It is well known that leather goods have substantial and negative implications on the environment.
In India, the leather and leather products industry is one of the oldest manufacturing industries and holds about 10% of the global raw material for leather goods.
The industry has made its way into our wardrobes too. However, the leather goods you purchase—shoes, wallet or belt—are not just adding style to your attire, but are contributing to the killing of thousands of animals every day.
Let us explain. The process begins with the slaughtering of an animal. Next, all the hair gets removed from their skin, which is soaked in alkaline liquid to remove interfibrillar proteins (liming) and is later delimed to remove the alkaline material from the soaked hide. This step in the process is proven to form the flammable and poisonous hydrogen sulfide.
Tanning, which is the next step, stabilises proteins in the animal hide and makes it stable for prolonged use. Vegetable dyes, chromium salts, alum or even emulsified oils from the brains of cattle are used for this method.
Now, imagine the sort of carbon footprint you are leaving behind to purchase that one jacket.
Leather has been in use for centuries, in various forms. In modern times, those involved in rugged occupations and hobbies (biking for example) popularised leather for its sturdy and resistant nature.
But today, we know better. Several leather substitutes work just as well as the tanned material but do not leave behind as significant an environmental impact. In fact, they help in recycling and upcycling common items!
While using faux leather is a faux pas, thanks to its heavy use of synthetics and plastics, have you heard of upcycled rubber?
Upcycling reduces the resources and energy needed to make things out of fresh materials, and Green The Map is an organisation that recycles seat belts and tyre tubes into accessories like bags, wallets and journal covers.
So, if you love leather products for their look and sturdiness, these offer the same minus the cost on the environment. Win-win? I think so!
Cork fabric is another wonderful and vegan material to replace leather. Popularly known as cork leather, this fabric is obtained from thin shavings of the cork oak tree. If you are wondering if tree bark shavings can be as strong as animal hide, we assure you, it will do its job very well. It’s sturdiness, and classy looks have made it an extremely popular material for brands like Corkiza and Arture.
Check out their fantastic collection of cool wallets, purses and bags, right here.
Footwear is trickier than accessories because it needs to be incredibly comfortable, and anything but delicate.
Murtle has managed to expertly walk the tightrope, with their fantastic collection of cork footwear. The soles of their chappals are made of cork while the straps are made of cork and fabric.
If you think that awesome, wait till you hear this—each pair comes with two straps! So you get two pairs of footwear for one!
At one point in time, leather was a status symbol. However, in these “woke” times, the many fantastic and accessible vegan alternatives make it almost inexcusable to keep buying it.
And maybe, true luxury is about opting out and making a more ethical, cruelty-free choice?
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)