What is "Vegan" Leather?

Vegan leather has been around for over a century. Regrettably, there are also worries about the ecological implications of the synthetic ingredients used for making vegan leather. In general, leather is rather a controversial material given its intrinsic affiliation with the unsustainable meat industry. This leaves us questioning if we should abandon leather for good or find a happy medium. Let's take a glance at vegan leather and see if there is a better substitute.

Vegan leather is a product of the efforts of vegans and animal rights activists to establish mechanisms for creating leather without using cruel labor practices. Unlike real leather, it is made from materials other than animal skin. The process involves utilizing plastic and plant-based materials in less expensive products to resemble leather. Vegan leather is also known by other names like pleather, faux leather, synthetic leather, and fake leather. There are several types and qualities of vegan leather. Some are more leather-like than others. However, it isn't hard to distinguish between the superior variants and less expensive counterparts. As for the high-quality vegan leather, without close observation, it can be difficult to tell apart from genuine leather. 

Vegan leather v. Real Leather 

Vegan leather has poorer breathability than real leather owing to the lack of natural pores found in animal skin. While both real and faux leather have a smooth texture, real leather has an inconsistent texture appearance and faux leather has a consistent texture. 

The Question Of Sustainability— Vegan leather

Despite its cruelty-free production and environmentalism roots, several issues surround vegan leather. While the use of plastic is among the main red flags, the issue extends beyond materials. The problem is also with the production process. Vegan leather releases dioxins (POPs), toxic environmental pollutants that come under the Dirty Dozen chemicals, during the production and disposal stages. The pollutants can also cause cancer and development and reproduction complications. 

Aside from releasing dioxins, vegan leather also employs harmful and poisonous plasticizers. Plasticizers are a mixture of acids, alcohols, and other substances used to enhance the flexibility of the material. Although plasticizers may not be harmful to the skin directly, once ingested, they can interfere with hormones, suppress testosterone and boost estrogen. 

Further, not all vegan leather items are degradable because microplastics take hundreds of years to break down. As a result, it keeps releasing hazardous particles throughout the years while lying lifeless in landfills. These dangerous substances also end up in the oceans, jeopardizing marine life. The eco-friendliness of vegan leather is also problematic when we take into account the detrimental effects on the environment of farming non-biodegradable raw materials. 

Real leather lasts for generations, but vegan leather typically has about two to five years of longevity. While it mimics the appearance and texture of leather, the synthetic layers of vegan leather are largely dependent on the fabric underlay to remain sturdy and are prone to falling apart. This is also the reason why most vegan leather items, whether synthetic or plant-based, are susceptible to premature wear and tear. Direct sunlight or hanging by the straps also compromises the durability. Further, all vegan leather is not water-proof, and its effectiveness is dependent on the base material. In a nutshell, the durability of vegan leather depends on the level of special care the users provide. 

The fashion business is amongst the most polluting industries on earth, accounting for about 2-8% of global Co2 emissions, and vegan leather's impacts only worsen the situation. So, is vegan leather sustainable enough to consider?  

Organic Cotton— A Better Alternative for the Environment and You

Despite all vegan leathers not involving real animal skin, they are not all the same. To do what's good for the environment, you're best prepared if you're aware of your alternatives as a customer— considering the impacts of your decisions and how well they reflect your principles. The leather industry's massive carbon footprint, harsh realities of industrial farming, and workforce health difficulties, raise the question if a pair of leather shoes or a bag is worth it. If purchasing leather does not sit well with you, there is a wonderful natural alternative to consider, i.e. organic cotton. 

canvas backpacks for school

Backpacks made with organic cotton canvas

Organic cotton is fast gaining momentum in the clothing and accessories world. This natural, biodegradable fabric is environmentally safe and looks out for your health. Organic cotton canvases are more versatile than animal leather, and they're also easier to maintain. It saves dry cleaning expenses and prevents the risks of dangerous chemicals that come with leather (be it real or vegan). Wearing items made of natural materials also means ensuring no brutal treatment of the poor animals. High-performance organic cotton products are the ideal balance of softness and sustainability. 

These excellent reasons are why more clothing brands are choosing this green alternative that doesn't promote human or animal cruelty to their counterparts. Versatile, environmentally friendly, and free of animal cruelty— organic cotton is the future of fashion.

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