Oct 1, 2020
Is Vegan Leather More Sustainable Than Real Leather?
As an aware consumer, shopping in a world where every material and process is scrutinized can be confusing. Leather and vegan leather have been a hot debate for some time, and to be honest, the facts are still a little unclear to which one is more sustainable. While we wish the answer could be more black and white, we think that arming yourself with information will help guide you to make decisions that fit your own values.
We all know how luxurious leather can feel, and there’s no denying it’s durability. But when faced with the scary facts that livestock is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon and that the sector accounts for between 14.5 percent and 18 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, how can leather be sustainable? Well, leather technically is a by-product of the meat industry, so in short, as long as there’s a meat industry in place the production of leather is simply saving these hides from being thrown out or even worse, burnt. This would be even worse for the environment. There are also the other significant benefits of the natural material in that it can be 100% biodegradable and that when looked after properly, leather can truly last a lifetime which means you buy less.
Here are some tips on buying sustainably produced natural leather:
- Buy from brands that use vegetable-tanning which is toxin-free and artisanal trade.
- If you prefer a more treated leather, look for chrome-free tanning which eliminates any metals from the process.
- Avoid “luxurious” leathers like calfskin as this sadly is not a by-product due to the low demand in veal meat.
- Buy from trusted quality designers to ensure the durability of your item.
- Buy 2nd hand or from brands that upcycle used leather.
We are sure you’ve noticed this key term popping up all over the place so it's no surprise to see that the vegan leather market is on the rise and projected to reach 40.9 billion by 2027. If the thought of animals being harmed doesn’t sit right with you, then this leather alternative is probably the right choice. Just be warned, there is also a dark side too as many brands are jumping on this term just to associate with an ethical movement when the majority of these alternatives are plastic. This means more toxins and slower to biodegrade.
If vegan leather is more of your vibe than these tips can help:
- Avoid vegan leather made from plastic especially PVC, which Greenpeace has labeled the most environmentally damaging of all plastics.
- If you do buy a plastic-based leather, look for brands that only use recycled plastics.
- Buy from brands that are using innovative food-based leather alternatives such as Piñatex and MuSkin.
- Buy from brands using recycled rubber to create durable alternatives.
- Discover the beautiful leather effect of waxed cotton canvas products.