A lot of the leather that is sold in stores comes from cows, but the skins of elephants, crocodiles, and even dogs are also used to make leather goods. The cruelty associated with the animal leather industry is disturbing in itself, but there are other reasons people should reconsider buying leather. In addition to the animal cruelty aspect of leather production, cattle farming is contributing to deforestation and climate change. The process used for tanning leather also exposes workers to dangerous chemicals that have been known to cause cancer, as well as pollute the environment.
There are plenty of reasons to avoid using leather, and as more people begin to realize the environmental impact of the cattle industry and the cruelty involved in leather production, the demand for alternatives is growing. The fashion industry has long been a leader in this movement, with countless companies like Stella McCartney and Matt & Nat appealing to vegans and non-vegans alike by offering high-quality and fashionable shoes, bags and accessories made from leather alternatives that are better for the planet. Even car companies like Tesla are choosing to ditch leather and opt for vegan alternatives.
But even though synthetic alternatives to leather have been around for decades, many are still petroleum-derived or contain PVCs, a known toxin. The desire to reduce dependence on oil and find more sustainable alternatives to leather has led companies to come up with innovative ways to create durable, leather-like products using everything from plants to bio-fabricated materials grown in a lab.
Here are a few of the innovative companies making leather from things you might never expect!
1. Ananas Anam
Started by a former leather industry expert who wanted to find an alternative that was safer for humans and the environment, Ananas Anam is making a leather-like material from the fibers of pineapple leaves, which are a by-product of pineapple harvest. The material, Piñatex, is made by extracting the fibers from the leaves, which is then turned into a base material to make durable wallets and bags. Making sure nothing goes to waste, even the by-product of the fiber extraction process is recycled by turning it into fertilizer and converting it into bio-fuel.
BioCouture is seeking out ways to make clothing from eco-friendly and biodegradable sources – the idea is you can compost the clothing when it wears out. Items include leather-alternative jackets, skirts and shoes made from cellulose — and it all started by growing bacteria in a bathtub with sweet green tea. When you consider the amount of clothing that’s sent to landfills every year, having a compostable option seems like the perfect alternative.
3. Green Banana Paper
Green Banana Paper/Facebook
Made from recycled banana trees, Green Banana Paper is making sturdy, water-resistant wallets that are durable like traditional leather but are a much more humane alternative. Their methods are also sustainable since they use banana leaves that would otherwise go to waste post-harvest. Since the company started on the island of Kosrae, Micronesia, they’ve recycled over 170,000 pounds of leaves, created jobs in their tiny community and helped banana farmers earn extra income.
4. Modern Meadow
With a mission to make animal-free products that mimic the real thing, Modern Meadow is taking the cruelty out of the leather industry by using living cells to create bio-fabricated materials exactly like leather, all without harming a single animal. With everything being grown entirely in a lab, this mind-blowing technology is a complete game-changer that gives people the products they want without leaving behind a large carbon footprint.
Mushrooms add a hearty texture to plant-based dishes and are often used as a substitute for meat, but MycoWorks is taking things a step further by using mushroom mycelium to make leather. After 20 years of research, they’ve developed an eco-friendly leather alternative that’s strong, water-resistant and completely biodegradable. The company is able to custom-grow the material into virtually any size or texture desired, making it the perfect alternative to animal leather.
Based in Milan, Italy, this innovative company has developed a way to make leather using the skins, stalks, and seeds of grapes. These by-products of the wine industry usually go to waste, but Vegea has found a way to turn it into a leather-like fiber. This patent-pending technology will be used to turn nearly 14 billion pounds of grape marc that’s discarded globally every year into a cruelty-free leather alternative that can be used for everything from accessories to furniture.
With so many leather alternatives already available and more likely on the horizon, it is our hope that cruelty-free and eco-friendly alternatives will soon be in higher demand than animal-based leathers. It is a better choice for the animals, as well as our planet.
Lead image source: Green Banana Paper/Facebook