In 2015, PETA wrote an article “Vegan Leather: What It Is and Why It Belongs in Your Closet” with the intent to drive genuine leather production to the ground with use of emotion as their most powerful weapon. As emotional creatures by nature, we as humans interpret “humane” as saving the animals or preserving their peace in passing; however, we falter in consideration of saving the earth and the quality conditions necessary for human-kind to thrive.
As the dominating species, much of endangered activism in population replenishment depend on scientific research, conservation efforts, and thousands of man-hours to achieve and maintain. While humane societies contemplate their next animal rights campaign, toxic waste fountains into our natural resources causing extensive long term damage in exchange for short-term progress.
What is Vegan or Faux Leather?
Vegan Leather is most commonly composed of Polyurethane (PU), and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC); synthetic fibers compounds composed of chemical reactions to generate an ingredient used in the construction of roller coasters to the manufacturing of automotive parts.. When we dissect the recycling process required to repurpose this material, we are looking at a complete molecular breakdown. Time, money, and resources that we do not have enough of in the next 1,000 years to simply redirect the utilization of over two million tons of polyurethane produced in 2018 alone.
How is Vegan Leather Bad for the Environment?
When discussing the effects of manufactured leather products, we are actually comparing apples to oranges. Grocery stores coat apples in wax to keep them “fresh” longer, preserving the natural juices and some nutrients until they are bought and consumed or finally expiring, months later. The wax coating in fact “contains fifty individual components belonging to at least half a dozen chemical groups. The major cyclic component of apple fruit wax is called ursolic acid and is highly water-repellent”. According to Dr. Joe Kemble, Professor of Horticulture at Auburn University. Ursolic acid is linked to leading causes of cancer cell generation. Oranges, however are not coated in toxic chemicals and if they are found to contain the same wax finish it does us no harm as we only ingest the actual meat of the citrus.
Genuine Leather and Faux or Vegan Leathers are no different than this comparison starting with how they are processed but more importantly how they are finished.
Vegetable Tanning Vs. Acrylic Dyes
By popular demand, much discussion has remained focused on the controversy between genuine leather and vegan leather as the source of environmental deterioration, but rarely discussed are the additional factors that are in play during the manufacturing process and methods when creating textiles out of these materials.
The process of manufacturing genuine leather, when properly regulated includes the process of vegetable tanning. This method has been used for hundreds of years as one of the most natural forms of coloring materials used in furniture, clothing, even building materials.Tanning textiles have known to be responsible for dumping waste into main water sources of locals residents, introducing toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde which affect overall health and wildlife. On the contrary, this relates back to the long term versus short term damage to Earth and the current state of environment when we look at the capabilities of current resources to treat these water supplies compared to our current inability to efficiently recycle the PU and PVC molecular structures.
Faux Leathers and synthetic materials are not able to be naturally dyed due to the durability and saturation capabilities of the fabric, textiles depend on acrylic dye formulas. This results in even more chemical ingestion to the body by long term wear, as acrylic dye can overtime dye the skin through the bleeding process acting as a carcinogen absorbed by the pores in our bodies. The demand for bold colors, unique patterns, and rich textures depend solely on the concentration of artificial coloring and a hefty health risk
Best of Both Worlds: Environmental Quality and Quantity
While today’s fashion is taking us to new heights and breaking boundaries of the textiled mediums, no solution is environmentally “green” as long as we continue to manufacture in general; however, we have fundamental truth in all aspects that natural is always the healthiest alternative verses genetically modified anything, non-biodegradable synthetics, and chemically enhanced foundations. The true power of green is in the ability to make conscious decisions. Buying that genuine leather bag you’ve had your eye on will not change the course of the past thousands of years utilizing animal-based material, and choosing a material that last twice as long with the guarantee of biodegradability in 20 plus years versus a material that breaks down in 2-5 years that sits in our landfills for thousands of years, is the only eco-friendly alternative.
Article written by : Kenzie Gargiulo
follow her at Heart of Brass