Leather clothing is known for its sparkling reputation as a result of it’s long life. For years, leather has been styled in many different ways, always finding some way to be incorporated into outfits, and never going out of fashion. This material’s long life adds to its appeal, topping off its ability to be paired with a countless number of outfits. As someone who advocates for good quality material and choosing clothes that live long, leather is undeniably a great buy. Despite all these great qualities, one part of leather that should not be overlooked, is its production.
Leather production is strongly linked to environmental issues, starting with the cruel rearing of livestock, which leads to other ecological side-effects. This includes deforestation, water and land overuse, and gas emissions. The global effects put aside, leather production directly impacts animals, and then as a result of the procedures done with the livestock- the environmental issues are just side effects. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization “around 3.8 billion cows and other bovine animals are used in leather production each year– around one animal for every two people on the planet.”
Additionally, The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Materials Sustainability Index (measure environmental impact of materials until the point of fabrication), gives most leathers a score of 159 for impact due to the high level of contribution to water wastage, pollution and global warming. Compare this to the score of 44 for polyester and 98 for cotton.
Tanning is the most toxic part of leather production, where hides are dumped in water, filled with chemicals to prevent the withering of the material- to stop decomposing and to aid in the coloring process. The chemicals this process produces is so toxic for workers, that the government in both US and Europe were forced to close down the Tanneries. In underdeveloped countries, the workers are forced to stay in these conditions and work through the toxins; some workers as young as 10 years old. The effects of these toxins are also long term, possibly triggering kidney/liver damage, skin cancer, reproductive problems and irritation.
The process of leather production is full of negative consequences, but there are alternatives. Leather is known for its durability and long life, and despite the cruel production methods, it is not a form of fast fashion and can be worn for years. There are many alternatives to leather, such as vegan products, but many of these vegan products have just as large of an environmental footprint as normal leather. They are toxic, non-renewable petroleum-based substances, non-biodegradable and detrimental to the environment. Luckily, many companies have come up with solutions that fulfill the long life of normal leather, and follow ethical procedures during the creation process.
- Pineapple Leather
- Leaf Leather
- MuSkin (mushroom leather)
Leather lives long, but not without costly side effects. These alternatives will fulfill the same purpose leather has been doing, without the negative outcomes during production. Be sure to make the change in your life, before it is too late to take the step toward a better future.
Check out my previous blog. Here you will find a list of 9 Sustainable Fabrics To Be On The Lookout For.