THE SUSTAINABILITY OF FAUX … BUT IS IT REALLY!?
THE ARGUMENT FOR FAUX ...
Animal activists, vegetarians, and vegans can all make a good case for buying faux animal leathers and skins. The practice aligns well with the ideology and lifestyle choice. Purchasing faux leather, commonly known as pleather, and faux furs means that you are not contributing to the act of animal farming and the potential of animal cruelty. Faux is a fraction of the cost and often is hard to tell apart from the real thing. You can find almost every product available made with faux. From automotive interiors to accessories and shoes. The desire for alternatives is also fueling innovation in the textile industry. However, for many reasons, the gold standard still remains the real thing.
THE BAD ...
While faux might have the luxurious look of the real thing it does not have the durability. Take your favorite go-to heels for example. Even though, when made in faux, they are a fraction of the cost, you have to replace them annually. Over the long run you end up paying up to 4-5 times the cost of a good pair of leather heels. Pleather and faux fur does not need the upkeep of its real counterpart. However, it cracks and peels after only a year of use. This is something that cannot be fixed convincingly. While faux fur comes in a range of colors it often feels stiff and itchy.
As well as these synthetic materials, vegan leather can also be made from more natural resources, including pineapple leaves, cork, apple peels, and recycled plastic. However, these are most often combined or coated with non-biodegradable petroleum based materials to achieve durability. Micro-plastic pollution is a big threat, as it uses an extensive amount of water, energy and chemicals to be processed and made into the material which sadly impacts the earth. People think faux is better because it says vegan on it, but sadly that’s just not true.
THE UGLY ...
The fight to be a low cost leather alternative is creating a problem. The human and environmental health implications and the broader assumption of these toxic processes as the 'leather tanning norm .' small tanneries> are trying to compete on price with synthetic 'leather'" he says, and toxic chemical 'shortcuts' are cheaper. Furthermore, attempting to compete with 'synthetic leather' has a paradoxical eventual outcome; the cheap and marketable 'vegan' 'leather' flooded the market in 2017-2018, leading to tens of millions of cow hides sent to the landfill in 2017-18 because they couldn't compete on price
WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?
A consumer awareness survey conducted in the UK revealed that only 25% of people knew that hides and skins were a byproduct of the food industry that would otherwise go into a landfill. 50% think that animals are raised specifically to make leather. Regarding the term 'vegan leather and faux fur,' 74% were completely unaware of their composition being mainly plastic based.
With all of this in mind, whilst buying vegan leather means you’re avoiding using animal products, its replacement is most often plastic-based byproduct of the petroleum industry. These chemicals are harmful to the environment and hundreds of years to degrade. so it’s actually worse for the planet than the real thing.
SO, BACK TO THE REAL THING?
WAIT, HEAR ME OUT ...
Many environmental activists argue that as long as there’s a meat industry, not having a leather industry would be wasteful. If we stopped buying leather while the majority of Americans still eat meat it would generate an enormous amount of waste. Cow leather is biodegradable unlike faux, which returns to the Earth as poison. It is also a material that is extremely durable. Leather has a lifespan that plastic just doesn’t.
With all ethical fashion, there is the issue of cost. Fur is a highly environmentally friendly material, with strict rules that cover everything from farming and trapping to standards, ethics, and labeling. The fur industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. Though Exotic skins and fur can be more expensive, but fair-trade leather or vegetable-tanned leather is not always. Leather and fur have held on for so long because they are durable fabric and by recycling, up-cycling or reselling, it can be a way of mitigating waste. With the popularity of luxury resale websites like PoshMark and the Real Real selling your leather or fur goods can end up having a positive effect on your wallet in the long run.
Leather products treated with vegetable tannins are biodegradable. Not only does vegetable-tanned leather not contain any toxic substance but the use of hides from the meat industry encourages a recycled closed-loop system. Leather and fur goods can last a lifetime, and be upcycled, recycled, reconditioned, resold, and passed down thru multiple generations. Fur farmers and leather craftsmen have been in the business for generations and take great pride in creating their work to the highest standards, both aesthetic and ethical. By opting for real leather or fur, you are supporting a sustainable practice.
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