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Fashion Forward Cactus Leather

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

I’ll admit, I don’t know much about leather beyond what happened to Ross’s Leather Pants in Friends, but it’s a fashion statement, and an environmental one too, which is why it needs addressing.

Photo credit: Sébastien Noël

Leather is made from animals, and as such is involved in the high amounts of feed, land, water and fuels used in raising these animals. In fact, the EPA said that the greatest threat to our waterways is livestock pollution.

The production of leather uses not only a lot of energy, but dangerous chemicals, for example formaldehyde and some cyanide-based chemicals. US Leather also tends to be chrome tanned. In the last 50 years, 70% of Amazon rainforest deforestation has been to produce pastures or crops, and this has a global impact; something needs to change.

This is where faux leather comes in. Contributing a third of the amount that real leather does to the environmental impact, faux leather is far better in theory to animal leather, which was described as the ‘most environmentally toxic textile of all,’ (The Ethical Gallery Blog).

This is where two Mexican Entrepreneurs come in…Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez are supposedly the first people ever to create leather from prickly pear cacti, using no toxic chemicals, phthalates or PVC at all! The new type of leather, made from cacti, could reduce water consumption by 20% and reduce plastic waste by up to 42%!

It’s not just cacti either - leather has been produced and used from food waste by No Saints to make trainers, which uses pineapple leaves and apple peels. Even the new Taycan electric Porsche gets it’s cool leather interiors from vegan leather made from recycled polyester, which requires 80% less carbon dioxide than animal leather.

The leather industry is worth a huge $80 billion, and leather can be made from grown cactus trees by harvesting their leaves, drying them, and processing. Even the colouring dye has been naturally developed by the two scientists who begun using cactus leaves for leather.

You’d think for all this new technology it would be more expensive, but no! Cactus made leather is in a similar price range to genuine leather, and has so far been used on shoes, handbags and car seats!

Photo credit: Lee Campbell

Cactus leather does not have the typical issue of not being breathable, and so far, is being hailed as the ‘true alternative to animal leather that doesn’t have a negative impact on the planet,’ (Jessica Stewart)

So, there you have proof that cacti are more than just the fail-safe uni houseplant that won’t die (most of the time). From a dessert plant, to faux leather, cacti might just stop the fashion industry pumping pollution out as fast as it does clothes. Green fashion is on the rise, and cacti it seems are the way to go!

About the Author: Ani Talwar is the Deputy Wildlife and Environment Editor for WILD Magazine, can be found at @mischief.weavers. She wrote the book ‘ATRO- CITY THE FLOOD’ and is passionate about sustainability. This article was suggested on Instagram by @henna129.

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