Is Vegan Leather Good for the Environment?

Vegan leather handbag.

A brown vegan leather handbag. (Image: Lori Martin via Dreamstime)

The trend for vegan leather is on the rise. Brands are partnered with vegan leather companies to create eco-friendly and cruelty-free products that align with their values. It’s no secret that wearing leather is a thing of the past. The majority of people prefer vegan leather to conventional materials.

However, many people are still unclear about whether using vegan alternatives is better for the planet or not. But what makes this material special, and why are so many people switching to this type of leather? This article will talk all about vegan leather. Keep reading to learn more!

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What is vegan leather?

It is a natural material from which most modern leather is derived. It is made from polyurethane, not animal fur, hair, or skin. Therefore, it does not come from a living creature.

People concerned about animal welfare will often prefer to use non-leather or synthetic materials for these products. It is the perfect material for making bags, wallets, and other small accessories that may fit various styles.

Vegan leather boots made from mushroom mycelium.
Vegan leather boots made from mushroom mycelium. (Image: Maksim Marchanka via Dreamstime)

Is it sustainable?

Regarding the sustainability of vegan leather, attention is given to the sourcing and manufacture of the product. But do you know how it is made? While some vegan leather may be made from plant-based materials, others are created from manufactured products, which can come with several problems. 

Usually, traditional animal leather is used when manufacturing products. Unfortunately, this means that humans treat animals extremely immorally and, at times, unnecessarily torture their skin. Many traditional animal types of leather are tanned using chemicals such as acid, dyes, or wood pulp contaminated with heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic.

Vegan leather is excellent, but it’s not always environmentally friendly. Even though these materials can be better for the planet, it requires a careful assessment before implementation to ensure that businesses can manage all waste streams and costs effectively. 

Plastic-based vegan leather contributes to fast fashion waste and toxic carbon emissions because of the hardware used in the manufacturing process.

Which is better: Plastic- or plant-based?

It seems you can find a cruelty-free leather bag, but it’s not without its problems. Plastic faux materials could kill the planet, just like their animal counterparts. While synthetic leather comes in various styles and colors, it is often made with plastic resins — a non-renewable resource that releases toxic fumes when burned.

On the other hand, plant-based vegan leather is made from natural materials sourced from sustainable sources.

A vegan leather wallet and phone bag.
A vegan leather wallet and phone bag. (Image: Natalia Kopyltsova via Dreamstime)

What is the leather made from?

One of the biggest problems facing vegan leather today is its ability to mimic natural leather. It may look the same, but it isn’t made from natural animal skin hides. It can be made from various materials, which include: 

  • Recycled plastic 
  • Durable wood-based products 
  • Cork
  • Pineapple leaves
  • Apple peels
  • Mushrooms

These are just a few examples of how vegan leather is made and how many companies use green methods like this to create better quality items without harming animals.

Is it durable?

The life expectancy of your leather is based on its durability and the conditions under which it is used. Generally, the more you use your leather, the faster it ages. Unfortunately, this leather is not as durable as its leather counterpart, but it’s become quite popular in many industries.


Vegan leather products can be made from either artificial or natural materials, the latter being much more sustainable. Therefore, looking for the right kind of vegan leather when purchasing clothing, shoes, and accessories is essential.

Every product has a story behind it — even if it’s ethically made, the story remains. So when considering where your money goes, choose sustainable and ethical companies aligning with your values or your community’s environmental goals.

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