Fashion With A Conscience: 4 Ways Leather Can Be Ethically Sourced

  • Simon Archer
  • October 16, 2017
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Like most people, you might love the look and feel of a genuine leather bag. These bags are stylish, trendy, and very fashionable to carry anywhere. However, some of you might also feel conflicted about how ethical wearing leather may be. While organizations like PETA can scream all day about how fur kills, but there’s actually a very moral way you can purchase leather products.

To feel better about leather purchases, quite a few people are going the vegan leather route. “Vegan leather” sounds nice, but it really is just another word for “synthetic leather”, or “faux leather”, or “pleather”. All of that sounds fine until you consider the fact that synthetic leather is non-biodegradable, filling up landfill with chemically based products. Here are a few ways you can go ethical without losing your real leather.

1. All that hide needs to go somewhere!

In 2015, the United States alone produced 25 billion pounds of beef, according to the “Overview of the United States Slaughter Industry”. With this amount of meat being distributed in the states, coupled with Canadian beef production, that leaves a lot of valuable cattle skins that need to be used – unless they’re left to fill up landfills.

As long as there is a demand for red meat worldwide, there will be a hefty supply of cowhide to accompany it. Also, considering that other animals, like sheep, are used in the meat and slaughter industry, it only make sense that the rest of the sheep is put to use in the leather and tanning industry as well. Just think of it as literally saving their hide.

2. Locally sourced means less carbon emissions

A lot of leather products are imported from third-world or developing countries to offset the cost of producing leather goods in North America. Most leather import/export tanning goes something like this: the cattle are most likely raised and butchered in Brazil and India (which provides the most amount of beef worldwide with 19.6% of the planet’s supply coming from both countries), moves to China where the tanning process takes place.

The next stop is India (or stays in India depending on the origin of the cattle) where its dyed and then exported to European and North American countries where it’s stitched, turned into leather products, and sold to the public. With the amount of traveling all of those materials go through, a lot of gas emissions are injected into the air, causing a load of damage to the environment.

3. Craftsmen lead to less industrial waste

There are a lot of reasons to go local with your leather supply. Buying from local companies or companies that source from local craftsmen that either do the work by hand or put more attention to detail in their work. It takes the work away from the mass production line of leather-working and tanning factories (which pump even more carbon emission into the air) and gives it back to honest North American workers. Using hand-crafted leather goods is there by doing good by the environment and the economy.

4. Recycled and free-range leather are other options!

When leather products just about reach the end of their life cycle and they don’t have that luster that they used to – there’s no sense in throwing it out. Old leather products can actually be recycled by shredding the residual leather into scraps that are blended together and glued using resin. Then the glued together result is pressed between metallic molds to make other shapes until they can be used to make the desired item.

The procedures themselves are desired item. The procedures themselves are designed to limit the amount of toxic emission into the atmosphere. With leather recycling, one cow can go a long way.

Another problem that ethical leather lovers can have with the industry is the treatment of livestock. Fret not, just as there are options for free-range meat, there are options for free-range leather. Your leather jacket could easily come from happier cow rather than resorting to a cage-confined beast.


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