BY SOPHIE HIRSH
MAR. 6 2020, UPDATED 1:20 P.M. ET
As more and more people grow aware of the leather industry's effects on the environment and on animals, the market for cruelty-free alternatives keeps growing. Not only that, but so many brands are out there trying to make vegan leather as low-impact as possible by using plants to create leather-like fabrics.
Up until recently, pretty much all vegan leather was made of plastic-based materials. But over the past few years, innovators have discovered many ways to make vegan leather out of everything from pineapples to cactus leaves to flowers. The vegan leather industry has come so far from the days of good old pleather, so to celebrate, we've rounded up some of the most exciting plant-based leathers on the market.
It's pretty amazing that every vegan leather on this list is made from a plant; but unfortunately, none of them are fully biodegradable yet. That's because each material is either made with a mix of plants and polyurethane, or is plant-based and coated with a plastic-based resin. While there are a few brands already selling fully compostable sneakers, no one has been able to crack the case of compostable vegan leather shoes just yet. But the good news is, most of the brands on this list are working towards perfecting their respective vegan leathers to make their shoes biodegradable.
Vegan leather pretty much always has a lower impact than animal-based leather, whether it's plant-based or completely synthetic. Not only does vegan leather leave animals out of the equation, but the process of harvesting (aka breeding, raising, and killing animals) and tanning leather has a high environmental impact. Raising animals (typically cows) for leather requires large amounts of land, water, and feed; the animals emit methane into the atmosphere; and the excrement from cattle ranches and factory farms pollutes the nearby waterways, soil, and air, which becomes a public health risk for people who live nearby, as explained by the NRDC.