Vegan leather, unlike the kind made from animal skin, is often created from polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In recent years, more sustainable materials are replacing plastic to create the look and feel of real leather. These include bio-based materials such as fruit waste, mushrooms, cacti, kelp, and cork.
As more consumers become aware of the harmful effects of the leather industry on animals and the environment, the market for alternatives is quickly growing. According to a recent Infinium Global Research report, the vegan leather market is predicted to be worth $89 Billion by 2025, an incredible and positive forecast for our planet.
Here is your guide to vegan leather, including what it is, how it’s made, and why you are better off using vegan leather products for your precious pets.
What Is Vegan Leather?
Just a few years ago, the word vegan evoked negative connotations. Due to increased awareness of animal abuse and cruelty in the meat, dairy, and leather industries, more consumers are switching their views about the word and lifestyle, and are turning to vegan products in the name of kindness and sustainability.
Vegan leather is often made from PVC, PU, and, in recent years, bio-based materials. This faux leather goes by names like PU leather, pleather, artificial leather, and synthetic leather. PU or PVC leather is made by binding plastic to a fabric backing. Bio-based materials that are replacing plastic include cacti, kelp, cork, fruit waste, recycled coffee grounds, and mulberry tree and teak leaves.
Vegan leather is thinner than real leather and lightweight, but it can be just as durable when purchased from the right company. It is an ethical and cruelty-free alternative to traditional leather, which comes from cowhide. Leather products also come from goats, buffaloes, snakes, and alligators.
What is Vegan Leather Made Of?
A pet leash or handbag with a vegan label on it is most likely made of either plastic-based PVC, PU, or organic materials such as fruit waste. Project Blu’s line of Apple Leather is vegan and composed of apple peels (a byproduct of the apple juice industry) and bio-based polyurethane. The repurposing of apple skin helps the planet by preventing the peels from decomposing and producing methane, a leading contributor to climate change.
“The most common material that is registered with The Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark is PU. The team has recently registered a pineapple leather and rice husk shoe soles,” says Francine Jordan, media and PR officer at The Vegan Society. Founded in the United Kingdom in 1944, The Vegan Society is the oldest vegan charity in the world. The society registers vegan products with its Vegan Trademark and ensures that these products are free from animal ingredients and testing.
The world has a major plastic problem and bio-based materials are better for the planet than plastic-based fabric for faux leather. However, plastic leather can still be more sustainable than animal leather. “While we believe that sustainability is a very important factor in today’s purchasing decisions, any alternative to animal leather is preferred,” says Jordan.
If you are looking to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, consider buying vegan leather products made from natural materials rather than non-biodegradable PU or PVC.
Is Faux Leather Vegan?
“While on the surface, being labeled faux leather usually means the main material is PU or similar, sometimes these materials are coated in a finishing spray that can contain ground-up animal leather,” explains Jordan. “Think of it like a silver plating over solid silver—it’s cheaper for the business, but still gives a look that’s similar to the higher-cost version.”
It may be difficult to differentiate faux leather from truly vegan leather. The only way to be certain is to speak to, or read about, the company selling the products. “Or look out for the Vegan Trademark, because we’ll have done all the checking on your behalf,” adds Jordan.
In addition to The Vegan Society’s trademark, you may also look for products that are SGS tested to identify and find the best vegan leather for you and your pets.
Benefits of Vegan Leather
If you’ve made a commitment to going vegan, it’s more than just about what’s on your plate. Veganism is a lifestyle that involves being conscious about where your clothes and coats come from, what we consume, and the kind of accessories we and our pets adorn.
There are a number of benefits of vegan leather:
Vegan leather means that no animal has been harmed in the making of the product you’re purchasing, whether that’s a vegan coat, handbag, or an accessory for your pet.
It’s Less Expensive
Vegan products often cost less than traditional leather products, as they don’t add in everything that goes into the lifespan of the animal—from pastureland to food and water.
Imitation leather is just as durable as traditional leather. As a vegan pet owner, you could use leashes made from hemp or nylon, but if you are craving that look and feel of a sturdy leash or a harness without feeling guilty about animal cruelty, vegan pet accessories are your best bet. Project Blu’s apple leather is SGS tested and proven to be even stronger than traditional leather.
It’s Easy to Care For
PU, PVC, and bio-based vegan leather materials can be easily washed with mild soap or spot cleaned with a damp cloth or toothbrush. This is much simpler than attempting to clean genuine leather products.
It’s Good for the Planet
An enormous amount of feed, water, pasture, and fossil fuels is needed to turn animal skin into accessories, making traditional leather unsustainable and bad for the environment.
Leather from cows is a byproduct of the meat and dairy industries, both of which contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Choosing a vegan product means you are helping save the planet.
Is Vegan Leather Durable?
Vegan leather, according to Jordan, can be long lasting and durable—especially PU and pineapple leather. “Both of these types of vegan leather have been found to be naturally waterproof (since they’re made from plastics or pineapple fibres) and lightweight, allowing for them to also be mildew or mold resistant.”
And vegan leather materials are making big strides in the durability department. In fact, the Apple Leather used by Project Blu is SGS tested and certified to be stronger and more durable than traditional, genuine leather.
How to Clean Vegan Leather
When you need to wash your vegan leather products (such as your pet’s leash or collar), use a mild detergent to gently wash it and get rid of the soap residue with a damp cloth. A dampened toothbrush will also do the trick in getting rid of dirty spots.
Because most vegan leather is waterproof, getting your products wet or using a damp cloth to wipe them down won’t cause any damage.
Because conditioning products that prevent cracking in animal leather cannot penetrate vegan leather fabric, sun exposure can accelerate its wear and tear. Be sure to store your vegan leather products away from direct sunlight.
Why Choose Vegan Leather Pet Products
When choosing between vegan leather vs. real leather, the choice is up to you. However, vegan leather is superior in terms of its sustainability, durability, and ethicability.
Pet parents who are already living a vegan lifestyle or choosing to go that route will benefit from investing in pet products that are made from synthetic or natural materials. These vegan pet products don’t harm animals and help to cut down on the environmental impact of the leather industry.