You’ve probably heard the phrase “dress for the job you want,” but there’s no standard uniform for environmental heroes. We know one thing without a doubt, though: Leather made from animals’ skin is one of the worst things for the environment and the other species with whom we share the planet. Read on to find out how leather destroys and why it has no place in your wardrobe, then discover how you can dress for kindness and success.
Is Vegan Leather Better for the Planet Than Animal Skins?
Yes! According to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, leather made from cow’s skin contributes more to global warming, water pollution, water depletion, and greenhouse-gas emissions than any synthetic or plant-based vegan leather. Cow leather has nearly 10 times the negative environmental impact of plant-based leathers, such as Piñatex, and nearly six times that of polyurethane, a synthetic vegan fabric.
Animals Don’t Have to Die—Rock Plant-Based Leather Instead
More than a billion cows, sheep, and other animals are killed annually for their skins worldwide. Much of the leather sold in U.S. stores comes from countries where animal welfare laws are nonexistent or largely unenforced.
In Thailand and Cambodia, PETA entities’ eyewitnesses saw workers repeatedly bashing cows in the head with sledgehammers. In India, herds of sensitive, social cows are often forced to march hundreds of miles to their deaths, through scorching heat and dust, without food and water. The animals’ tails are deliberately broken, and tobacco and chili peppers are rubbed into their eyes to drive them on or force them to stand when they collapse. In Brazil—the world’s single largest source of animal hides—a video exposé from PETA U.S. revealed that gentle cows and bulls were burned in the face with hot irons, beaten, and electroshocked.
The next time you shop, remember whose skin you’re purchasing and think of what they were forced to endure to be used for a jacket or belt. There are many innovative, animal-friendly ways to achieve the leather aesthetic—including using fruits. That’s right, you can dress with the ingredients of your favorite drink and wear leather made from pineapples, cacti, and grapes!
Leather Is a Human Rights Issue, Too
There’s nothing natural or eco-friendly about leather. Turning a cow’s skin into leather is one of the most unnatural processes—halting decomposition through chemical baths and dehydration. Formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes—some of which are cyanide-based—are used to turn animal skins into finished leather goods.
This toxic waste runs off into local water sources in countries like Bangladesh, poisoning entire ecosystems and giving tannery workers skin cancer at rapid rates. An estimated 90% of Bangladeshi workers will die before the age of 50 due to the hazardous production of leather.
Speak for the Trees—and the Rivers, Land, and Animals
Raising cows requires thousands of acres of land be cleared of trees and wildlife. Up to 80% of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has been caused by cattle ranchers destroying land to raise animals for their skins and flesh.
Beyond the gruesome ways in which farmers and ranchers treat the animals they exploit for their bodies, manure and fertilizer from cattle ranches can leach nitrogen and phosphorus into the ground and waterways. This leads to “dead zones,” kills fish and plants, and throws the balance of entire ecosystems out of whack. Animal agriculture, one of the leading causes of the climate crisis and deforestation, consumes over one-third of the world’s finite freshwater sources and takes up 70% of all agricultural land. Think of the damage that we could prevent if more people wore vegan!
Urge Levi’s to Go Green—for Real
Levi’s claims that sustainability is sewn into the fabric of everything that it does, from its manufacturing process to its climate change initiatives. Yet the company continues to use cows’ skin for the patches on its jeans. Committing to using only vegan leather on its jean patches would be an easy first step toward legitimizing the company’s claims of being a sustainable and compassionate industry leader. By doing so, Levi’s would join the ranks of von Holzhausen, Tesla, and Jon Bon Jovi’s clothing line, all of which have already made the switch to vegan leather.
Let Levi’s know that it must replace animal skin with vegan leather in its products immediately if it truly intends to protect the planet.