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Is Faux Leather Really Better? The Environmental Costs of Leather Substitutes + Eco Alternatives

environmental costs of leather substitutes and eco-friendly faux leather
This piece was written by Emily Folk.

Be sure that the fake leather clothes you’re wearing are actually environmentally friendly.

Being concerned about the environment and the creatures on the earth is a noble gesture. It ensures that we have a place to call home long into the future. To help reverse some of the damage that has already been done to the planet, people are discovering new ways to be environmentally friendly and practice sustainability.

One way to help the environment and animals is to look for clothing that is made out of synthetic leather. This practice saves animals from being used strictly for their hides and has an impact on the environment—or does it? New evidence shows that using PVC and other common leather substitutes might negatively affect the environment.

PVC

PVC clothing is also known as vinyl. It’s the shiny leather-like clothing, and it is still used in the fashion industry today. However, producing PVC is incredibly dangerous—both to humans and the environment. PVC releases toxic chemicals during processing, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), vinyl chloride, dioxins, ethylene dichloride, furans and mercury.

Polyurethane

Polyurethanes were first invented in the 1930s. They can be turned into fine threads, which can then be combined with other materials to make fabrics. Some of the most common fabrics polyurethanes can be found in include spandex, swim suits and to help hold up socks.

Because polyurethanes are derived from oil, they will only last as long as the oil supply lasts. While their production doesn’t produce as many toxins as the production of PVC, the oil mining process impacts the environment. For those who are trying to reduce negative impacts to the environment, you might want to reconsider wearing polyurethane as an alternative leather.
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If both PVC and polyurethane are harmful to the environment, are there any leather alternatives that won’t make an impact? Yes! Below are some novel materials that are being used to create vegan leather.

Cork

Cork is considered to be the most environmentally friendly material for creating fake leather. It is water resistant, durable and easily recyclable. Because it comes from trees, it can be grown sustainably to lessen the impact on the environment.

Waxed Cotton

This material is waterproof and durable. It can look and feel like patent leather, without the need for harsh chemical treatments to produce it. Using organic cotton ensures that you are treating the earth kindly but looking great at the same time.

Tree Bark Leather

Like cork, this product comes from trees and can be grown and harvested in sustainable fashion. It is both durable and strong, not to mention unique. Since it comes from trees, the grain’s pattern will vary, making it so that whatever is made from the material will be one-of-a-kind.

Pinatex

If you’re looking for a truly sustainable form of fake leather that doesn’t require extra water, land, pesticides or fertilizers, Pinatex is the answer. It is derived from cellulose fibers that are extracted from pineapple leaves. It looks and feels like cowhide, and it is durable and watertight. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it is also economically friendly for pineapple farmers.
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Taking care of our environment is the responsible and right thing to do. There are a variety of ways to accomplish the task, and using fake leather products is one way to make an impact. However, not all vegan leathers are environmentally friendly. Being informed about what is good for the environment and what isn’t allows you to decide what’s best for you and the earth.

About the Author:
Emily Folk is a freelance writer and blogger from Lancaster, PA. She covers topics in conservation, sustainability and renewable energy. To see her latest posts, check out her blog Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.


Places to Find Environmentally Friendly Faux Leather:

Photo by Camila Dam├ísio on Unsplash

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