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The Environmental Impact of Traditional Leather vs. Plant-Based Leather
Explore the environmental impact of traditional leather versus plant-based leather. Learn why plant-based alternatives are a superior choice for sustainability.
Published 1st of July, 2024
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The fashion industry is at a pivotal point, as increasing awareness about the environmental impact of traditional materials is pushing both brands and consumers towards sustainable alternatives. Traditional leather has long been an uncontested default in fashion, but has lately come under scrutiny as a major environmental detriment. In contrast, plant-based leather is emerging as a viable, eco-friendly alternative. In this article, we will explore the environmental impact of traditional leather as opposed to plant-based leather, highlighting why the latter is a superior choice for a sustainable future.

Learn about our innovative process of transforming barley into sustainable leather, turning waste into high-quality materials.

The Environmental Cost of Traditional Leather

Traditional leather production is fraught with environmental issues. From the initial stages of raising livestock to the final tanning processes, each step has a substantial ecological footprint.

  1. Livestock Farming: Raising cattle for leather involves vast amounts of land, water, and feed. This not only leads to deforestation but also contributes to significant greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock farming is responsible for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with methane from cattle being a major contributor​​​ (Rossa l'Vita)​.

  2. Water Usage: The production of one kilogram of leather requires up to 17,000 liters of water. This includes water used for raising cattle and the tanning process itself​ (HZCORK)​. The water-intensive nature of leather production places a strain on freshwater resources, exacerbating water scarcity in many regions.

  3. Tanning Process: The tanning process, which converts raw hides into durable leather, uses a variety of toxic chemicals, including chromium. These chemicals often end up in waterways, causing pollution and posing health risks to workers and nearby communities​ (Voes & Co)​.

  4. Deforestation: Large swaths of forest are cleared to make way for grazing land and feed crop cultivation. This deforestation results in the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of vital carbon sinks​ (World Economic Forum)​.

Explore why plant-based leather represents the future of sustainable fashion and how it meets modern environmental standards.

The Rise of Plant-Based Leather

In response to the environmental challenges posed by traditional leather, plant-based leather has emerged as a sustainable alternative. Made from a variety of plant materials, including cactus, pineapple leaves, and mushrooms, plant-based leather offers several environmental benefits.

  1. Sabant's Beer skin, Gin skin and Whiskey skin: At Sabant, Beer skin is our flagship product. It is a plant-based leather made from the residual barley malt matter created as a byproduct of beer production. This innovative approach not only reduces agricultural waste but also provides a sustainable alternative to traditional leather.

  2. Cactus Leather (Desserto): Developed by Mexican entrepreneurs, Desserto is made from the Nopal cactus. This material requires minimal water, is biodegradable, and is free from toxic chemicals commonly used in traditional leather production.

  3. Pineapple Leather (Piñatex): Piñatex is made from the fibers of pineapple leaves, a byproduct of the pineapple industry. This innovative material reduces agricultural waste and promotes a circular economy. Piñatex production requires less water and energy compared to traditional leather and does not involve harmful chemicals​​.

  4. Mushroom Leather (Mylo): Mylo is derived from the root structure of mushrooms. This process uses agricultural byproducts and requires significantly less land and water. Mushroom leather is also biodegradable and free from the toxic chemicals used in traditional tanning​.

  5. Apple Leather (AppleSkin): Made from apple waste such as cores, peels, and seeds, AppleSkin is another innovative plant-based leather. It offers a unique texture and is particularly popular for accessories like phone cases and watch straps​​.

  6. Cork Leather: Sourced from the bark of cork oak trees, cork leather is renewable and sustainable. The extraction process does not require the tree to be cut down, allowing it to regenerate. Cork leather is lightweight, water-resistant, and has a natural aesthetic​.

Discover how we maintain the highest quality standards in plant-based leather through rigorous testing and innovative processes.

Comparative Analysis: Leather vs. Plant-Based Leather

There’s plenty of benefits in using plant-based leather as opposed to animal leather.

  1. Water Usage: Plant-based leather production generally requires significantly less water than traditional leather. For instance, cactus leather production saves up to 190% more water compared to polyurethane-based vegan leather and even more compared to animal leather​​.

  2. Chemical Use: Traditional leather tanning involves harmful chemicals that pollute waterways and soil. In contrast, plant-based leather production typically avoids these toxic substances, leading to a cleaner and safer production process​.

  3. Carbon Footprint: The carbon footprint of plant-based leather is considerably lower than that of traditional leather. Livestock farming for leather is a major source of methane emissions, whereas plant-based alternatives like cactus and mushroom leather sequester carbon during their growth phases​​.

  4. Biodiversity and Land Use: Traditional leather production contributes to deforestation and biodiversity loss. Plant-based leathers, on the other hand, utilize agricultural byproducts and require less land, preserving natural habitats and promoting biodiversity​​.

Why Choose Plant-Based Leather?

The environmental benefits of plant-based leather make it a compelling alternative to traditional leather. By choosing plant-based options, consumers and brands can significantly reduce their environmental impact. Here are some reasons to consider plant-based leather:

  • Sustainability: Plant-based leather is made from renewable resources and has a lower environmental footprint.

  • Ethical Production: It avoids the ethical issues associated with animal farming and slaughter.

  • Innovative Design: Plant-based leather offers versatile design possibilities, matching or even exceeding the aesthetic qualities of traditional leather.

  • Healthier Option: Free from toxic chemicals, plant-based leather is safer for both the environment and human health.

Read testimonials from our clients to understand why they love Sabant's plant-based leather products and the impact on their lives.


As the fashion industry moves towards sustainability, plant-based leather stands out as a superior alternative to traditional leather. It offers significant environmental benefits, from reduced water and chemical use to lower carbon emissions and preservation of biodiversity. At Sabant, we are committed to driving this change by providing high-quality, innovative plant-based leather products. Join us in making a positive impact on the planet by choosing sustainable materials.

Find out how your brand can collaborate with Sabant to leverage innovative, sustainable materials in your product offerings.

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The Environmental Impact of Traditional Leather vs. Plant-Based Leather
Explore the environmental impact of traditional leather versus plant-based leather. Learn why plant-based alternatives are a superior choice for sustainability.
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