Insight: Vegan Leather- What you Need to Know?
There are a lot of companies and brands offering vegan leather alternatives as an eco-friendly choice. All vegan leather (as opposed to animal leather) is cruelty-free. So, as an advocate of cruelty-free products, you visit an online store, place a couple of bags, belts, and shoes in your cart and check out. You feel good about your purchase. No animals slaughtered because of your purchase. But...
Are you sure that the cruelty-free bag you bought is environment friendly? Aha! It leads you to an underlying question: Are all vegan leather eco-friendly? The answer is NO! Not really! If you think that ALL vegan leather products are a sustainable choice, think again. Before you click "add to cart", make sure you know what you are getting into!
Here are 4 things you need to know about vegan leather
What is vegan leather?
Vegan leather is from non-animal sources. It is also known as faux leather. Another name is 'pleather' (coined from plastic leather). Most vegan leather is plastic or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). Some products are from natural resources such as cotton, cactus, apple peelings, fruit waste, tree bark, or leaves.
The common use of plastic as a source of vegan leather raises questions about safety and sustainability. PVC releases dioxins that can be dangerous if inhaled. Plasticizers are added to make the leather flexible. They are toxic and can cause organ failure if inhaled. PU as a source of vegan leather is harmful to the environment because of the toxins emitted during the product making.
What are the Different Types of Vegan Leather?
There are two types of vegan leather: The first is plastic. Another is natural.
The most commonly used vegan leather alternatives are Polyurethane (PU) and PolyVinyl Chloride (PVC). PVC is practically plastic. PU, on the other hand, comes from the crude oil chain, which in itself is a finite resource.
The second type of vegan leather is plant-based vegan leather. These are by far the best alternatives to traditional vegan leather. Here are the most popular ones:
- Cork Fabric - Cork is a natural material used for wine bottles, bulletin boards, and glass coasters. Because of advancements in technology. It can also be a natural resource for vegan leather. The process involves boiling the cork and flattening it by molding it into sheets. It is one of the most durable and environmentally-friendly vegan leather available in the market.
- Pinatex - This type of vegan leather is from pineapples. That is right! Pineapples! It is created by felting the fibers of the pineapple leaves together in a non-woven mesh that gives that leather-like appearance. Pinatex vegan leather comes from the waste of pineapple harvest.
- Cactus Leather - The thorniest source for vegan leather! The process involves drying up the cactus, removing the thorns, then it is crushed and refined. The finished product looks and feels as flexible and as smooth as leather.
- Mushroom Skin - Common mushroom skin leather usually comes from Trametes Versicolor, Schizophyllum commune, Pleurotus ostreatus. The process involves harvesting the mycelium sheet, heat pressing, drying, and smoothing the product.
- Fruit Leather (apple skin/ orange peel leather) - Aside from Pinatex, you can also make vegan leather from apple skins and orange peelings.
- Leaf leather - It is a layer of harvested teak leaves mended with fabric and sealed to create a beautiful pattern. Fallen and mature teak leaves are taken and soaked in water solution to make it flexible. After this, they are arranged into sheets and sun-dried and then reinforced on a fabric backing.
Is Plant-Based Vegan Leather the Better Option?
It is better than PVC made leather and animal leather in more ways than one. Why?
- It is cruelty-free - No animal harmed in the process of creating vegan leather.
- It is durable - Vegan leather should last a lifetime with proper use and care. A Teak wallet is as durable as any other leather wallet available in the market.
- It is environment friendly - vegan leather from natural resources are environmentally friendly products.
- It is stylish - by its very nature, vegan leather is thinner than real animal leather that makes it more flexible to use in fashion. There are different natural patterns, meshes, and weavings that are beautiful on a finished product such as belts and bags.
- It is a healthy option - no hard chemicals used during the manufacturing of these plant-based alternatives. You will not inhale any toxic material from the products.
Please take note:
- The process of animal leather manufacturing is chemically intensive. Tanning the product is the greatest impact on the environment and humans. Chromium, a chemical used for the vegan leather can damage blood cells causing oxidation reactions that may lead to serious internal organ failure.
- The manufacturing process of animal leather causes air pollution and water pollution. According to studies, 1 ton of finished leather product produces 20-80 m3 of turbid and foul-smelling water.
- PVC and PU vegan leather do not offer a better solution as well. It comes from oil, which is not an infinite resource. It also contains chemicals that can harm your lungs.
How to Choose vegan leather wisely?
- Be smart! Not all vegan leather is environmentally friendly. They might be cruelty-free products, but they might be harmful to nature. Always read the fine print. Buy products that are both cruelty-free and environmentally friendly, aside from being stylish. Of course!
- Weigh the Pros and Cons! There are always pros and cons to each product, but you have to make sure that the pros outnumber the cons. Be an advocate of life and choose a product that is inclined to value life more than profit.
- Compare Products! It is always good to compare which product will benefit you more. Whether it is price, rating, sustainability, reviews, or style. It is good to do a little bit of research. Do your window shopping first before clicking the "BUY" button. It is what you call an informed purchase.
- Check Company Profile. Aside from comparing products, you might want to step a notch your research skills and see if the product you want to buy is from a reputable company, not just selling trends but has a cause for a greater good. It is always a win-win situation when you buy from companies with a passion for selling cruelty-free and sustainable products.
- Listen to Your Gut Feel! If you believe it is the right product for you, then go ahead and buy it. Your gut feel is the window to you want.
Bonus Question: Is Natural Vegan Leather a sustainable choice?
Yes! Yes! And Yes! Choose your brands wisely. Make sure that you choose cruelty-free vegan leathers AND environment-friendly vegan leather.