5 Leather Alternative Material That Are Both Vegan and Sustainable
Leather is a controversial material for many ethical fashion lovers. It uses chemicals, tanneries, and animal hides that are harmful to humans and animals. Luckily, there are several leather alternative material that are both vegan and sustainable.
Pinatex is a natural, sustainable leather alternative that’s made from pineapple leaf fibers. This material is not only low-impact, but it also supports farming communities in the Philippines.
Pineapple leather is a cruelty-free alternative to leather that uses natural plant fibers instead of animal hide. It can be made into shoes, bags, wallets, and other fashion accessories. The material is easy to clean and can be printed, embroidered, stitched, embossed, or cut for various design applications. It can also be sprayed with waterproof finishes to make it resistant to stains and water damage.
The company behind Pinatex, London-based Ananas Anam, was founded by Dr. Carmen Hijosa, a leather goods expert who grew dissatisfied with the industry’s unsustainable and cruel practices. She decided to create a sustainable leather alternative free of animals and petrochemicals.
Hijosa’s innovative fabric is derived from the long fibers of pineapple leaves, which are a byproduct of the fruit’s harvesting process. The fibers undergo a series of mechanical processes before they are dyed using GOTS-certified pigments and coated in resin that is REACH compliant.
Unlike many plant-based leather alternatives, which are partly made of plastic, Treekind is a fully biodegradable material. It’s been formulated with lignocellulose from leaves and a natural binder that is designed to break down in soil or water. It’s also vegan and sourced from green waste, making it even more planet-friendly.
It’s also less toxic than traditional leather, as it doesn’t use any harmful chemicals. The company behind the brand, Biophilica, is currently seeking funding to conduct a full lifecycle analysis of the product.
This will help them to make a more sustainable assessment of the material. It’s the first of its kind to use a fully recyclable and biodegradable plastic substitute, and it’s likely to have much lower environmental impact than traditional leather.
Cactus leather is an eco-friendly alternative to animal leather, and it has several benefits. It is breathable, water-based, and free of toxic chemicals. It is also less energy-intensive and produces fewer greenhouse gases than leather.
The cactus leather is made from the leaves of the Nopal cactus (also known as prickly pear). This material looks and feels like traditional leather, but it is more sustainable. It is also a more ethical alternative because it does not require the slaughter of animals.
Desserto, the company that makes cactus leather, claims that its products are biodegradable. However, a recent study found that this claim is misleading. The FILK Freiberg Institute found that some vegan leather alternatives contain banned chemicals, including butanone oxime, toluene, and free isocyanate.
Waxed cotton is an environmentally friendly alternative to leather and is often used in hats, coats, bags, and other gear. It’s water resistant, durable, and ages well with aesthetically pleasing creases and color permutations. It can also withstand punctures and abrasions, unlike leather, making it an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts.
Like leather, waxed cotton will require re-application of the wax coating to maintain its waterproof properties. However, it’s a more sustainable option as it uses plant-based waxes instead of petroleum-based ones.
Another eco-friendly leather substitute is mushroom leather, which is made from mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus). It’s cruelty-free and has similar properties to traditional leather, and it can be produced in a much faster, more sustainable way. This material is currently being scaled up by brands such as Bolt Threads and Myco Works.
In the past, leather alternatives have been dismissed as greenwashed plastic imitations that cannot compete with natural leather. However, recent advances in material science and product design have changed the way we look at them.
One of the most interesting alternative materials is mushroom leather, which uses fungi to replace animal hides. Life Materials’ Muskin Mushroom Leather is made from the caps of a specific fungus and is tanned using non-toxic materials. This vegan leather is breathable, water-resistant, and odorless.
Other leather-alternative fabrics include cork leather, which is sourced sustainably from the bark of trees. It is OEKO-TEX certified, cruelty-free, and biodegradable. Likewise, Leaf leather is derived from the leaves of banana plants and is odorless and water-resistant. This fabric is favored by fashion designers like Stella McCartney.