Welcome to my 'What Vegan Leather Is' post!
First of all, I must congratulate you for taking the time to do your research on this topic of green living. The number of designers who offer vegan leather products is increasing.
Perhaps, that is because faux leather is versatile and the number of people who buy the products is increasing too. From beautiful wallets and shoes to jackets in every color and cute black dresses, you will get vegan leather versions of each. So, what is vegan leather?
As a qualified teacher, I am passionate about education and the impact it can have on bettering our future. It is down to us individuals to do our research and make small changes to the way we live our lives.
These small changes are easy to make and can have a big impact on our health, the health of our family and our environment. This website is designed for everyday people looking to make these changes. Here you will learn a legitimate way to go green.
Let me be completely transparent with you, I am not here to pitch or sell anything to you. I am here to reveal and to assist you on your journey of going green!
The Leather Industry Truths
This 1.5 billion dollar industry promotes the rearing of animals for slaughter. Over many years of carefully constructed marketing campaigns, the general public has been lead to believe that eating meat is healthy, and wearing their skins is a sign of quality and luxury status.
The truth is that this industry thrives on the suffering of animals, is one of the biggest contributions to environmental damage, tanning is one of the most toxic industries and workers have a short life expectancy.
Is the Solution Vegan Leather?
Not Made from Animals
Vegan leather is also known as faux leather because the producers do not use materials from animals to make it. Statistics show that billions of pigs, cows, goats, alligators, ostriches, sheep, dogs, cats, and kangaroos are slaughtered each year for their skins. People cut off the horns and tails of the animals without any painkillers.
The availability of vegan leather has saved animals from the pain. By purchasing faux leather, we are voting with our wallets and helping these more humane industries to prosper. This means there will be far fewer animals suffering from the leather industry in the long-run.
Made from Different Materials
So what is vegan leather made from? Producers of vegan leather often use polyurethane (PU) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastics. They also use sustainable and innovative materials like cork, pineapple leaves, apple peels, and recycled plastic.
It is important to note that the use of synthetic materials has raised many questions about its safety and dangers to the environment. Vegan leather producers rarely use natural materials to make these products.
The Production of Vegan Leather
The distributors use various chemicals and industrial processes that are different from those used when producing real leather products. Commonly, they bond plastic coatings to fabric backings. Coatings vary and they determine whether the faux leather is environmentally friendly or not.
While the use of PVC plastics has reduced since the 1970s, some manufacturers still use it to manufacture some types of vegan leather. This plastic material releases dioxins that are potentially dangerous in closed spaces, particularly if the users burn them. Faux leather manufacturers will also use phthalate, which is extremely toxic, to make the leather flexible.
PU is Less Damaging
Manufacturers are developing Polyurethane (PU) to reduce its flaws such as the dangerous toxins it releases during production and to eliminate the oil-based polymers that require the addition of fossil fuels to the production process.
Fortunately, many young entrepreneurs are working hard to create alternative biodegradable materials that will replace plastic materials. Two entrepreneurs, Marte Caarez and Adrian Lopez Velarde from Mexico have already launched organic leather known as Desserto, which they make from nopal cactus. Their goal was to create environmentally friendly and sustainable cruelty-free leather.
Apart from being partially biodegradable, Desserto meets the technical specifications needed in the automotive, furniture, fashion, and leather goods industry. It is breathable, durable, and flexible and it can last for over 10 years.
Vegan Leather or Real Leather?
When choosing between real leather and vegan leather, you have to consider the impacts of the two on the environment. While vegan leather might imply environmental friendliness, that is not always the case. Faux leather was named vegan leather because it is not made of animal products.
Although its increased use is a great benefit for the animals, its production has severe effects on the environment and our health because of the toxins in plastics used in the production.
Alpine Trek highlight the environmental issues of PU. The production and disposal of plastic leather, particularly PVC-based leather and PU, releases dangerous dioxins, which cause reproduction and development issues.
Synthetic materials are not fully biodegradable. Although they break down to some degree, they release phthalates and other toxic particles that can affect the health of people, animals, and the environment.
Durability and quality are the other two factors to consider when deciding between faux and real leather.
The Look and Smell of Vegan Leather
Vegan leather made of PU or PVC plastic has a strange smell associated with the used chemicals. Most people describe it like a fishy smell that can be hard to get rid of without ruining the leather material. PVC releases gaseous toxins that give off a bad smell. Organic cactus leather does not have this same smell.
The market offers several forms of faux leather in different quality. So, some of them are more like real leather than others are. Generally, the look of vegan leather is not very different from that of real leather.
But because faux leather is made of synthetic materials, it forms a patina different from that of real leather after aging. Manufacturers print artificial pores on the surface of faux leather, which means that it is less breathable than real leather.
Faux Leather is Thinner and Lightweight
That is a big advantage to fashion designers because the features make it easier to work with. Unfortunately, faux leather is less durable than real leather though, which is worse for the consumer.
Quality real leather can last for decades if the user cares for it properly but a pair of faux leather shoes may only last a few years. That means you will have to replace your faux leather items more often.
PVC-based faux leather is not breathable. On the other hand, real leather has pores. So, when used to make jackets and other clothing items, faux leather can be uncomfortable. You will hate it forever if you wore it for an extended period on a hot day.
Vegan Leather is Cheaper
The other thing is the price of leather items you need. Generally, faux leather is inexpensive because producers use cheap materials to make them. Remember that the creation of leather products, such as furniture, luggage, and jackets, is expensive because of the required artisanship.
That means leather products can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on their quality. Real leather manufacturers can command the prices because people know that their products are durable and of great quality.
The Sollution: Sustainable Alternatives
Both of these industries are unsustainable. At the moment the best option is to research sustainable companies and the products the provide.
There is one very interesting project in development using a plant to create leather. Although it is not widely produced at the moment, the company is looking to head in that direction. Learn more about it in this video.
What Vegan Leather Is: The Final Verdict!
There are pros and cons to both leather and vegan leather. The thing that draws most people to false leather is that it is not cruel on animals and is cheaper, however, it is important to note the environmental impact this fabric has on the planet. The leather industry promotes animal cruelty, is expensive, takes time to care for, and is dangerous for the workers.
There are many things to consider here and the most important aspect is the effect on animals. I shop sustainably whenever possible and avoid both of these products.
For now we must do our research and shop sustainably. The future looks promosing for healthier alternatives.
If you have any questions, please use the space below and I will get back to you shortly.