True Cost Tuesday, Vol. 7

True Cost Tuesday, Vol. 7

Happy True Cost Tuesday, where we unpack some of the reasons behind why we at Yobel only provide fair trade, ethical, and sustainable clothing and accessories. This is volume seven and you can read previous volumes here. Today I’ll be talking more about sustainability in fashion, specifically leather.

Occasionally at Yobel we get the question, “Do you have vegan leather products?” Many eco-friendly and animal rights positions can lean towards the support of only vegan products. At first this seems like a great idea but as with most topics there are several facets which is also the case in the world of vegan products.

First, the majority of specifically vegan leathers include plastics. There are companies working on alternative leather options which is wonderful; however, they still use harmful and chemical ingredients. Pineapple leather, for example, sounds really cool! Well, unfortunately pineapple leather is non-biodegradable because the pineapple leaves are combined with a petroleum-based resin to create the product. That means it’s not even close to being good for the planet and actually harms it further.

Natural fiber and plant-based fabrics can be a great alternative to leather if someone prefers vegan materials. The main reasons against leather are the harmful chemicals in leather tanning and processing, and the potential mistreatment of animals bread for their hides. While we do not condone chemicals or mistreatment in the least, we as consumers have the buying power to make informed purchases that aren’t contributing to those conditions and behaviors.

Leather can be beneficial to the environment if processed and sourced in an eco-friendly manner. Hide is a biproduct of the meat industry and if not utilized, will be burned or thrown away ending up in landfills. Some fashion companies work with the meat industry for the hide which in turn creates less waste. The tanning process can also be completely handled without chemicals when vegetable tanned. If leather ended up needing to biodegrade, it either won’t or it will emit harmful pollutants when it does if it was tanned with chemicals (most popular are formaldehyde and arsenic). If it was vegetable tanned, the breakdown of that leather will not be harmful to the environment, and it actually can break down.

At Yobel, we offer a variety of amazing artisanal accessories such as handbags and wallets. While much of it is leather, it’s all vegetable tanned, sourced from the meat industry or it’s deadstock and scraps from other projects for zero waste. If you’d like a non-leather option from Yobel, you’ll find canvas and hemp alternatives that are not mixed with any plastics.

We encourage you to think a bit further before assuming that anything with the term “vegan” on it in the fashion industry is a good thing. I’ve even been on websites that say alternative leathers are for “a better world”, but as I’ve explained that’s rarely the case. Please take the time to look into a company, learn about their leather or plant-based manufacturing and purchase accordingly. As you’ve heard me say before, we as consumers have options to purchase from sustainable and fair-trade companies.