributing to the planet in a positive way. They are a conscious consumer's delight!
You do need to be a bit more organised to be a conscious consumer, you have to remember to take your coffee cups and market bags. But it soon becomes habit because you are living in line with your values, so it starts to flow easily.
Keep in your mind that plastic was only invented 100 years ago and it takes 1,000 years to break down. What will the world look like in another 20 years if we don't make a change?
Small changes can yield big results. I recently saw a quote "it's only 1 straw, said 8 billion people" - that sums up the power of individual choices nicely I think.
Question: What are some of the biggest vegan trends we'll see, this year?
Bianca Millar: Vegan living is taking a new direction. It's no longer considered as a fringe alternative lifestyle. More and more people are trying it on or curious by it. The newwave of vegans don't want to compromise on style, quality or aesthetics. They want low impact and cruelty-free luxury. Materials such as Piñatex and Belgian Eco-Linen are just that.
High-end labels such as Stella McCartney and Telsa are shaping a new type of vegan image. Hugo Boss recently released a line of men's shoes made out of Piñatex.
I think we are going to see a lot more of Piñatex which is such a luxurious material that really gives leather a run for its money. It's soft and textured and just divine. It's made from pineapple leaves that were once bound for landfill or to be burnt. It has been developed by taking this by-product and crafting a high-end product from it.
To me leather is dead. In the 80s my mum had a fur coat. We thought it was luxurious. Now as a society we know about the cruelty involved to make it we don't think of it as luxury anymore. The same awareness will start to happen with leather. For so long it has been assigned meaning by society as a luxury product. However now we know that animals need to die and are subject to cruelty to make this product. We also know that there are other products to replace it.
At A Good Scout our Piñatex range is growing. It's not a mass produced material so it can be a bit hard to come by. We have gorgeous watch straps, stunning bags and super stylish dog collars and leads all made out of Piñatex.
I think we'll start to see more and more technologies creating materials, fibres to replace traditional animal products.
Vegan is becoming the new normal. I recently flew Jetstar and they now have a full page selection of vegan meals to choose form. My prediction is that someone will create all vegan reality TV cooking show - there would be such interest!
Interview by Brooke Hunter