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Real leather vs Vegan leather – which is the environmental choice?


This week it has been announced that the Queen will no longer commission new clothes with real fur and that faux fur will be used in future. We wondered what the environmental angle was on this which led us to think about real leather vs Vegan leather.

The answer is not as simple as it might first appear. Real leather is, for the main part, a by-product of the meat industry. If we accept that we are largely a meat eating society, then it makes sense not to waste any of the by-products. As part of the cycle of life, man has used animal products since ancient times for food, clothing, fertiliser and fuel and all of these products break down into natural compounds.

Vegan leather, despite its name, has very little to do with real leather. The term normally refers to a man-made fabric which seeks to imitate leather and is usually made from a woven base with a type of plastic surface added to it to give a leather type appearance. This surface fabric is man-made from petro-chemicals. Because of the nature of the way it is made, it will not break down in the natural environment after it is no longer considered useful. It will remain for many years to come, potentially breaking down in a way that effects our wildlife. We shouldn’t forget the environmental impact of extracting and using fossil fuels to make our synthetic materials. We understand that development is underway for leather type products made from plant fibres but these aren’t mainstream yet.

The leather industry isn’t perfect. It is flooded with cheap products which feel disposable because we haven’t paid much for them. Some petro-chemicals are used in the dying of leather and we should be lobbying harder to ensure that these don’t harm the environment in the short or long term.

It seems sensible that the Queen will continue to use fur items that she already has in her wardrobe as to throw them out is simply wasteful. We at Fioriblu, think that it is better to choose quality over quantity. Choose carefully. Choose a leather handbag or a belt that you know you will use again and again and again. In the same way that we should try to choose good quality, high welfare meat and treat it as something special. We should be willing to pay a bit more and consume a bit less. Surely this is the way that we will protect our planet for future generations.