Is Animal Leather Better For The Environment Than Vegan Leather?

The impact animal products have on the planet doesn't stop at food.

Animal products used for fashion have a significant impact on our environment.
When we think about synthetic leathers like PVC, we tend to assume that animal leather is the ‘natural’ option. But a 2017 report from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit found that animal leather is, in fact, more damaging to our environment than synthetic leather.

Contrary to popular belief, synthetic leather is better for the environment than animal leather.

For years, the pro-leather narrative led by the leather and meat industries is that animal leathers are more ‘natural’ and last longer than synthetic leathers, along with claims that animal leather is eco-friendly because it is a by-product of the meat. When considering this point we need to take 2 factors into consideration.

1. Animal leather is bought from the meat industry and therefore pays to support it, therefore animal leather is a co-product, not a by-product.

2. Even when we calculate the portion of the animal that is used for leather only compared to meat, the carbon footprint, water usage, and chemical pollution are still huge.

The Process Of Making Animal Leather

1. Raise & breed cows
+ Methane emissions from cows
+ Land use, carbon emission, water used to grow the food to feed the cows
2. Tanning
+ Toxic chemicals are used in the tanning process
+ Tanning process means the leather will not easily decompose at the end of its life-cycle
Environmental Impact

“Synthetic leather has only a third of the environmental impact of cow leather.  As Kering says in its 2015 EP&L statement, different leathers can have an over tenfold difference in environmental impact based on their type and origin, how the animal was raised, and how the tanning process took place. Switching to alternative materials can directly improve a product’s footprint.”


Although faux leather products made from leaf leather, cactus leather, or mushroom leather are optimal, they are not always accessible; especially when they often require a product or material to be imported, therefore adding more carbon emissions. So the toss-up between the 2 is often a close call.
Whether a fashion brand is eco-friendly or not, every part of the fashion manufacturing process has some effect on the environment. So, along with researching the brands you choose to buy from, make sure you love it before you buy it! Wear your clothes for a long time. If you don’t like it, swap it (before it gets old!). When your clothes are no longer wearable, recycle them or donate them to a company that can recycle them!

Most of us take more time considering whether to buy a pair of synthetic shoes than they would to buy a bottle of water.

Apply the same rules to your clothes (synthetic or otherwise) as you would to plastic bottles. Use them as much as you can, reuse them and use them again. Never just throw them in the trash.

The bottom line is that good-quality synthetic leathers are better for our environment, they are kinder, and heck, most of the time they are cheaper than animal-based leathers too!
Leather Environmental Impact

Shoes by Rin Studio

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