What comes to your mind when you think of leather?
Is it the durability of the product? or maybe your favorite leather belt, bag, or perhaps pair of shoes! If you look around your house, you surely do own something made of leather.
Leather, which started being used as a by-product of food in the 1300 BC, has now become a $30 Billion industry in itself.
So… what is leather?
Leather, simply put, is processed and chemically treated (tanned) animal skin (or hide). The chemicals used in treatment make leather more durable and less susceptible to decomposition. This processed animal skin, let’s be honest – why call it leather, is then manufactured into multiple products such as footwear, clothing, fashion accessories, interiors and car upholstery. Over the years, different types of leathers have been developed in the world, namely artificial (faux) and vegan.
However, this durable and good to look at product, comes at a great environmental cost.
Most of the leather comes from bovine animals – cows, sheep and goats and each year approximately 3.8 billion animals are slaughtered for leather production. The process of tanning itself uses highly toxic chemicals such as chrome that release toxic waste into
waterways and cause serious harm not only to tannery workers but also to communities nearby. Excessive production and livestock rearing has led to severe environmental impacts such as deforestation, water and land overuse, and gas emissions In the last 50 years alone. Seventy percent (70%) of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared to make way for pastures, or, for growing feed crops.
If leather is not environmentally friendly, then we should take a look at artificial leathers. However, not all artificial leathers are created equally. Even though there are different types of artificial/faux leather being used in the industry, most are covered in layers of PVC or plastic and have at least one third as much impact as animal leather.
Thankfully, there has been growing awareness about the immediate need to shift to cruelty free and environment friendly products. People across the globe in countries such as France, Brazil, Portugal, England, US and India are using plant based raw material to invent consumer and fashion products such as footwear, clothing and accessories.
But the need of the hour is a broader, united and worldly shift in perspective to bring about a change in consumer purchase practices. In simple words, change begins with you. The next time you are shopping at your favorite store ask the sales representative about the carbon footprint, sourcing and material of the product. Let’s all pledge to save the Earth, one sustainable action at a time.
Here’s a small list of some interesting brands that use non-traditional raw material to re-invent traditional products –