Is It Leather

Sustainability

Sustainability of Real Leather vs. Fake Leather

The environmental sustainability of materials and products has become a top priority for consumers around the world. Many people believe that fake leather is more sustainable than real leather. However, that does not appear to be the case. Read on to find out why real leather is the better choice on many key environmental issues.

Common Misconceptions
Animals are killed for their hides to make leather products.
False – Leather is a by-product or secondary product. Animals such as cows are raised for food by the meat and dairy industries. This production results in millions of hides that would go to waste unless they are used for leather.
Synthetic leather products such as “vegan leather” are eco-friendly, and therefore won’t harm the environment.
False – Many “vegan leather” products are made from plastics such as polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. These plastics are not sustainable, can be harmful to the environment, and can take up to 10 times as long as real leather to decompose. Just because something is termed “vegan” does not mean it is eco-friendly or sustainable.
Leather is unsustainable and should be replaced by fake leather alternatives.
False – As a by-product, leather is upcycled, meaning it is a useful and valuable product created from the unused parts of animals harvested for food. Leather is a natural product that is a renewable resource, whereas imitation leather depletes natural resources and introduces destructive microplastics when disposed of in landfills.

Sustainability

Sustainability describes the process of working to maintain and encourage our planet’s well-being by making environmentally focused and responsible decisions. Sustainability often includes the commonly heard mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle” in order to help preserve our planet and reduce waste.

Real Leather

Real leather is made from the hides or skins of animals and is typically a by-product or secondary product of the food industry. What this means is that as long as people are eating meat, there will be leftover hides. These leftover hides can be transformed into beautiful leather through the process of upcycling. The resulting leather can then be used for a wide variety of products and purposes. Converting hides into leather helps to increase the utilization of the animal and decrease landfill waste.

Fake Leather

Synthetic leather is an artificial material that is designed to imitate real leather. Though not always the case, these fake leather materials are often made from plastic and thus increase waste. Greenwashing is unfortunately common among these fake leather products, as they are often marketed using words such as “vegan.” This leads many consumers to believe that these synthetic leather materials and products are more sustainable than they actually are.

What would happen if the world stopped using leather?

Over 300 million hides would be wasted.
There would be 6.6 million tons of surplus emissions globally each year.
The number of cattle reared for meat and dairy production would remain the same.
More than 750,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions would be generated every year and all U.S. landfills would be filled within 4 years.

A typical lifespan for natural leather products vs fake leather alternatives

2-10 years
Fake Leather
Wear and tear sets in (source)
Leather
Remains in great condition
10+ years
Fake Leather
Product lifespan ends, deposited into landfill
Leather
Develops a weathered look and gets softer (source)
50-100 years
Fake Leather
Continues sitting in a landfill
Leather
Well cared for leather can still perform (source)
400+ years
Fake Leather
Plastic begins to become a microplastic (source)
Leather
Natural leather biodegrades (source)
Fake Leather
Microplastics create a negative long term environmental impact (source)
Leather

Completes full circle life cycle

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