Why “Vegan-Friendly” Leather isn’t all that Earth-Friendly
I don’t believe that “faux” leather is the best option for the planet. To each their own, obviously. But I feel compelled to present an argument about leather versus faux, as it seems to come up quite a bit in my life as a stylist. But before I totally get into the nitty gritty of why, I have to level the playing field in the argument.
No matter what, whether faux or real, there are chemical pollutants that are released into the planet in the manufacturing of a garment. That’s just life and the garment industry. Luckily, more and more consumers have become aware of their carbon footprint in fashion, and corporations are, as a result, choosing greener, less wasteful ways of doing business (Thank you H&M, Zara, and many others!). But with leather in particular (as in silk, snake and fur but for this argument, let’s just say cow and goat), you do have dyes and tanning chemicals that pollute, not to mention that a lovely, wonderful, sentient creature has been slain. Cows and goats are also extremely expensive to raise, and take tons of resources to do so, from water and feed to land, and, as I’m sure you’ve heard, they are big methane contributors. So my initial point is this: no matter faux or real leather, both pollute, have drawbacks, and are not great for the environment. Period.
But the reason I choose leather over plastic? Because it was alive. Because it was here on this planet. Because it will eventually not be here on the planet. It goes against my very grain of living that an artificial, human-created substance could be better for the planet than something that occurs naturally. Every piece of leather, unless coated in plastic (UGH!), will eventually disentegrate and be gone. You just cannot say that for the plastic PVC (aka faux leather). Once it has been made out of a mixture of otherwise toxic chemicals, it’s here. It will outlive you and your generations. And, it cannot be recycled. Cows and goats, when slain, are used. Every little bit. Meat, bones, skin, etc. And even if it was skinned and left to rot, the cow would eventually contribute to the so-called circle of life and become part of the earth again. And, quickly. In fact, leather biodegrades as quickly as 25 years to just over 100 years, while PVC does not biodegrade but when it does, say even 100 years, it gives off a number of toxic materials. This is the single worst plastic according to several health organizations. Greenpeace has been lobbying to stop the use of PVC because of the dioxin produced during its manufacture. If that doesn’t make you OMG and switch back to leather, I don’t know what will.
Personally, I only consume organically raised cows and I consume it rarely – I feel it’s essential to only take from a life if the life has been good! Organically-raised cows don’t have to deal with the issues of non-organic cows and their atrocious mistreatment. Designers like LA-based Calleen Cordero only works with organic cows, whole heartedly believeing that happier cows create a happier product, and she can work her design magic knowing that there was never a mis-doing, mistreatment and a mitigated environmental impact.
I don’t, in any way, intend to insult or offend anyone, just offer an opinion for those environmentally and ethically conscious fashionista’s (like me). What do you think? Tell me below in the comments. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions!
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