Clearly, vegan leather is on the rise. It looks just as good as leather and is a more affordable choice. However, there are some major environmental concerns to consider with these alternatives.

Main Reaction - The TFL Blog | January 2020

Are “vegan shoes” more sustainable?

Nowadays, we have the possibility to buy vegan shoes.. What does that mean exactly? Veganism is a practice… the practice of abstaining from using animal products. Could vegan shoes be part of that practice? Vegan leather and faux leather are just two different names for the same material. They describe shoes, boots or jackets that look like leather but are made from artificial leather. No animal hides or skins are used in the production of the leather alternative. Is vegan or faux leather a more sustainable option?

Clearly, vegan leather is on the rise. It looks just as good as leather and is a more affordable choice. However, there are some major environmental concerns to consider with these alternatives.

The majority of leather alternatives come at a significant environmental cost. They are a petroleum-based plastic, better known as PVC or PU, to make them flexible enough to mimic leather. This polymer fabric is made with fossil fuels which when burnt release material such as ash, nitrogen and carbon into the atmosphere. And both are not biodegradable, they will take hundreds of years to biodegrade in landfil - a fate they are arguably more likely to meet, because the cheap faux leather shoe is far less likely to be handed down through generations as an heirloom. Synthetic fibres are very harmful for the environment, they are the biggest source of microplastic pollution in the ocean.

"Conventional leather is heavily criticized for the environmental impact of the tanning process. But there are eco-friendly leathers and as the raw material is a by-product from the meat industry, it doesn’ require additional land and resources, which is a clear advantage."

Sustainable environmental processes within the leather industry is one of the concerns of TFL’s R&D department. Thus, we work on alternative tanning methods using the most advanced environmental friendly techniques - chrome-free if available - in leather production today. Chrome-free tanning recipes combined with other water-based ecological friendly materials based on renewable raw materials are used in the production of leather having a significantly lower impact on the environment. Further measures can be taken by using fresh hides sealed in refrigerated containers in order to avoid using salt to treat the hides for storage. Thus, water conservation is respected from the very beginning.

On top of the ecological friendly production, the benefits of leather are that it is durable, long-lasting and biodegradable, while common vegan alternatives usually are not. Leather can be considered a slow fashion material because of its ability to withstand wear and tear.

All in all, when it comes to sustainability things are never perfectly black and white. Even the most environmentally-conscious manufacturing processes will still have an environmental impact.Just know whatever informed decision you make is entirely up to you and being conscious of the environment when you buy is a step in the right direction.

Catherine, France

Wet-end expert at TFL
#wetwhitetechnologist #tennisplayer #chocolatlover
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