Sustainability is an often-discussed topic as people around the world are prioritizing and promoting living sustainable and environmentally responsible lifestyles. The word sustainability is more than just a clichéd buzzword as its impact may have lasting effects on the world, we live in. The sustainability movement has grown considerably, and consumers are now more conscience than ever about what products they buy in an effort to reduce their personal carbon footprint. This article will examine the sustainability of common purchasing decisions as it relates to Real Leather vs Vegan Alternative (Fake Leather) products.
If you have ever bought a new car, shoes, handbag, purse, wallet, or furniture, then you have likely faced the decision of whether to buy a product made from Genuine Leather or Fake alternative “Vegan Leather.” This decision is one that consumers face relatively often, but many are not informed or aware about what truly goes into making these products. Many are surprised when they learn the truth regarding sustainability of Leather and Vegan (Faux Leather) products.
To start, we will examine the sustainability of practices regarding Genuine Leather. It is common for consumers to be concerned about the ethics of buying products containing real leather as leather is made from the hides or skin of an animal. This idea alone scares many consumers away from purchasing leather products, as they are under the impression that animals are killed for their hides. This is a common misconception, however, as it is typically untrue. The reality is that the vast majority of hides used to make Leather comes from animals that are raised for their meat and dairy. This means that leather is a byproduct that promotes the highly sustainable and natural process of “upcycling.” As long as humans consume meat and dairy products, there will be leftover hides and skins. Without leather products, animal skins would be wasted in landfills which is a highly unsustainable practice. A strong argument can be made that we actually have a social responsibility to recycle these hides into leather as this process is typically far more environmentally responsible than alternative options. Leather is recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, and natural.
On the contrary to real leather, there are all sorts of plastic-based alternatives in the automotive, furniture, shoe, and fashion industries. These fake leather products are typically referred to as Vegan Leather, Faux Leather, Pleather, Vinyl, Leatherette, among others. Regardless of what fancy marketing term is slapped on these products, the truth remains that they are a chemical cocktail of petroleum-based plastics such as Polyvinyl Chloride and Polyurethan. These chemicals have been shown to pose significant threats to the environment and have been linked to notable health risks in humans such as cancer as well as many auto-immune and respiratory issues. It is surprising to see environmentally conscience consumers supporting these “Vegan Leather” products as their environmental impact appears to be much worse than the natural and sustainable practice of simply buying real leather.
When considering the real leather vs “vegan leather” debate, it is important to look beyond the marketing terms and perceptions that often are associated with the products. It is worth noting that many suppliers, car dealerships, and retailers prefer selling “vegan leather” products as they have a higher profit margin and are cheaper to produce. This along with political pressure to reduce beef consumption leads many consumers to unknowingly make an uninformed purchase that is highly unsustainable. Real Genuine Leather appears to be far more sustainable than many plastic-based alternative products. With this being said, it is ultimately up to consumers to choose responsibly the next time they must decide between natures genuine leather or plastic based (Polyurethane) alternatives.