After Agriculture, Fashion industry is the biggest water user. The total global water consumption annually for the bovine leather industry is 400 billion Liters as of 2018.
Now, one person consumes an average of 50 thousand liters of water a year. The water used to produce bovine leather could provide water to 8 million people for an entire year. This is enough for most mega cities of the world or countries like Moldova, Slovenia, Togo, Sierra Leone, Serbia, Israel, Nicaragua, Libya, the list goes on.
Besides the water consumption, the pollution that it creates alongside the impact on the eco systems and deforestation is among the highest in the world and it contributes massively to the climate change we are experiencing right now.
There are however, an array of vegan and low impact alternatives to animal leather, which are widely available and are the right option for a greener future. Some of them are listed below.
Cork comes from the bark of the Cork Oak Tree. There are a few countries that produce cork, however Portugal has the monopoly of the market with 90% of world cork production. It has infinite uses due to its incredible characteristics and features.
Some of these are:
Tear resistant - cork leather is very difficult to tear apart and it virtually doesn’t wear off. It is scratch resistant and extremely malleable, all due to its cellular structure and being almost 50% air.
Stain resistant – think about a bottle of red wine, even if it lays in a cellar for 100 years, only the bottom of the cork will be red, and only because its been there for so long.
Water and fire repellent – once again, think about wine, the cork doesn’t absorb any liquid, it’s the perfect rain coat or insulation material. Cork is used by NASA in their rocket ships to protect them from very high temperatures in space, while it does burn, you’ll need some outer space flame for it.
Hypoallergenic – cork doesn’t absorb any dust, making it perfect for people with allergies and respiratory conditions.
Anti-microbial - the most incredible benefits of this material is the naturally occurring compound called Phenolic. This is what kills bacteria and fungus making it naturally antibacterial.
While the list goes on and it might sound too good to be true, next time you want to buy a animal leather handbag, look for a cork alternative and check it for yourself, you’ll be left gobsmacked.
Upcycling already existing materials is always a better idea than creating new ones. We’ve all seen those images of mountains of used car tyres. While some rubber still comes from rubber trees, these days most of it is of synthetic origins. Since some rubber can be biodegradable and some can’t, it’s better to make the best out of it and create new items of it. Therefore, one way to reuse all the rubber that isn’t wanted anymore is to make it into leather.
The material is very strong and therefore very durable and sustainable. If you’re after hardy leather accessories, without the animal cruelty, recycled rubber could be right up your street. While it’s durable and easy to care for, it is important to note that this material takes a long time to break down, meaning you need to know you’ll be using it forever.
As it will very hardly get worn off, if you outgrew it, you can always donate it, pass it on to the next generation, repurpose it or simply store it away for a few years until you rediscover it and fall in love with again.
I know what you’re thinking now, how can paper be sustainable? You need to cut trees to make it! Yes, you’re absolutely right, but this is not how paper leather is made. It’s made from recycled and upcycled paper, making it a great eco friendly alternative to animal leather.
It seems strange how paper can be as strong as leather, luckily we live in astonishing times for technological development and if you can visualize it today, you can make it real tomorrow. This material has it all, is sustainable, eco-friendly, infinitely recyclable, vegan and durable. Besides all this incredible features it is also washable, water and stain resistant, water repellent and extremely light weight.
It is primally used in bags and backpacks, but you can find all kind of products made of this brilliant cruelty free alternative. There’s nothing you won’t like about it!
As the name suggests, this leather is made out of tree bark. The tree used in this process is the Mutuba tree or the Natal Fig as its also known as. This trees grow between South Africa, Uganda and Kenya and the bark is harvested without harming the tree, similarly to the Cork tree.
The bark is treated and transformed into backcloth, a leather like material that is eco-friendly, sustainable and infinitely renewable as the tree regrows the bark in a matter of years. It is mainly vegan, however some companies use beeswax to treat the outer layer of the fabric.
Barkcloth has outstanding characteristics like being fire resistant, sound absorbing, water repellent (when treated with wax), incredible soft touch and solely artisan sourced.
It is not the most common of the options listed, however if you have the chance of owning a piece made out of this brilliant cloth, you will feel as one with Nature.
Coolstone is the new cool kid on the block (pun intended). It is made from sewable thin slices of slate stone, this fabric has a hand feel of somewhere between paper, leather and rock all in one.
It is mainly used in the accessories market like laptop cases, jewelry, bags and belts but it’s making its way into the clothing world very quickly.
It is cruelty free and eco-friendly, vegan and sustainable and it will make you look like you have a well-worn 100 years old bag after you’ve used it for a while due to little scratches that it creates when used, while making it even softer.
If you’re looking for a vintage looking vegan leather, you found yourself the answer to your prayers.
When thinking Pineapple, you’re probably thinking Pina Coladas or a healthy snack, well now you can think, shoes, jackets and trousers. This material is made from wasted parts of the pineapple bush and leaves, and is 100% eco-friendly, vegan friendly and is also ethical in the sense that it gives pineapple farmers yet another source of income from their crops.
This Planet friendly material feels like animal leather, is watertight and very durable. It’s being widely adopted by mainstream brands as a sustainable leather alternative and it’s taking the fashion industry by storm.
Next time you hear the mega hit Escape by Rupert Holmes, get on your Pina shoes and show those moves on the dance floor.
Oranges, Bananas, Apples, you name it! Fruit waste is being used and transformed into, you guessed it, leather.
The fruit waste is collected after the production of juice, purees, jams (you get the picture) and its processed with innovative technics into a paste like product, added to a binder and spread onto a canvas and left to dry. A few steps forward and we’ve got ourself an incredible, vegan, cruelty free, sustainable, eco-friendly, virtually infinite leather.
It’s as many alternative listed above, water resistant, extremely durable and its good for you and the Planet!
There are even products like orange silk that is now being developed! It is time to make the fruit king of fashion.
All fruit leather is compostable, so next time you outgrow a piece, just put it in the compost box, you’ll be doubling your contribution.
A vegan leather that you can actually grow? Yes, you’ve read that right, mother nature, combined with human innovation and willingness to create a fantastic eco product, can produce anything.
Magic Mushrooms, not the ones that you eat, the ones that you wear. A brand called MuSkin has created a suede leather like mushroom that can be grown in any shape you need it to.
This product is breathable, biodegradable and compostable, sustainable and eco-friendly, vegan, waterproof, it stops the proliferation of bacteria and its super soft.
It is not yet widely available, but there’s a big hope that it will completely revolutionize the industry when it becomes.
Here are listed just a few animal leather alternatives, but the list is much longer.
Agave, Cactus, Leaves, Coffee, Grape, Nettle are just a few other alternatives like the ones described above. As you can see there’s no reason for you to keep buying animal leather products and keep on contributing to Planet Pollution, Climate Change and the cruel mass cattle farming .
Check the origins and materials used on your clothing, buy sustainable vegan leather options. Help reduce the impact of humankind on the World.
Remember, this the only home we’ve got, let’s look after it, and stop behaving like there’s a Planet B, C or D out there waiting for us.