Is Vegan Leather Sustainable?

by | Jan 14, 2022

Fashion is the fifth most polluting industry in the world. Leather tanning takes the center stage in damaging the environment and the health of the people involved in the process. It is also one of the reasons why so many animals are cruelly butchered every year.

Fortunately, there are now vegan options for everything—including leather. Now you can get vegan purses made from faux leather material. But is vegan leather more sustainable than conventional leather? The answer: it depends on the materials used. 

The most common material used when making vegan leather is PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), which is a non-biodegradable and carbon-intensive material that adds to the toxins in landfills. The only reason PVC leather is called vegan is that it doesn’t contain any animal parts. But it doesn’t make it the most eco-friendly or sustainable. However, vegan leather can now be made from more sustainable materials like pineapple leaves, apple peels, and other fruit wastes, as well as recycled plastic—all thanks to innovations in technology. And even the most resource-intensive leather alternatives like PVC and PU are more sustainable than animal-based hides.

Faux leather: what is it and how is it made?

Vegan leather or leather alternative is made from fabric that is created to look and feel like animal-based leather. This type of fabric is certainly not a new thing, as it has been around for years.

Thankfully, advancements in technology have led to the discovery of other more sustainable materials in creating vegan leather. Faux leather is now being made from products that would have otherwise gone to waste, such as pineapple leaves, apple peels, cork, and mushroom mycelium.

Kombucha leather is another alternative material—although not as common. It comes from the same symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria used to ferment the kombucha tea. To make kombucha leather, the slimy culture is dried then softened using coconut oil. This process helps create a high-quality synthetic leather that is great for making vegan purses.

Benefits of using leather alternatives to animal-based leather

Animal-based leather has a very controversial history in the fashion industry, which brings up a lot of questions about its sustainability. After all, billions of animals get slaughtered every year by the global leather industry to make frivolous products such footwear, garments, and accessories. 

Likewise, the leather tanning process does not just emit toxic gases. It also uses a copious amount of water, energy, and chemicals. The whole process also causes so much pollution that lands used for tanneries have been rendered barren. 

By supporting vegan leather instead of conventional leather, we help save animal lives while protecting the environment. You also get a more flexible, soft, and water-resistant fabric for a fraction of the cost. And because it is waterproof, you can easily wipe it clean with a damp cloth. You may also clean it using a mild detergent or natural soap, compared to harsh cleaners that are required by animal-based leather. 

Additionally, alternative leather materials do not require the same maintenance and upkeep needed for animal-based leather. They do not crack, fade, or become stiff as quickly as animal skins. They also don’t stain easily. And because they are man-made, this type of leather is completely customizable. You can also print on it with a huge range of patterns and even textures! Vegan purses made from alternative leather can be made to look exactly like each other, which is difficult to achieve with animal leather as there are natural variations. So if you are looking for uniformity, faux leather is the best option for you.

Leather alternatives: are they as good as animal-based leather?

When people hear about faux leather, the word ‘fake’ immediately comes to mind. And we all equate fake with sub-par quality. However, this is far from the truth when it comes to vegan leather alternatives.

Of course, durability and quality are at the top of your list when shopping—as it should be. The same factors should be considered when comparing synthetic and animal-based leather. Vegan leather is often more lightweight, flexible, pliable, durable, and thinner than animal leather. These are good qualities to consider, especially in fashion, because it makes them easier to work with and they stand the test of time against daily use.

Due to the variety of marketing campaigns aimed at educating the public about vegan leather and all of its possibilities, leather alternatives are increasing in popularity. Vegan leather is just as durable as animal leather. And because it is easier to maintain, you can expect it to last for years and years.