JUICY PLANT-BASED ALTERNATIVES TO ANIMAL LEATHER
We all know about vegan leather: the cruelty-free alternative to animal leather, able to simulate its properties and feel, and allowing us to wear our favorite leather accessories without harming any living being.
But how sustainable synthetic leather really is?
Unfortunately, it is not.
In fact, the most common leather alternative is made with a petroleum-based plastic, called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The production of plastic-based leather involves the use of fossil fuel, chemicals, non-natural dyes and excessive amounts of water.
All these elements combined together make the production and processing of this material very polluting and dangerous for the environment.
So, what can we do?
Luckily, science is coming up with amazing innovative solutions to create plastic-free vegan options that don’t harm any animal or the planet. The latest substitutes out there are made of...fruits and plants!
Even though plant-based alternatives still need petroleum-based products to hold the fibers together, the amount used to produce these materials is significantly less than what is used for PVC leather.
Here are some interesting and innovative plant-based options that will make our wardrobes smile!
Made with cellulose fibers coming from pineapple leaves!
This material is called Piñatex, and it is created by felting the long fibres from pineapple leaves together to create a non-woven substrate.
The pineapple industry globally produces 40,000 tonnes of pineapple leaves waste every year, which is usually left to rot or burnt. With 480 of those leaves, it's possible to create 1 square meter of pineapple leather. The leftover biomass from the process is often used as a fertiliser.
Piñatex is produced using a waste product that doesn’t require any additional land, water, pesticide or fertilizer. It also avoids the use of toxic chemicals and heavy metals that are commonly used in animal leather production.
Apple Leather is made with the leftovers from harvested apples: like seeds, cores and peel. It is 100% biodegradable, highly durable, UV-resistant, and it has a soft, rich texture.
The use of this product as a sustainable alternative to animal or plastic leather is becoming more and more popular. In fact, some very popular brands of the fashion and automotive industry are currently using it for their creations and accessories.
This plant-based leather is created by taking the recovered apple waste and reducing it to a powder. Once processed, it is combined with polyurethane and coated onto canvas.
The result is a durable but soft fabric, perfect for hard-wearing accessories.
One of the pros of using apple waste as main raw material, is that it is a completely renewable resource: this reduces the CO2 impact significantly, if compared to synthetic leather made from 100% fossil fuels.
Developed by textile startup Bolt Threads, “Mylo” is a soft leather-like material made out of mycelium, the underground root structure of mushrooms.
This material is obtained by reproducing what happens under the forest floor in a controlled indoor environment. The process starts with feeding mycelial cells with sawdust and organic material while controlling the humidity and temperature of the environment. The mycelium grows into a foamy layer that is then harvested, processed and dyed, while the remaining material is composted. The resulting fabric is a simil leather product, very durable and abrasion-resistant.
Unlike Pinatex and Apple Leather, Mylo doesn’t come from waste product but the material is completely biodegradable and non-toxic. Mylo is not on the market yet but it surely sounds like an innovative and exciting alternative we can’t wait to try!
CACTUS LEATHERCactus leather is a sustainable leather alternative made from Opuntia Cactus (also known as Nopal) that has been developed in Mexico.
Cactus leather production starts in an organic cactus farm, where only the mature leaves are harvested, leaving the core of the cacti intact. In 6-8 months the leaves are able to grow back and are ready to be re-harvested.
Once the leaves are cut, they are mashed and sun-dried for 3 days. When the right level of moisture is achieved, the substance is mixed with non-toxic chemicals and attached to a backing.
This particular harvest and production methods make the creation of Cactus leather a very sustainable process, as the plants only require little water to grow, rain water is enough, without any need for artificial irrigation. For 1 kg of dry material, only 200 liters of water are needed. To put that into perspective, plants like corn require more than 1.000 liters to produce the same amount.
Fairly made options are out there, today more than ever.
Thanks to science, and to sustainable brands who invest years of work in research and development, we are able to have access to ethically made products that cause less harm to the animals, to the people and to our environment.
Making the right choices is only up to us.
With Love and Respect,
The Skin of Nature Team