The Skinny on Leather

Many people don’t think twice about buying leather shoes, leather handbags, leather jackets and leather belts. Leather’s everywhere, and it’s easy to let this material slip into our closets without giving it a second thought.

But, we really should be giving leather a second thought. Why?

Because leather is really, really bad for the environment.

First, let’s start with the cow this leather is coming from. Raising cows is a very eco-intensive process. According to Treehugger, it takes 8 acres of land. 12,000 lbs. of forage, 125 gallons of gas, 2,500 lbs of corn, 350 lbs of soybeans, and 1.2 million gallons of water to raise one cow. And that doesn’t include the resources that are used to grow all that food. And, it doesn’t include the Co2 that cow will emit (through its manure) into the atmosphere.

This also doesn’t include the fact that a factory-farmed cow lives a miserable existence, standing in a dirty stall all day, pumped full of hormones, until it’s fat enough for slaughter. It’s never let outside to walk or feed normally.

So already, we’re in the hole here.

Over 60% of leather comes from the food industry. So when a cow is slaughtered for its beef, then its skin is sold to companies to be processed into leather. But it’s this process that is so damaging to the environment.

Skins must be dehaired, degreased, and desalted before it can be used for anything. This process takes anywhere from 6 hrs. to 2 days, and the chemicals that are used are very harsh. One chemical, pentachlorophenol, is used to prevent bacterial growth; this chemical is a known toxin to humans.

After this first stage the leather must be tanned using vegetables tannins or mineral tannins.

Vegetable tanning, as you can imagine, is the more “eco friendly” process. This process uses natural tannins from bark from the oak, chestnut, hemlock and mangrove trees.

Mineral tanning, on the other hand, is awful. This process primarily uses chromium, which is a known carcinogen to humans. It’s not good for us to have this chemical against our skin all day, and it’s certainly not good for the workers in these leather factories, who must breathe this harsh chemical all day.

On the whole, leather is a material we should try to avoid. Eco friendly fabrics like hemp, bamboo, tencil, organic cotton and jute are so much better for us and the environment!

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One Response to “The Skinny on Leather”

  1. Here’s the sad thing about agriculture and animal raising: people are sadly misinformed. Yes, there are feedlots where animals are mistreated. But many agricultural enterprises are family businesses where cows live in a big field where they are not abused at all. Yeah, that occupies a lot of land. But if we want to talk eco- friendly, what’s better for the environnment? A field with a few cows grazing happily, or a city filled with houses, filled with people who drive cars, use water, electricity and gas in ridiculous amounts?

    Yes, cows release methane. So does every other living creature on the face of the earth. Including you, my sweet.

    Also, if we want to bring up the point on animals being mistreated in feedlots, let’s also point out the fact that abusing animals is a royal waste of money. Who wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars raising an animal, then abusing it so that it’s unhealthy? For that reason, feedlot cows do not stand in a cramped stall all day, up to their knees in manure.

    Unfortunately, many feedlots do use hormones in the raising of their cows. However, there’s a simple solution to that: Buy yoour meat at a local butcher, where the cows are raised by local farmers. The meat is healthier for you and for the environnment.

    Mnay animal-activism groups talk as if agriculture is a harmful industry, run by a group of sadistic people who enjoy treating animals cruelly. That is not teh case. Try looking at teh big picture when you decide to incriminate hundreds of people, and look at both sides of the argument. That does not mean taking your information from teh PETA website.