Looking for your next vegan leather handbag? Find out why some vegan leather handbags are better, more environmentally friendly options than others, and why you should consider cork leather.
What is vegan leather?
What we usually refer to as vegan leather is a man-made fabric, specifically designed to have a leather look and feel. Vegan leathers ensure no animal succumbs so that a new handbag, jacket or shoe can be “born”. Sadly, the vast majority of vegan leathers are petroleum-based, thus heavily polluting, and toxic to humans and every other life forms on the planet.
The vast majority of vegan leather has been around for quite some time and is made of materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU) and textile-polymer composite microfibers. Easy to shape, these materials can be converted into a multitude of clothes and accessories, and can even be imprinted to further mimic natural skin textures.
What you need to consider when choosing a vegan leather handbag
Generally speaking, ‘vegan leather’ is made of petroleum — yeah, not good! The production and, later, the incineration of PVC-based synthetics produce one of the most toxic chemicals known: dioxins. Dioxins can be found in every single modern human being, and they’ve even been found in polar bears living in the far reaches of the Arctic.
The ubiquity of dioxins can be explained very simply: plastic-based synthetic materials don’t fully biodegrade. Instead, they get smaller and smaller — as in micro. Those micro-particles enter the food chain when they are unknowingly ingested by animals, and they keep on going, passing from animal to animal.
When vegan leather finally does break down, it releases phthalates into the atmosphere and the food chain. Phthalates, used to make the fabric more flexible and soft, are a proven cause of birth defects, breast cancer, breathing difficulties and hormonal disruptions.
Another thing to consider when buying a new vegan leather handbag is its quality and durability. Chemical based vegan leathers are often very thin and light, which makes them very poor performers in both resistance and durability.
While respecting and preserving animal lives is central to the vegan lifestyle and ethos, it’s important we make informed choices about what we buy. Making smart options when it comes to vegan leathers is of paramount importance. The right choice has the potential of not only saving countless lives but also save the planet. So, what should you do to balance ethical issues with ecological concerns? We have good news for you: they are not mutually exclusive.
Why you should consider a cork leather handbag
All is not lost, there ARE genuinely eco-friendly vegan leathers to be considered. Cork leather, the new kid on the block of vegan leathers, is very different from its man-made counterparts. Cork leather is an organic material made out of the bark of the cork oak tree.
This vegetable leather is completely natural in its origin and very minimally processed. After being harvested (by specialized men and women only) cork is simply left to air dry for six months. Then it’s boiled and steamed to get more flexible. Finally, heat and pressure are applied to press it into blocks, which are sliced in thin sheets of cork leather.
Unlike the heavy chemical processing of leather and most vegan leathers, cork leather production is chemical-free.
Cork leather has other amazing properties. This high-end looking vegetable leather is actually very low-maintenance (you can clean it with water and soap), water repellent, stain resistant and scratch-proof. All desirable features in a vegan handbag.
Cork is widely regarded as one of the most ecologically friendly materials around, as no trees are cut to extract the cork. On the contrary: cork oak trees and ecosystems are preserved and intelligently managed. Cork oak forest plays an essential part in the protection of endangered species in Portugal and Spain (the main producers).
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