Leather used to be one of the most highly sought-after products when it comes to things like shoes and handbags. It was almost always considered to be a symbol of luxury, a way that you could tell other people that you've arrived without actually being forced to verbally shout it from the proverbial rooftop. These days, carrying leather or wearing anything that is made from actual leather can get you in a lot of trouble with animal lovers and environmental activists alike. As a result, leather that's grown inside a lab is becoming more and more prominent. That's because the fashion industry is largely tied to the idea of having something that looks like leather, yet at the same time they are very much aware of the fact that it's becoming increasingly unpopular to have anything that's actual leather. As a result, leather grown in a lab has become the middle ground. The question is, what is it and why is it supposedly superior to traditional leather?
Leather Grown in a Lab: What is It?
Not surprisingly, leather grown in a lab is exactly what it sounds like- it is an imitation leather, if you will, that is actually grown in a lab as opposed to using real cowhide. Surprisingly, it's derived from plastics. It's really hard to wrap your head around the idea that the plastic soda bottle you threw away a year ago might be a component of the lab-grown leather handbag you're carrying today, but it is a very real possibility. This is great news for people who are trying their hardest to be environmentally responsible, because it proves that the plastic that you are recycling is actually being used to manufacture other things. By the way, those plastics are not only used for new handbags or a new pair of shoes. They're also used to make all kinds of materials from cold weather jackets to components for modern-day automobiles. It looks and feels like leather, but it's not as harmful to the environment. Furthermore, it is completely vegan and because of that fact, you can rest assured in the knowledge that no animal was harmed in order to make the bag that you've been dying to purchase for the last month.
Traditional Leather as an Environmental Pollutant?
A lot of people are actually shocked to learn that traditional leather can be so bad for the environment, but it is true. As a matter of fact, research has indicated that raising castle is harmful to the environment in and of itself. If you're asking yourself how on Earth raising cattle is harmful to the environment, it's interesting to note that it all comes down to the fact that cattle produce methane gas. For them, it's part of their natural digestive process but for the environment, it's not such great news. It's not that the cattle themselves are the problem, but instead the fact that people have become accustomed to breeding cattle for all kinds of things. People operate these massive cattle farms in order to produce beef, milk and yes, cowhide that can be processed into leather. The problem is, there are far too many of these operations for the environment to handle effectively and it has now become a problem. In addition, there's a lot of environmental concern associated with tanning traditional leather as well. It's largely because it requires a chemical called chromium in order to do it. If the facility using the chromium doesn't dispose of it properly, it has a way of getting into the water supply and contaminating everything in its way. Worse yet, it's exceptionally dangerous for the people who are actually processing the hide, even when it's properly handled.
A New Movement
Unfortunately, all of these environmental concerns didn't seem to be enough to get people to pay attention to the issue for a number of years. It was only when it became unfashionable to make any article of clothing or any type of accessory out of animal hide of any kind that people started to take notice. After decades of protest at high end fashion shows, some companies started to lead the way and move away from traditional leather. These days, you won't find traditional leather or fur on hardly any product made by the likes of Burberry, Prada or Chanel. While these companies that have become fashion icons decided that they were no longer going to be involved with the use of traditional leather, virtually everyone else began to follow suit. That is precisely why leather grown in a lab has become so popular.
There are some people that would argue that the cowhide used for leather is not a problem in and of itself because these cattle are still being used for things like beef. When they are slaughtered, the hide either has to be turned into leather or disposed of. As a result, some people don't agree with the idea of growing leather in a lab. However, more and more people are beginning to see that the only way to fix the massive problem associated with environmental contamination is to take things one step at a time. As far as this part of the problem is concerned, getting away from traditional leather is only the first step. Who knows how many more of these steps might come as a direct result of this one. At any rate, most people have decided that they don't want anything to do with traditional leather anymore. While leather grown in the lab isn't perfect and still requires the use of some chemicals and processes that aren't exactly environmentally healthy, it's not as bad as processing traditional leather. As long as people continue to demand products that look and feel like leather, there has to be a compromise somewhere. At least for right now, this seems to be the compromise that most people have decided to settle on.
Written by Dana Hanson
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