The Future of Leather: Cactus, Mycelium, and Pineapple Leaves
New sustainable leather is coming from cactus. It is an environmentally friendly leather that is lightweight, durable, and flexible. It can be used to create shoes, bags, and apparel and is also biodegradable.
Two entrepreneurs from Mexico developed a process that turns cactus into vegan leather, the first truly eco-friendly leather.
The cactus harvest is completely organic. It does not require pesticides and does not require irrigation. The raw material is harvested from a cactus plant, which is naturally a part of the desert. The plant can survive in the desert with minimal water.
Cactus leather is available in several different colours and textures. The texture is similar to animal leather. This product is also durable, making it ideal for home furniture and apparel.
Desserto, a company that produces cactus leather, is accredited by Oeko Tex, a group working on protecting the environment. The 14-acre farm that the company has created is carbon negative, meaning that it absorbs more CO2 in a year than it emits.
Pineapple Leaf Leather
Using pineapple leaves to produce leather is an eco-friendly alternative to animal hides. It’s also more ethical. The leaves come from the agricultural harvest in the Philippines; the leaves would typically be left to rot. This means that the farmer gets an extra income from the harvest. It’s also a green solution to the massive waste created by the traditional leather industry.
Instead of being thrown away, the pineapple leaves are processed into Pinatex. Hundreds of manufacturers have used this breathable and lightweight natural material since 2015. The material can be printed on and is available in four wardrobe-friendly colours.
The traditional leather industry uses chemicals and harsh solvents to produce its products, many of which are toxic. But the pineapple leaves are natural and biodegradable.
Mycelium (fungi) Leather
Mycelium leather is a new type of material. It is a synthetic material with a similar texture to animal leather, but it is made from an underground root-like network. The fungus that makes it grows in a temperature-controlled tray. It eats the substrate, and it creates a hard, textured panel.
The fungus can be used to make structural fabric-like materials. Mycelium can also be used to make a durable, woven leather substitute or a bullet-resistant Kevlar-based material. These products haven’t been on the market very long, but there is some excitement about their potential as alternatives to traditional products.
Some of the largest manufacturers in the world, such as Adidas and Dell Technologies, have begun using mycelium to package their products. In addition, Stella McCartney has partnered with a biotechnology company, Bolt Threads and MycoWorks, to develop mycelium-based leather, such as the material she unveiled at Paris Fashion Week last October.
While mycelium-based leather is still in its early stages, many companies are developing mycelium-based alternatives to traditional leather. Some companies work with high-end fashion retailers to bring the material to consumer markets.
Why not Cows?
Most people don’t give much thought to the emotional capabilities of cows. They aren’t even protected by law. But they are highly intelligent animals. They have a strong sense of social interaction. They are also curious and adventurous. They are able to recognize many other members of the herd and their faces.
Cows produce methane, a form of greenhouse gas even worse than CO2. They graze on lands that are often better suited to provide crops for human consumption, and farmers often resort to cutting and burning forests to increase their grazing land.
In addition, the animal-based leather industry is known for using harsh, toxic chemicals in processing leather. It is often completed in developing nations where environmental protections are weak, and worker exploitation is commonplace.
Vegan leather avoids all of these problems, and it only makes sense to find alternatives to the old ways in a world with an ever-increasing human population.