Is vegan leather really sustainable?  – SURFACE

Is vegan leather really sustainable? – SURFACE

The appetite for ethical fashion is increasing, especially as textile waste accumulates in landfills and harmful production processes become transparent. The $ 128 billion leather goods market is one of the biggest offenders: animal-based material relies on livestock, a major source of pollution that accounts for 14.5 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. man-made greenhouse effect, and tanning processes consume excessive amounts. amounts of water and release toxic waste that causes respiratory problems and soil depletion. In recent years, vegan leather has become an “eco-friendly” alternative that mimics the look and feel of leather. But not all vegan leathers are the same.

A 2018 sustainability report developed by Kering notes that the impact of vegan leather production can be a third lower than that of animal-based leather. However, drawbacks arise when alternatives are made from plastic polymers like polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride, which leach microplastics and can spend centuries in landfills. While fashion brands such as Nanushka, Melie Bianco, and Wolford claim that their vegan leather products offer a sustainable alternative to leather, many are made with petroleum-based plastics.

Tanja Hester, environmental activist and author of Wallet activism, says that the idea of ​​plastic-based leather is an example of green washing: “[Pleather] it is really just plastic, which is rarely recycled and in the form of vegan leather it is impossible to recycle; essentially, there is no sustainable vegan leather. It’s understandable that many people are drawn to vegan leather because they care about animal welfare, but they would certainly make a different decision if they understood that it is really just plastic made from petroleum. “

However, major fashion brands are adopting plant-based leathers that are cruelty-free, low-impact, and don’t compromise on durability. These varieties of leather are obtained from natural sources such as pineapple leaves (Piñatex), mushrooms (Mylo), kombucha crops, and even agricultural waste, all of which are biodegradable and easy to recycle. Stella McCartney is leading the pack, having unveiled a full ready-to-wear collection using vegetable-tanned Mylo last spring. At the same time, Allbirds pioneered what could be the first plant-based leather that has a carbon footprint 40 times lower than animal leather and produces 17 times less carbon emissions than synthetic leathers. Other brands like Hermès, Adidas and Lululemon have also started experimenting with plant-based leather.

Like the term “organic,” sustainability is now a marketing buzzword. The onus is on us, the consumers, to check the fine print and educate ourselves on the nuances to avoid greenwashing. The devil, as always, is in the details.

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