Many choose to avoid leather for animal cruelty reasons, but environmental and health concerns also top the list. The process of tanning releases dangerous toxins into the air and water systems. There are several alternatives to leather which are cheaper, but several of them also use fossil fuels (plastics) and their processing isn’t any better. A superior alternative material is cork fabric. It’s clean, renewable, environmentally-conscious, and creates high quality, premium faux leather.
Making cork into a textile starts in the Mediterranean area where local farmers hand-harvest trees with machetes every 9-12 years. Culling the cork oak’s bark helps the trees grow faster and live longer – a rare scenario. Healthy cork trees can live between 200-300 years! The bark is then boiled in water to make it more pliable and workable. No chemicals are required in the process, making it safe for the workers who are handling the materials, as well as for the environment. It can then be shaved to varying thicknesses. Cork can be as thin as paper, or it can be fashioned into a soft and supple material that looks like leather. To make clothing and accessories, the cork sheets are then fastened to a lining or backing.
The vegan cork handbags from Eve Cork showcase the sustainability and luxury that are the cornerstones of the brand. The bags look like premium leather but are lighter, softer, and more durable. Plus, cork is waterproof, stain-resistant, hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and easy to clean. No chemicals are required to treat the finished items, either. To clean any minor surface dirt, use a cloth with gentle soap and water or natural baby wipes. Eve Cork’s accessories use organic cotton liners, vegan glues, and all-natural vegetable dyes to color. They ensure every material used in handcrafting their bags and wallets is from the most sustainable sources available. Their line is cruelty-free: including sweatshop-free manufacturing.
As for real leather, preparing hides to tan begins with curing: using salt to prevent putrefaction from bacteria. Following this is soaking, liming, removal of extraneous tissues like hair and flesh, and several other careful steps. Chrome tanning is used to create soft leather for handbags and clothing. Tawing, which uses alum and aluminium salts, increases stretchiness and softness further. Tanning involves chemicals like chromium, tannins, aldehydes, and others that are harmful to ecosystems, particularly water systems, and are hazardous to human health. In Kanpur, India, the largest exporter of leather, 80% of wastewater is dumped into the River Ganges, a major water source for a large area. Consequently, surrounding farmland is polluted with poisonous chromium III, lead, and arsenic. The air and soil are also affected, causing chronic diseases in the surrounding population.
Add the abysmal treatment of animals to the above, and it’s clear why leather is falling out of fashion. Why not when there are beautiful, high quality replacements like cork? Buying cork items is not only an eco-loving choice, but it contributes to the health of the forests and diverse animal habitats. Switching to cork is a choice you can feel good about all around.
So Sassy Peeps, which do you prefer cork fabric or leather? Inquiring minds would love to know!
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