Pleather before leather (Day 156)…


Alina raised an interesting question on her blog the other day: Where is the organic leather? There’s so much talk of beef that’s organic, grass-fed and hormone-free, but where do our belts, shoes and handbags come from? I remember, not so long ago, Roots began selling these Stop Global Warming bracelets (above) that were made from leather scraps swept off their cutting room floor, and as Alina mentioned there’s this online store, too, but there really aren’t many companies out there making any sort of eco claim to their leather goods.

So because, in this challenge, I’m trying to create a demand only for ethically raised cows, I’m going to stop buying leather from now on unless I know it came from a happy animal on a good farm — and I’m guessing this will never happen. I’ll buy leather products if they’re used, however, and will continue to wear the purses and shoes I already have — mostly, in the latter case, because like my fellow closet environmentalist, my feet don’t smell so pretty after a long summer day in synthetic material.

9 Responses to Pleather before leather (Day 156)…

  1. fawn pea says:

    i feel you on this one, but… pleather? nasty, evil, petroleum-based chemicals. maybe the answer here is not so much about which shoes/purses to buy, but (gasp!) buying less. or as you wisely suggest, buying used.

  2. gettinggreen says:

    Very good point, fawn pea… in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever owned anything pleather and I probably won’t start. I think better alternatives are bamboo, canvas, cotton, etc.

  3. girlanddog says:

    Thanks for posting this… I’m an almost-vegan (eat eggs but no dairy), but I can’t seem to figure out what to do about leather shoes. I don’t buy leather purses anymore, but synthetic shoes are just plain GROSS. Keep us updated on your quest!

  4. Lloyd Alter says:

    There are a couple of people doing it; its not just the cows, its the tanning. Organic Leather, a California company, from a treehugger post,

    use hides which are predominately from “animals that are organically fed and humanely raised.“ And then tanned with plant based tannins. Note the correlation between the lexicon of both the process and the materials used. Modern tanning tends to be high in chromium IV, a known carcinogen, linked to lung cancer, if inhaled. In contrast to the usual cocktail of chemicals found in the common tanning, or curing of hides, Organic Leather suggest theirs has zero toxicity. “The run off from these tanneries is non-toxic and can go straight out on to the fields.” Aside from using certified and transitional organic hides, they look for reclaimed leather to use in some of their products, like journal covers. Founders, Rowan Gabrielle and Stacie Wickham were at one time both vegetarians, so we assume the aspect of ‘humanely raised’ is well assessed. The line of products includes belts, bags, jewelry, journals and custom pieces.

  5. Not to get nitpicky, but isn’t the goal of your blog to be more environmental? To keep going with what Fawn touched on, pleather is at worst, flat out terrible for the environment (and humans and nature) and at worst, just bad for the environment.

    Most pleather, particularly in the US, is completely the opposite of environmentally friendly.

    Most of it is vinyl, polyvinylchloride, which apart from being plastic, is perhaps the most foul substance ever devised by man. You can learn more about it by watching the documentary, Blue Vinyl, but very quickly, Vinyl destroys life at every stage of its development. It sickens the workers in the factories that manufacture it and live down river from the plants causing rare cancers, brain disorders and developmental disorders, it off-gasses during use poisoning the person who is using the item, and , because it’s essentially plastic, it never biodegrades, it just ends up in the world’s oceans where it continue to leach its poisons, poisoning fish and than ultimately us. Even if you’re a person who is concerned with animal welfare, it’s probably better for animals as a whole to buy ethically raised, and environmentally tanned leather, than to buy pleather – plastic acts as a persistent endocrine emitter literally destroying the reproductive cycles of dozens of types of animals including us.

    And, unlike leather which, environmentally, is not fundamentally flawed, pleather (even the less toxic polyurethane), is. Leather, will eventually biodegrade. Plastic never will.

    There’s also the question of life of product. Pleather, despite the fact that it’s a persistent toxin, is not as durable (this is anecdotal) as leather. As the item wears out sooner, you will ultimately end up buying more, and thus putting more pleather products into our nations landfills. Pleather is also more difficult to repair than leather – i.e. you’re more likely going to have to throw out the pleather item, as repair will not be feasible.

    I think you’re best bet is used first, than natural fibers when possible, than leather (preferably the kind that Lloyd recommended).

  6. ack—I really should proofread.

    a couple of things. Plastic is an endocrine disrupter, not emitter :-P, and at “best” it’s just “bad for the environment.”

    And I realize you’re Canadian so your pleather may not be vinyl.

  7. BP says:

    There is no leather that is environmentally sound. The amount of resources (water, land) needed to produce just one pound of beef is astronomical and that’s where your leather comes from…beef. If you want to make an environmental statement about leather, don’t buy any. I’m support you on buying used, the damage has already been done.

  8. BP I politely disagree. One can raise cows in a manner that is in keeping with maintaining beneficial environments.

    What a lot of people forget is that yes, energy input in and energy out for animal products is large, but that when you’re looking at environmental systems it’s not the same as calculating the amount of energy needed to charge an ipod. Environmental systems are complex.

    Cows (and other animals, including humans) are part of the natural order of things. They’re good for the environment, yeah I said it, good for the environment. What’s not good, is the sheer quantity we’ve chosen to raise, and the manner in which we choose to raise them (and I include raising humans in this category).

    Cows consume a lot of energy, yes, but we can vastly reduce the amount of energy they consume by pasture raising (as opposed to feeding), and locally raising the animals (no more feedlots), and eating less meat.

    Also, annoyingly, what’s never included in energy calculations on meat is the energy they provide in their waste, yes waste. If you look at manure for what it is: compost, then really animals are startling efficient at creating compost. A non-animal compost system will take a minimum of a month (and only if you’re operating on an industrial scale) to make compost. Cows poop daily. Cow poop is also an excellent fuel source (just ask Indians, from India.)

    Just because we choose not to use it (using synthetic fertilizers, and oil based fuel sources) doesn’t mean that we can’t close the loop.

  9. Lori V. says:

    I agree with most everything you’ve said so far, AMP, but if you’ll read it all, I believe the only thing that implied that Vanessa endorsed pleather is the title of her post, which, I think, was chosen only for the assonance of the words. She stated that she doubted she would ever buy pleather, that she thinks natural materials are always best, and that her plan was to reduce her use first.

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