Leather is considered a durable and above all high-quality material for clothing, shoes, bags and furniture. However, the conventional production and processing is questionable. We show you sustainable leather alternatives.
Soft leather products are high quality and nice to touch. They are often considered the first choice when it comes to buying a new handbag or shoes. Sustainable leather, organic leather and vegan leather, what is behind it? Leather is known to be a by-product or even waste product of the food industry. A sustainable utilization of the durable material is thus quite possible.
However, with many products being produced in low-wage countries in our contemporary time, the purchase of conventionally-made leather products is extremely worrying in terms of animal welfare and the environment. The chemical process of tanning also releases many toxins, harming the environment and, first and foremost, the people working with it.
Cattle farming for leather production as a CO2 polluter
In addition, leather is no longer produced as a by-product of slaughtering for meat. Today, 40 percent of global slaughter is used exclusively for leather production. Additionally, cattle farming is one of the biggest contributors to global CO2 emissions. These are reasons why many people increasingly want to do without leather products. But what are the alternatives and what are the options?
Sustainable leather and how it is produced
If you want to continue to have real leather products, you should make sure that they are produced sustainably and fairly. Of the International Association of Natural Textile Industry (IVN) has developed a strict catalog of criteria for this: For products bearing the IVN seal, the leather is produced sustainably and the production process is transparent. Or you buy leather products as a second hand and some companies even recycle leather products or leather scraps.
Vegetable tanned leather
Good to know: Some companies no longer tan the leather chemically but with vegetables. The vegetable tanned leather is considered more organic and does not contain toxins. For example, the manufacturers of sustainable sneakers by the brand Veja use vegetable-tanned leather. However, one should also keep in mind that plant tanning is resource and time consuming. The tanning process also takes significantly longer - between 20 and 30 months. In addition, a lot of oak wood and fruits are waisted in the process. Although this form of tanning is gentler on the environment, it is not quite ideal.
There are also many great vegan alternatives to leather that have nothing in common with plastic-smelling, artificial leather but feel good, are breathable and durable. For example, materials such as pineapple and eucalyptus leaves or cork and rice are sustainable leather alternatives. There is even vegan leather made of paper. Other benefits of vegan leather: It is cheaper and also easier to care for than natural leather.
Luxury brands and designers are increasingly turning to sustainable leather
More and more fashion companies in the luxury sector are using sustainably produced leather or are entirely refraining from animal products in their collections. For example Stella McCartney, who consistently foregoes animal products and only uses environmentally friendly and sustainable materials in her collections. However, also traditional brands like Burberry and young fashion companies like Studio Gyzell count on sustainability and offer accessories made from sustainable or vegan leather.
Sustainable leather Studio Gyzell