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Which one is more sustainable: synthetic or genuine leather?

Which one is more sustainable: synthetic or genuine leather?

Are you on the path of living a more eco friendly and less wasteful life? Well so are we at Be ALAM! Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the right move is.

When it comes to accessories, like shoes and purses, what do we choose? Organic leather? Or synthetic leather? What material do you think has a lower impact on our environment?

This is a little dilemma that we have found ourselves with, we hope our conclusions can help you out!

So, on the one hand we can shop for artificial leather, also called faux leather or vegan leather. This material is mostly either made of PU or PVC;

  • PU leather fabric is made by applying or laminating a 100% polyurethane finish to a base material. Typical base materials include polyester, cotton, nylon, or rayon.
  • PVC leather fabric is very similar to PU leather fabric. Instead of polyurethane, PVC leather fabric is made by combining polyvinyl chloride with stabilizers (to protect), plasticizers (to soften) and lubricants (to make flexible), and then applying to a base material.

And on the other hand we can find genuine leather made typically from bovine hides. There are numerous variations of leather with different types of finishes and added on chemicals used to treat the hides in order for it not to decompose (like for example, biocides, surfactants, degreasers, sodium sulphide, caustic soda, ect).

While there is a clear opposition to genuine leather due to a vegetarian or vegan ideology and environmentally and morally it would be nonsense to raise animals just for the use of their fur, when it comes the hides of animals used for consumption that might not strike as an issue for some people.

Approaching this topic from a sustainable point of view, is vegan leather really a more sustainable alternative?

Both materials undergo a chemical process during its manufacture which means that neither of them biodegrade easily, in fact Greenpeace has labelled PVC as the “single most environmentally damaging type of plastic”. When it comes to genuine leather, despite the chemicals since it is produced from an organic material it has a greater capacity to biodegrade at the end of its life. But, even if we are consumers of meat, do we want to be part of the mass production of it?

Luckily new materials are being created from organic sources, like Piñatex, which is described as “a natural, sustainably produced textile that was developed for use as a sustainable alternative to both mass-produced leather and polluting synthetic materials, offering a better choice for a better future“.

The Be ALAM answer to this dilemma? Like in most cases: REUSE! Look out for second hand clothes, you can go vintage hunting or check out online shops and apps, it is the best way to keep sustainability up while still having that leather jacket you want in your wardrobe.

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