Faux Leather Faux Promotion! The Truth Behind Synthetic Leather

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Over the course of this blog I’ve spoken a lot about the business side of what I want to do and not a lot about the product I want to produce.  My goal is to launch my shoe line.  I’ve been considering the types of products I would use to create the shoes.  I would like to develop an eco-friendly shoe.  There are shoes made of animal byproducts and vegan shoes.  I decided to do some research on both.  Vegan shoes have been given notoriety for being more animal friendly but are they actually greener than shoes that are not?  Some have called that concept into question. The majority of the argument over ethical footwear centers on the use of leather. Some have argued that while synthetic leathers are animal friendly they are not in fact environmentally friendly and pose the same issues in production as that of real leather.

Synthetic leathers are often petroleum-based, and they also require toxic chemicals in production. Some faux leathers are even made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which contains phthalates, chemical additives linked to a variety of health problems.  Certain vegan leathers are cork- or kelp-based, and many mainstream leather alternatives are a blend of cotton and polyurethane. While polyurethane is far from eco-friendly, it’s less problematic than PVC. But the question over what material makes the greenest footwear is more complicated than whether natural or synthetic materials are used.  “Natural fibers and synthetics have their own problems,” Huantian Cao, a professor in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies at the University of Delaware told Mother Jones.

Synthetic leather and leather both require the use of toxic chemicals to produce. Synthetic leather uses PVC. Real Leather is chemically treated so it won’t deteriorate over time. Hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and chromium are all chemicals used in the process.  These chemicals are carcinogenic in large amounts.  Leather production ranks in the top 10 toxic-pollution problems around the world.  There is another option of producing shoes that lowers the amount damage done to the environment.  Shoes can instead be produced using organic cotton and recycled materials.  Simple Shoes, Groundhog Shoes, El Naturalista, Ocean Minded and Soul Seekers Recycled are all companies that produce their shoes using recycled materials.  They use materials like bamboo, recycled car tires, wool, wood, biodegradable bags, cork and water-based adhesives.  Their shoes are all fantastic.  The global footwear industry is estimated to gross over $195 billion by 2015.  That means the sale of many shoes most of which are made from products harmful to the environment.  Personally, I think it is not only important for a shoe to be animal friendly but also environmentally friendly and I will focus my shoe line around that.

Here are some samples of amazing eco-friendly footwear:

Reference Article: Are Vegan Shoes Eco-friendly?
photo credit: publicenergy via photopin cc

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