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Conventional vs. Sustainable Leather Bags: What's the Difference?

by Anjan Mukherjee on Mar 31, 2023

Conventional vs. Sustainable Leather Bags: What's the Difference?

Have you ever looked at your handbag and thought about. what its composition is? The most common response is probably leather. However, leather doesn't exactly have the finest reputation when it comes to the environment, what with the exploitative industrial farming practices and alarming deforestation.

It therefore comes as no surprise that vegan leather, which serves as the opposite of its conventional animal-based equivalent, sprung into the market. We assumed that the term “vegan” was ethical since it implied that we could wear stylish purses and coats without feeling guilty about the environment. Yet, that wasn't entirely accurate.

What Are Vegan or Sustainable Leather Bags?

While it resembles real leather, vegan leather is made from a host of materials like synthetic or plant-based components. Vegan leather is widely produced using PVC and polyurethane, especially in the fast fashion sector. These materials are not exactly the most environmentally friendly option because they are made of plastic and petroleum.

Having said that, Sustainable Leather Bags may also be made from substances that are more natural, including cork, paper, and even fruits like apples,cactus,coconut and bananas. Yep, you read that correctly. You can create your handbag using the same elements that go into your morning smoothie.

What Is Genuine or Conventional Leather?

The meat business frequently produces leather as a by-product. Although utilizing leather for clothing minimizes waste, we cannot ignore the enormous effects of the meat business. The meat business is not ethical or environmentally friendly. Grazing cattle is associated with deforestation, and the industry is a significant contributor to greenhouse emissions. Animal husbandry is thought to be responsible for 14.5 to 18% of the world's carbon emissions. 

Critical thought leads us to the conclusion that dumping all the leftover hides will result in even greater carbon emissions. Unfortunately, not all leather that is utilized becomes trash. Farmers are actively encouraged to grow cattle with the primary goal of selling the leather since the sale of skins may be quite valuable for them, frequently more so than the sale of meat, particularly for exotic species.

Animal hides must be tanned (a multistep chemical process) to produce leather to avoid rotting. The most popular way to achieve this is through chrome tanning. To prevent the skin from disintegrating and losing its colour, chrome tanning calls for immersing the hide in a bath of water, chromium salts, and tanning spirits. Chromium is a very hazardous substance that may harm both the environment and human health. Traditional leather workers' health is at danger because of the chromium tanning process, and lax rules result in the unorganized disposal of harmful waste into water bodies surrounding the tanneries.

Vegetable tanning is a viable substitute for leather that is chromium-free. Heavy metals are not used in this traditional process of tanning; instead, tannins from plants and trees are used to clean the hide. However, this vegetable tanning still does not solve the bigger problem caused by animal hide.

Vegan Leather

Vegan leather is a synthetic substance that resembles leather but is produced without using any animals. It is also known as synthetic leather, pleather, or imitation leather.

Vegan Leather Production

The methods used to make vegan leather (PU/PVC) is the biggest issue with vegan leather substitutes. Synthetic materials derived from plastic are frequently used to create vegan leather which is mostly in industrial processes where several chemicals and fossil fuels are combined to create synthetic leather. The most popular materials are PVC or PU (polyurethane) (polyvinyl chloride). These synthetic materials' production and disposal may have negative health effects, including a high risk of cancer. PVC uses plasticizers that are extremely harmful to the environment and releases potentially toxic dioxins.

Since PVC is more harmful than PU, businesses are working to enhance PU to lessen the dangerous chemicals emitted during production and the usage of fossil fuels. Nonetheless, there are considerable environmental dangers associated with it.

The fact that the synthetic materials used to make so-called “Sustainable Leather Bags” can never totally decompose is a significant disadvantage. When disposed of, they may also produce phthalates and hazardous particles that might harm both the environment and animal life. When used and discarded, synthetic fibres also shed micro plastic particles which result in becoming the primary source of marine microplastic contamination.

Innovative Plant-Based Alternatives

Brands and businesses are experimenting with leather substitutes more and more due to the growing demand for vegan and plastic-free leather. Novel materials derived from plants and renewable resources include cactus leather, apple leather, and Piñatex (made from pineapple leaf fibres).

Which Option Is Better?

The environmental effects of leather, both animal hide and plastic derived vegan, are substantial. Which one is the better choice is pretty obvious. With plant-based vegan goods, you can be assured that neither you nor any animals were injured in the production of such goods. Furthermore, the product will biodegrade quickly without the stress of harmful chemicals becoming a part of the soil.

When deciding what to buy, it's crucial to select options that make you feel comfortable and that are consistent with your beliefs. Whether you choose genuine leather or Sustainable Leather Bags, we do advise selecting the product that is least impactful to the environment in the category. Compared to chrome-tanned leather, vegetable-tanned leather is more environmentally friendly. Moreover, keep a look-out for companies that have received certifications to ensure that the production was done with the environment in mind.

In the event you want to be certain that the leather you buy does not support the meat industry? Then the future lies in buying plant-based alternatives rather than synthetic leathers made of plastic - a decision that you will cherish for many years since it will care for, fix, and work towards a better natural ecosystem for our planet. Find timeless pieces of plant-derived leather bags online exclusively with Green Hermitage. Visit now!

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