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Leather household goods have become somewhat of a staple for many — and even many of those people who opt for healthier, more plant-based eating still purchase leather goods, such as couches, ottomans, and the like from time to time. While those who have fully embraced the vegan lifestyle typically cut these materials from their households altogether, it’s not always easy or practical to throw away all your current leather goods and start from scratch. But whether you already steer clear of leather or not, you can make choices going forward to stay away from this material in your home good choices. Here are some reasons why you should do just that:

1. It’s Bad for Animals

This is perhaps the most obvious reason you should avoid leather in your home materials, but it needs to be repeated. If you’ve recently started eating more plant-based and are beginning to better wrap your mind around the horrors of factory farming for animals, leather production is no picnic, either. When you choose leather home goods, you are choosing to sit on the skin of a dead animal. When you really think about it, that’s sort of weird, right? Why choose to scalp sentient beings when there are so many alternatives out there, anyway?

2. It’s Bad for the Earth

Leather processing is a complicated process, involving tanning, dyeing, finishing, and more. Involved in all of these steps is a slew of chemicals — most of which are terrible for the environment. Think polymers, resins, dyes, spewing back into the environment in the name of a shiny couch. What? As Peta explains, even the “green” leather is not-so-good:  “Although some leathermakers deceptively tout their products as ‘eco-friendly,’ turning skin into leather also requires massive amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes, some of them cyanide-based. Most leather produced in the U.S. is chrome-tanned; all wastes containing chromium are considered hazardous by the EPA.” And can you imagine the health impact for workers in the leather field? Yikes!

3. It’s Bad for Your Health

Now that we’ve covered just some of the toxins used in the process of making leather for furniture and other goods, we can take this a step further and consider the health impact of leather home goods sitting in your home. These things are with you in your home day and night. If its couches, you’re sitting on them constantly, allowing your skin to touch this material made from the skin of animals and then processed with countless earth-harming chemicals until it’s soft and supple to the touch. This texture comes with a price — your health. Leather furniture can off-gas for years, as explained by Chemically Injured: “Offgassing is the evaporation of volatile chemicals in non-metallic materials at normal atmospheric pressure. This means that building materials can release chemicals into the air through evaporation. This evaporation can continue for years after the products are initially installed which means you continue to breathe these chemicals as you work, sleep and relax in your home or office.” Do you really need that constant exposure to leather toxins? Didn’t think so.

The good news here is that there are plenty of alternatives to leather for your home. The obvious choices include couches upholstered with cotton, corduroy, or linen. Many microfiber blends will work, too — just make sure they don’t include animal byproducts. Opt for fiber-based materials, and you’ll be saving animals, the earth, and your health. If you own leather home goods right now but can’t afford to trash it immediately, that is okay, too. Consider a sofa cover until you can find an alternative, or consider expediting your new furniture hunt by bargain shopping ala Craigslist or garage sales. Another idea is to consider building your own animal-free futon couch with a wood frame and DIY materials like a futon cushion and cotton futon cover.  But whatever you do, don’t buy new leather furniture and home goods, for the sake of all of the parties mentioned above.

Image source: Reiner Kraft/Wikimedia Commons