Ethical shopping practices are a hot button topic in 2019. If you’re here, you’re likely searching for information on how to shop ethically which is a feat within itself. Being conscious about what you purchase and where its sourced takes time and commitment, so you should be proud of even getting this far. For our readers who are new to this world, let’s start with the basics.
Calling it vegan leather is somewhat counterintuitive because it contains absolutely no leather. In fact, vegan leather is 100% cruelty free. The best versions do, however, look like and feel leather, hence the name.
Vegan leather can be used in handbags, shoes, seat covers, dresses, essentially whatever you would typically use genuine leather for. It’s a wonderful, aesthetically pleasing substitute that everyone should be using. However you may be asking yourself, why would I choose vegan leather over genuine leather?
There are three main issues when it comes to the making and purchasing of leather. The environmental effects of raising cows, the environmental effects of making the leather itself, and the ethical issues that come with purchasing leather.
Environmental effects of raising cows - I don’t mean to freak you out, but livestock is single-handedly destroying the world. (With some assistance from factory smog, cars, etc.) Of all human activities, the raising of livestock is the worst thing we do for the planet. One study estimates that about 40% of the worlds available land is being taken up by livestock. If that sounds like a lot, just think about how much water we have to give each animal? How much food? The amount of time, money and resources that we give to livestock is staggering.
Environmental effects of producing leather - Getting right to the root of the problem, leather is typically tanned using a substance called chrome. To tan using chrome means to use a mixture of chemicals, salts, and acids to dye the leather. With 80% of the words leather being made this way, you would assume that the process is a safe one. Unfortunately, you’d be very wrong in your assumption. Chrome is highly toxic and results in the pollution of our water and our land. The process also negatively affects anyone doing the dying, causing serious long-term health issues in leather workers.
Ethical issues of purchasing leather - Let’s just be real, the cows probably don’t love dying for a pair of boots. Maybe I’m just being presumptuous here, perhaps Bessy always dreamed of the day she’d become part of the Steve Madden collection, but I highly doubt it. On top of the fact that cows are sentient beings, the food we feed them is human grade. If we stopped raising cows for food and leather tomorrow, we’d have enough food to feed all hungry human mouths on this planet.
It's not hard to see why vegan leather is gaining so much popularity with vegans and non vegans alike.
Vegan Leather might often bring up thoughts of "pleather" and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Unfortunately these options aren't great for the environment - often effectively plastic and filled with toxic chemicals - and give vegan leather a bad name. Even more unfortunately, they are often the materials selected by fast fashion brands in order to be able to be able to offer a vegan or "green" collection.
The good news is that there are so many amazing vegan leather options so you can do the right thing by the environment and your conscious. From high-grade, sustainably sourced polyurethane to plant-based alternatives such as Pinatex (made from the fibres in pineapple leaves), mushroom leather and apple leather, to name a few, there is a vegan leather alternative for every application.
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