Material Girls Debunk Eco Myths: How Sustainable are Vegan Leather & Fur?
With Veganuary underway, we thought there was no better time to get involved in the real vs fake debate when it comes to sustainability and animal materials. We’re all for boycotting animal products (you go bestie), but when it comes to vegan clothing alternatives - how much better are they for the planet?
Vegan leather is made up of multiple plastics that are virtually non biodegradable, meaning vegan leather isn’t quite as sustainable as it sounds. That being said, if you don’t want to walk around wearing a dead cow, we get it.
Basically, vegan leather and faux fur have pros and cons when it comes to sustainability. We’re here to list them for you so you can make an informed decision on which side of the fence you sit. Picking your battles is super important , we can't all do everything, but we can all do something. We’ll also offer our insight, because it’s our Thoughts after all.
As an oat-milk lover and vegetarian, I respect vegans for their dedication to cheeseless pizza. But, I think it should be more widely known that vegan leather is built up of harmful chemicals and damaging plastics that don’t reflect the sustainable values most vegans hold close.
- Cactus leather (made from cactus waste) is lined, coated and padded with polyester making it extremely difficult to biodegrade. That’s taking buying clothes to last you years to a whole new level.
- Another type of vegan leather, Desserto, contains 5 toxic substances that pollute rivers and streams, harming the wildlife that lives there
- Other plant based leathers, including grape and apple leather (who knew?!) take a lot of oil to turn into a leather like material, which in itself isn’t great for the planet.
- Vegan leather doesn’t last as long as real leather- so is it really a sustainable investment?
Although, not funding the animal industry is a great thing, so we’re not judging vegans who choose to wear synthetic leather.
How vegan leather is made from fruit pic.twitter.com/FHD1g2F5iE— Insider Tech (@TechInsider) December 14, 2022
Faux fur is similarly good and bad for our planet. Let’s start with some reasons why faux fur isn’t the most sustainable option.
- Toxic chemicals are involved in making the material which harm ecosystems and wildlife.
- Synthetic textile production is extremely bad for the environment. They release microfibres when they are washed , which are then mistaken for food by fish. Therefore when we consume fish there’s a high chance we’re consuming microplastics too (yummy).
- Faux fur is not very durable or weather resistant, meaning the item may not be a long term contender in your closet.
However, it does emit seven times more energy to make a real fur coat than a fake one , so it all depends where your values lie.
What's the tea?
So, what’s the verdict? We're inclinded to say wearing real leather is okay, if purchased second hand, rented, or borrowed from a friend. If you can make peace with rocking a cow skin then there really is no harm, as long as it’s preloved. It will last a lot longer than vegan alternatives and it doesn’t contain plastic or harmful chemicals. It's also important to note that maybe 99% of the time it is a by product, so it's always worth doing a little digging if you think that might bring you some peace. And to be honest, real leather does look better (don’t sue us for that), so there’s that too.
If you’re vegan and dead set in your values, then props to you! If you do purchase vegan leather, we suggest you wear the item as much as possible to make it worth the materials and chemicals involved in making it - same goes for real leather too.
We’re literally a broken record, but the most sustainable option is wearing what you already own, whatever your values. Get involved in the conversation & let us know if you’ll be wearing real or vegan leather this Veganuary.