June 18 2024
By Olivia Bobadilla 

Whether conscious or subconscious, leather is an extremely common textile that many of us interact with daily from shoes, to bags, or the cushions in a car. As technological advancements are being made in fashion, there has been a divide between those who stand by the decision to consume real leather, and those who opt for faux leather. Genuine leather has obvious pitfalls as it is created through cow breeding and slaughtering, harming animals and harming the planet with methane gas emissions. Leather production is also not good for the environment due to the tanning process, which uses harmful chemicals that pollute the water and create hazardous environments for the workers. Although modifications to leather production have been made, the tanning process can even prevent leather from being biodegradable when vegetable-based tanning solutions are used. Some consumers still feel partial to buying authentic leather because it has a unique natural aging cycle and a distinct look, smell, and texture that people value.




Problems with leather

Today, whether conscious or subconscious, leather is an extremely common textile that many of us interact with daily from shoes, to bags, or the cushions in a car. As technological advancements are being made in fashion, there has been a divide between those who stand by the decision to consume real leather, and those who opt for faux leather. Genuine leather has obvious pitfalls as it is created through cow breeding and slaughtering, harming animals, and harming the planet with methane gas emissions. Leather production is also not good for the environment due to the tanning process, which uses harmful chemicals that pollute the water and create hazardous environments for the workers. Although modifications to leather production have been made, the tanning process can even prevent leather from being biodegradable when vegetable-based tanning solutions are used.

Some consumers feel partial to buying authentic leather because it has a unique natural aging cycle and a distinct look, smell, and texture that people value. While leather is seen as the most valuable byproduct of a cow’s carcass, much of the hides collected as a result of slaughtering do not get processed further. Out of all the cows slaughtered in the US each year, 45% of the cow hides will go to waste, either by incineration or landfills. In 2020 this created over 120,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Each cow hide in a landfill yields an estimated CO2 equivalent emission of 22.25 kilos, whereas leather manufacturing per cow hide yields an estimated 4.55 kilos of CO2-equivalent. In 2019, an estimated 13.1 million tonnes of byproduct that could be turned into leather was residual from slaughter, including not just cows but goats and sheeps as well.

1.  https://internationalleathermaker.com/do-not-let-cowhides-go-to-waste/
2+3.http://nothing-to-hide.org/LeatherFacts




 

Polyurethane Leather

Polyurethane (PU) is the most common faux leather used today. Polyurethane is a polymer compound that is created through a chemical reaction between a diisocyanate and a polyol. While PU products will often claim to be a vegan leather alternative, manufacturers sometimes take a portion of the cowhide casted aside in genuine leather manufacturing and add a layer of polyurethane on top of it while maintaining that it is faux leather. It can also be made with fabric blends using a layer of polyurethane on top, then additional chemicals are coated on top of this to make the material water resistant. Although not all PU leather is the same, 100% PU leather is vegan.

When purchasing PU leather, it is important to look for higher-quality production and full traceability since cheaply made PU leather can damage easily. When taken care of and manufactured properly, PU is a low-maintenance and durable material.

Even so, PU contains toxic metals such as lead and cadmium. Its manufacturing does not prioritize human health, and it is not composed of biodegradable materials, meaning it should be diverted from landfills. PU leather, like most textiles, has the capacity to be recycled by being broken into its separate components. The polyurethane can be repurposed into new products or used as a fuel source, while the rest of the materials can be recycled as textile waste, often used for carpet padding or insulation. This is not necessarily a practical or accessible solution since most textile waste makes its way to landfills rather than to recycling plants, and since the recycling process may also use more energy than producing new materials.

Overall, the label of “animal friendly” is not always accurate and is certainly not equivalent to being eco-friendly. Plastic pollution is a serious threat considering that experts believe that oceans may have more plastic than fish by 2050 at the current consumption rate. Even so, many organizations including Collective Fashion Justice believe that PU is a far less environmentally harmful material than genuine leather.





 

Naturally Sourced Faux Leather

Cork, pineapple, corn, mushroom, coconut, and cactus leather are all natural leather alternatives currently available on the market. All but corn leather are biodegradable, since corn leather uses corn waste in conjunction with other waste textiles, such as recycled nylon and polyester (which are non-biodegradable plastics). Cork leather is made by stripping bark from cork oak trees without cutting down the trees altogether, which helps these trees capture and store larger amounts of carbon. All of these materials except for mushroom, cork, and cactus leather are sourced from waste material. Pineapple leather is the only one of these natural alternatives that uses PU resin as a coating, which makes it more of an environmental challenge although this material can still be biodegradable in certain settings. These natural substances are all more environmentally sound than other leather manufacturing methods, but they still involve processing and cultivating the necessary ingredients, ultimately pulling from our natural resources.



Second Hand leather

While some people are opposed to using animal products altogether, buying vintage and secondhand leather can be the most ethical and environmentally-sound option. These methods of purchase do not directly fund or support animal slaughter or the toxic leather manufacturing process, and allow you to continue the lifecycle of a leather product diverting them from landfills. Second-hand leather also does not contribute to any rise in demand for leather manufacturing. While there has been much discussion about the inconsistent and disappointing texture of leather alternatives, it is known that leather ages gracefully and can be an appealing product at any stage of its life cycle if properly taken care of.





MORE INFO
https://www.manuel-dreesmann.com/en-us/blogs/information/what-is-pu-leather-and-why-you-should-avoid
https://earth.org/lab-grown-leather/
https://www.attitudeorganic.com/second-hand-leather-or-vegan-leather-that-is-the-question/
Where to find natural leather alternatives:
https://sentientmedia.org/what-is-vegan-leather/
https://goodonyou.eco/eco-friendly-leather-alternatives/

What else would you like to know about? Do you want to get our hot take on sustainability news? Disagree with anything we said? Have any data that is more updated than ours?

Email us at hello@isaboko.com  




 Hey, I love you. Do you want to be a solarpunk freak? First, you have to care, second, you have to not give up hope, third, you have to have radical optimism for the future. Fourth, you have to work to make a difference. Fifth, you have to have a lot of fun. Are you ready? Let's do it! Oh, also-

FAQ

SIZE CHART

LEARN

SOLARPUNK

CONTACT

ABOUT


©isaboko 2024

All Isaboko pieces are
made from waste materials,
zero waste patterns,
and designed for gender free wear.

These are core ideals for radically sustainable DESIGN and if replicated
have the power to transform the future of fashion and the world.
 



Making Solarpunk Clothes for Radically Optimistic Future Freaks.