What Is Vegan Leather Made Out Of?

There’s no denying that leather occupies an exceptional place in fashion. So a nice-looking pair of vegan leather pants or a functional bag is a must for anyone looking to make their closet cruelty-free and more sustainable. This way, you can be confident in what you decide to wear and guilt-free about your purchase.

Vegan Leather Fabric

Vegan leather fabrics are essentially imitation leather. The benefit of choosing vegan leather is that its less costly to manufacture, which means its retail value is usually lower. On top of that, faux leathers do not contain animal products or products tested on animals. The ethical concerns surrounding fast fashion have caused brands like Burberry, Gucci, Versace and Prada to ban fur in recent years.

The Truth About Vegan Leather

Vegan leather should not necessarily be thought of as an eco-friendly alternative to real leather. Most vegan and faux leathers are made of synthetic polymers, which are derived from nonrenewable petrochemicals, i.e. crude oil and natural gases. At each phase of plastic’s lifecycle, from fossil fuel extraction and refining, to manufacturing and use, and even end-of-life (incineration, recycling) greenhouse gases are generated because of these petrochemical ingredients. According to a study titled “Microfiber Release from Different Fabrics During Washing“, leathers made of synthetic plastics shed pollutants during wash and dry cycles. When plastic fabrics are exposed to physical stress, they release microfibers and greenhouse gases into the air and water.

Plant-Based Leather

The good news is that not all vegan leathers are made equal. Plant-based leathers are more environmentally friendly than conventional plastic leathers, and they’re vegan! Plant-based leather is made from repurposed plant material and agriculture wastes. If you’re interested in sustainable vegan leather, then make sure the fabric that you buy is manufactured from organic, renewable sources rather than synthetic plastics.

What Is Vegan Leather Made From?

Vegan leather is often made from polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. Polyurethane, sometimes abbreviated as PU, is a type of organic polymer composed of urethane (rubber) links. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), another popular synthetic plastic polymer, is made of polymerized vinyl chloride. Both PVC and PU leather are made to mimic the look and feel of real animal skin, but their properties are quite different. Vegan leather is thinner and more lightweight than conventional leather and vegan leather will not peel or crack over time, as it does not require moisture like animal skins do.

Vegan Leather for Sale

If you’re interested in vegan leather products, consider shopping at Nordstrom, Target, Free People or Urban Outfitters. When buying your faux leather, be sure to read the product label to find out what materials its made from. Finding a vegan product is not the same as finding a plant-based one. Vegan fabrics will not necessarily contain any animal-derived materials, but may contain synthetic plastics, which can contribute to the build-up of pollutants in air and water ways. For more sustainable fashion, be sure that your purchases are made from¬†renewable sources such as food waste, various crops, vegetable extracts and or wood.

How Is Plastic Affecting the Arctic?

ice in the Arctic ocean
Ice in the Arctic ocean

A new review article, “Plastic Pollution in the Arctic“, contends that high levels of plastic pollution (including microplastics) have infiltrated the Arctic and intensified climate change’s effects. Plastics from agriculture, hydrocarbon exploration, landfills, illegal dumping, industry, households, fisheries, offshore industry and other such sources are routinely carried to and within the Arctic by atmospheric and aquatic circulation systems. As plastics move through the Arctic, they gradually break down and release greenhouses gases, including methane and ethylene.

Is There Plastic In the Arctic?

Transported plastics from local and distant sources are broadly distributed throughout the Arctic. The United Nations estimates that approximately 150 million tons plastic debris may be scattered across the Arctic. Plastics are found on Arctic shores, in the water column, in sea ice and in the bodies of marine biota.

How Does Plastic Pollution Affect Marine Life?

Arctic wildlife are known to ingest, become entangled in or smothered by plastic debris. “Plastic Pollution in the Arctic” reports that Arctic species such as sculpin (Triglops nybelini), the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) and belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) have been found with plastic inside them. Plastic ingestion may even affect marine invertebrates like zooplankton in the east Canadian Arctic and the Fram Strait (a sea channel between Greenland and Svalbard). The review further reports that the organismal impacts of plastic infiltration to many endemic species remain largely unknown.

The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution In The Artic

Plastics drive climate change, in return, climate influences distribution of plastics. Also, both climate change and plastics have oil and gas origins. Plastics are derived from greenhouse gases (GHGs) and continue to release GHGs throughout their life cycles as they degrade. Plastics and microplastics are thus expected to increase ocean heat content (OHC). According to “Plastic pollution in the Arctic”, plastics could also promote glacial thawing by affecting their light absorbance, structure and rheological properties.

Circulation systems, including wind, ocean currents and freshwater river flows, continue to move plastics through Arctic ecosystems long after they are originally introduced. Physical impacts associated with climate change effect the concentrations and distribution of plastic in the Arctic. Sea level rise or higher poleward wind speeds from global warming could transport greater levels of plastic debris to Arctic ecosystems.

These interactions suggest that climate change and plastic pollution are mutually reinforcing. The Arctic may be more sensitive to the effects of ocean warming and plastic pollution than most environments because of its permafrost, snow and ice. Climate change strategies aimed at mitigating ocean warming, will have to account for the emissions from plastic sources as well.

Are Climate Change and Plastic Pollution Related?

Plastic pollution and climate change are the most influential stressors to marine environments globally. These stressors are simultaneously occurring and interactive. Marine plastic pollution is made up of the plastic products that have accumulated in the world’s seas. From production to end-of-life, plastic materials release potent greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and ethylene (C2H4). Greenhouse gases from plastic materials contribute to ocean heating and exacerbate climate change.

Climate change refers to long term shifts in a region’s temperature or weather patterns. Climate events, such as flooding and storms, impact the concentration of plastic’s global distributions. A 2022 review titled “The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution” assembles evidence that demonstrate the feedback loops between climate change and marine plastic pollution.

How Does Climate Change Affect Pollution?

Plastics (including microplastics) are transported from place to place by way of winds, water flow patterns, and storms. Wind and storms can influence the dispersal of plastics. The same is true of flooding events and rainfall patterns. Climate change is already beginning to increase the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather phenomena, and will likely continue to spread plastics into novel environments, where they may disrupt ecosystems and or release heat trapping gases.

How Plastics Contribute To Climate Change

The 2022 review has three categories for plastic’s climate change contribution: “1) plastic production, transport and use; 2) plastic disposal, mis-managed waste and degradation; and 3) bio-based plastics”. From the very beginning of their life-cycle, plastic and bioplastics are greenhouse gas sources. Making plastic requires extracting organic materials, such as crude oil or plant matter, which are burned to be refined and processed. The resulting plastic must too be heated for molding and manufacturing. After use, the plastic product may be recycled, become landfilled, be incinerated, or end up an environmental pollutant. In each case, the plastic will emit more CO2 as it degrades or is melted, according to a 2019 study referenced.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Plastic Production

Climate change influences the distribution of plastic waste; plastic has substantial greenhouse gas contributions, which enhance ocean heating and climate change. Put another way, changes in climate and climate-driven extreme weather events influence the spread of plastic across environments, from oceans, to freshwater systems, to terrestrial areas. But co-concurrently, plastic influences climate change by releasing emissions twofold throughout its life-cycle; production (including refining and manufacturing) and after-use life (including landfills, recycling, incineration and environmental waste).