Leather is treated and tanned animal skin. The durable material usually comes from cattle used in the meat industry. However, snake, alligator, crocodile and kangaroo leather are common in luxury and high-end markets.
For decades, leather has been a popular material for clothing, bags and interiors. The sturdy quality and rustic aesthetic of leather make it a popular choice for many products. However, leather manufacturing requires massive amounts of energy and uses potentially deadly chemicals. Unfortunately, the majority of modern consumers are unaware of the harmful impact their leather goods are having. In this post, we’re sharing the environmental consequences of leather and why suitable leather alternatives are more important than ever.
The Environmental Impact of Leather
As a by-product of the meat industry, leather automatically has a significant carbon footprint. Farming, killing and handling dead animals require large amounts of energy, increases carbon emissions and demands high quantities of water. To cater to the growing demand for livestock, businesses and corporations often destroy natural landscapes. These demolished regions are then repurposed to home farm animals. As a result, greenhouse gases are released, killing the trees and plants that could counteract this.
Increased Methane Emissions
Cattle are one of the most significant contributors to global warming as they naturally release methane, a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide!
Destroying Natural Habitats
As we make more space for farming, we’re spoiling the habitats of other wildlife. Destroying animals’ natural environments weakens local ecosystems and decreases levels of biodiversity— something that will affect the wellbeing of all living creatures, including humans.
Contributing to Water Scarcity
According to the World Economic Forum, water scarcity is one of the most significant environmental risks we’re facing. Farming cattle, for food and leather, demands large quantities of water. The University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources statistics’ show cows require one gallon of water per 100 pounds of body weight! And this can be even higher in warmer locations.
Chemical treatment is used on dead animal skin to stop it from decomposing. This process is also what gives the leather its well-known tan colour.
Leather tanning uses large amounts of water and chemicals. Not only does this result in substantial water wastage, but it exposes workers to potentially deadly toxins. These chemicals can cause cancer, respiratory problems, skin reactions, digestive problems and organ damage. In lower-income countries, where there are fewer regulations, young children as young as ten are exposed to these chemicals. Not only is leather manufacturing bad for the environment, but it is often unethical too.
What can we do to help?
The continued manufacturing of leather will further damage the environment and put individuals at risk. Leather is valued for its durable, sturdy characteristics. However, viable leather alternatives, such as Texon Vogue, are just as strong. As eco-friendly, conscious consumers, we can purchase Vegan leather alternatives and do what we can to protect the planet. Find out more about Sustainable Vegan Leather alternatives in one of our previous blog posts.