For decades, leather has been deemed one of the classiest and most durable materials for clothing and furniture. And it’s true — leather dress shoes, for example, can accommodate tens of thousands of flexes. Not only that, but it’s easy to care for, as well, requiring simple conditioning every six to 12 months.
However, not many people realize that there are often negative implications associated with leather that go far beyond the cruelty required to make it.
“A lot of the leather that is sold in stores comes from cows, but the skins of elephants, crocodiles, and even dogs are also used to make leather goods,” writes Arianna Pittman on One Green Planet.
Even if you can get past the cruelty associated with leather production, you can’t ignore facts: 80% of all cancers are attributed to environmental rather than genetic factors, including exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. Pittman asserts that the leather tanning process involves the heavy use of various carcinogens.
“In addition to the animal cruelty aspect of leather production, cattle farming is contributing to deforestation and climate change,” she writes. “The process used for tanning leather also exposes workers to dangerous chemicals that have been known to cause cancer, as well as pollute the environment.”
Due to these negative implications and growing health concerns over the leather production process, there has been a significant increase in the number of companies specializing in eco-friendly alternatives to leather and prioritizing more humane and sustainable material sources. Here are just a few types of alternative leather that are taking the market by storm.
Yes, that’s right — imagine being able to use your leather clothing as a compost material after it wears out! Even if you don’t have a green thumb, being able to prevent even one piece of leather clothing from ending up in a landfill is a victory in itself. BioCouture is just one brand specializing in cellulose, an innovative material discovered by growing bacteria in a bathtub with sweet green tea.
One leather industry expert found an eco-friendly alternative made from the leaves of everyone’s favorite tropical fruit — pineapple!
“Ananas Anam is making a leather-like material from the fibers of pineapple leaves, which are a by-product of pineapple harvest,” writes Pittman. “The material, Pinatex, is made by extracting the fibers from the leaves, which is then turned into a base material to make durable wallets and bags.”
Pineapple isn’t the only fruit from which leather can be made — one company in Milan, Vegea, has found a method to make leather using the stalks, seeds, and skins of grapes. As by-products of the wine industry, these resources often go to waste, but this innovative technology has the ability to transform discarded grape material into a fiber that’s nearly indistinguishable from real leather.
Ultimately, these are just a few of the many eco-friendly leather alternatives to hit the market recently. Pittman feels as though sustainable solutions such as these are the key to improving the planet as a whole.
“With so many leather alternatives already available and more likely on the horizon, it is our hope that cruelty-free and eco-friendly alternatives will soon be in higher demand than animal-based leathers,” she writes. “It is a better choice for the animals, as well as our planet.”