What is faux vegan leather made of and is it really eco-friendly?

Leather is one of the most traditional materials in the history of clothing. Still, it has also been one of the most controversial due to its obvious link to the very unethical and not at all eco-friendly meat industry. This is when vegan faux leather makes its appearance ... but is it really more eco-friendly or sustainable than its infamous counterpart? 

Vegan leather.  What is it, exactly? 

Vegan leather is mainly defined by what it doesn’t include: animal skin. Vegan leather is an alternative to traditional leather that is manufactured from synthetic materials or natural resources. Since 1920 it seeks to mimic the appearance and texture of conventional leather, but without involving any animals during its production.

The first company to make a type of vegan leather was the U.S. Rubber Company, which called their innovation "Naugahyde.” Made out of vinyl, at the time, faux leather was mainly used in handbags. However, today different types of vegan leather can be used in jackets, handbags, shoes, belts and more.

Is vegan leather more sustainable than real leather?

The meat industry, where most leather comes from, has been one of the largest polluters ever. It's responsible for approximately 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s worth noting that it not only pollutes the air but also contaminates waterways with chromium and other highly toxic chemicals when processing and curing leather. It can even generate health problems in both workers (underpaid, as well) and nearby communities.

While it's clear that traditional leather wreaks havoc on our environment, there are vegan leathers that have a questionable sustainability record, to say the least. However, nowadays, vegan leather alternatives are more sustainable than the "real" thing, don't involve nasty plastics, and don't pollute our precious natural resources.

Is vegan leather ethical?

It's no secret that most of the meat industry doesn't have a shred of ethics, especially when it comes to leather production. This is where the worst cruelty of the human being rises to the surface. Particularly taking into account that leather is not only made from cowhides, where leather is usually (not always) a by-product of the meat industry, but also from exotic animals such as snakes, ostriches, and crocodiles. Vegan leather, however, is quite the opposite. It mimics the feel and look of leather but is cruelty-free and therefore absolutely ethical.