Leather is one of the most popular materials used in the fashion industry. Its versatility and durability stand out; that's why many manufacturers prefer to produce shoes, bags, wallets, etc.
However, people are becoming more and more aware of fast fashion's negative effects (leather production being part of it). The fashion industry is second to the oil industry in terms of negative impact on the environment.
As more and more people are becoming aware of this, rises the demand for eco-friendly and sustainably sourced leather.
Conventional Leather Production and It's Negative Impacts on the Environment
For us to understand the negative impacts of conventional leather production on the environment, we must first understand the three stages of leather production:
Obtaining Raw Materials
Leather is made from hides of bovines like cows, sheep, and goats. Millions of bovines are being used for leather production every year. The rearing of these bovines for the meat and leather industry has led to deforestation, greenhouse emissions, overuse of water and land, and of course, climate change.
In the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), most leathers were given an impact of 159 or more when it comes to negative contributions to the environment compared to other materials like cotton (98) and polyester (44).
After acquiring the raw materials, the hides will then go through the tanning process. During this process, hides are turned to leather by changing the skin's protein structure, making it more durable and less vulnerable to decomposition.
Chrome tanning is the conventional way of tanning hides. Chrome tanning makes use of chrome tanning agents, which produces carcinogenic chromium, a highly toxic chemical. Chrome tanning is a faster method than others, but it is the most harmful to the environment.
The US and Europe have regulations in place to regulate tanneries using this method, but developing countries still have none.
Producing the finished leather goods
The first and second stages of leather production are seen to be the most problematic.
What is the alternative?
It is important to take note that the leather industry is a by-product of the meat industry. If fashion stops using leather but people are not cutting off their meat consumption, it can lead to ten million tons of raw hides and organic waste skins. This also leads to other problems such as rotting and odor if not disposed of.
For the leather production process, manufacturers can choose vegetable tanning. Vegetable tanning makes use of tree barks and oak – all-natural materials in turning hides into leather. It is more expensive, takes more time, and doesn't always result in the desired smoothness, but it is an eco-friendlier option.
Things to Consider When Buying Sustainable Quality Leather
Type of Leather
When it comes to leather wallets, these are the types you should choose:
- Full Grain Leather – made from the hide's outermost layer, thus produces the highest quality leather you can get. It has a natural aging characteristic called patina, making it more beautiful over time.
- Top Grain Leather – this leather is sanded or buffed in order to reduce the blemishes from the hide. It's more affordable but it doesn't age as beautifully as the full-grain, making it the second-highest grade.
What type of leather to avoid:
- Genuine Leather – this leather type is made of scrap pieces and uses harmful chemicals and plastic in its production. This is the lowest grade leather. It does not age well and dries and cracks after prolonged use.
Leather Tanning Process
Choose a leather wallet that uses the vegetable tanning process. As mentioned above, leathers processed through vegetable tanning is eco-friendlier and more sustainable.
Karakoram2 has slim women's wallets and men's leather wallets that are ethically sourced. It is made of premium, sustainably sourced full grained leather and uses vegetable tanning. So, buying from them means supporting eco-friendly initiatives.
Check out their Sublime Wallet for men. It can hold up to 12 cards, fit all international currencies, is protected with the RFID protection technology, and has two easy pull tabs and an inner coin pocket – all these in a slim and non-bulky wallet. It also comes in beautiful 2 tones of navy blue, black and brown!
Women can also enjoy Karakoram2's Glorious Wallet. It has a slim profile but with elegant storage! It can hold up to 12 cards – 8 are accessible, and 4 are hidden, has a phone pocket able to hold large phones, hidden cash pockets, sim card, and pin storage, coin zip pocket, and a detachable wristlet. It has storage for your everyday needs!
Why Should You Buy Sustainably Sourced Leather?
Buying sustainably sourced leather means you care for the environment. It means you are concerned about the negative effects conventional leather production has on the environment.
When you buy sustainably sourced leather, it means you do not tolerate environmental harm. It is your way of telling companies who continue to use this harmful process that you are not in approval of their ways.
Purchasing sustainably sourced leather means calling for accountability. It is calling for these companies to stop and revert to ways that are eco-friendlier.
Buying sustainably sourced leather is a step to healing. Showing companies that consumers value ethical and eco-friendly processes will make them rethink their ways and give in to the people they considered the lifeblood of their business.
Being the second industry contributing to the destruction of our environment, the fashion industry must rethink the ways of their production. They must give more value to environmental preservation rather than profit.
We only have one Earth, and as its stewards, we must do our part in saving and preserving it. Letting go of the damaging leather production process and shifting into an eco-friendly one is a good environmental sustainability step.
We do not live just in the present, and we have to think of the future. To ensure that the future generations will still have an Earth to inherit, we must do our part to make sure we still have an Earth to hand over to them.