One of the first things I got into when I started this journey was vegan leather. I knew little about it, but the fact that it was cruelty-free and had the word ‘vegan’ on it seemed just enough for me. Well, it didn’t take me long until I learned that choosing vegan leather can be tricky and YES, far from ethical too.
I read this article in The Sydney Morning Herald and many others after that, which made me realize that understanding the label is crucial. Most vegan leather brands rely on cheap synthetic materials such as PU or PVC (polyurethane), which doesn’t biodegrade and it’s highly toxic for the environment. It also can’t be recycled.
But, like in every industry, we can’t judge all just because a few dared to play with our integrity or took advantage of our ignorance. There are also ethical brands out there (like Matt & Nat who have been making gorgeous vegan leather bags since 1995) that are using the rightful materials.
It’s clear the misinformation has left us in a jam. And if you’ve been buying vegan or faux leather as a conscious decision for the environment, I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve might also been led astray.
Now, you might be asking yourself how are you gonna be able to identify what’s ethical or unethical? Well, mastering a little leather language can be the best way to make the right purchase decisions. Remember, knowledge is power so don’t get caught by the critical nuances on the label.
How to decipher a ‘vegan’ leather label:
Microfiber vegan leather – It can be identified on the label by PU or PVC and, like explained before, these are among the most polluting materials on the planet. So if you see this on a label don’t buy the product under any circumstances.
Natural vegan leather – With no doubt, the best option right now. Look for words such as cork, barkcloth, vegetan, lorica, glazed organic cotton, waxed cotton, paper or cardboard on the label.
Another idea could be trying the products made from Piñatex™, which is a sustainable alternative of leather made out of pineapple leaves. It can’t get more natural than that!
After all, being a conscious consumer means being curious and interested on what’s behind every product we buy, isn’t it? The more we learn, the less we’ll get caught in the ambiguity of labels.