Sustainable Materials: Vegan Leather

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Made from animal hides and skins, leather has been used for a variety of items for more than 7,000 years, and it is still a popular textile today.

Creating leather however, is resource intensive in terms of water and energy usage. It's also no secret that the leather industry is hazardous to the environment, workers and to local people's health due to the heavy metal chemicals used in the tanning process. It's an all-round world of YUCK and yet remains a fashion staple and go-to for jackets, gloves, shoes and bags.

No matter where it comes from, leather is the product of a cruel industry. And with so many synthetic materials available today, there's just no need to wear it at all. Personally, I don’t think of there being much of a difference between leather and fur. It's simply not sustainable to raise an animal for a handbag!

More and more however, people are more conscious of what they’re wearing and I hope that animal leather, furs and skins will soon lose their popularity and completely disappear from the catwalks.

With new innovative materials being introduced each year, there are many vegan options now available with the same appearance and durability as leather but with the added bonus of being eco-friendly and cruelty free.

When it comes to choosing a vegan leather product, it is important to understand the alternatives, how they are produced, and what they are used for.

Here we explore some of the alternatives:


Over the last few years, the primary leather alternatives available would be made from PU (polyurethane) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride). While they qualify as vegan with no animal ingredients used, these are a plastic material manufactured from fossil fuels. PU and PVC also must undergo a chemical process to make them flexible enough to mimic leather; this is hugely damaging to the environment not only in the process of being made but also once its disposed of.


The new kid on the block, Cork, is an excellent alternative to leather, it is breathable, biodegradable and has natural antibacterial properties making it brilliant for products like soles on shoes.

This vegetable leather is completely natural in its origin and very minimally processed with little or no impact on the environment.

Cork is distinguished by its unique aesthetic, its waterproof, stain resistant, fire resistant and dirt repellent, although it is prone to stretches and tears so might not make the most suitable alternative material for all products.


A recent addition to the faux leather market is pineapple leather. Made from the leaves of the pineapple plant, a by-product of the fruit industry; this sustainable material is a far more environmentally friendly option, providing bonus income for rural farming communities.

Pinatex is strong and breathable, however it's worth noting that a petroleum-based coating is sometimes applied as part of the production process, meaning this plant-based leather is not biodegradable. We have our fingers-crossed that manufacturers will find a more natural coating in the future!


Paper, yes that's right, I said Paper! This incredibly versatile product can be used in place of leather if it's treated and processed correctly. Properly coloured paper can be transformed to imitate leather once it's embossed with a leather grain and in some cases varnished. This sustainable material is widely recycled, as long as any varnish or coatings applied are made of biodegradable materials.



Here at Forever and Green we LOVE our Vegan Leather backpacks from Kula Bags. These timeless, stylish backpacks are made from a paper material called Texon Vogue, which has been accredited by both the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and Oeko-Tex. These international standards guarantee that no harmful substances are used on the material and ensure that is sustainably sourced from responsibly managed forests.

You can buy one of our Vegan Leather backpacks here.

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