Leather is a product that has a very high environmental impact. All of the negative environmental effects of raising cattle such as deforestation, huge amounts of waste runoff, high water usage, ect.. can be applied to leather’s impact on the earth. The process of tanning leather is also extremely energy intensive and releases harmful chemicals into our waterways and eventually the ocean, wreaking havoc on these ecosystems. For these reasons, it is an excellent idea for companies to stop using real leather in their products especially since there are plenty of better options.
One notable improvement over the use of traditional leather comes from the brand Saye, which sells a pair of shoes made of leather derived from mangoes. These Modelo ’89 Vegan Mango sneakers are vegan, organic, and recycled — nice! Already looking more sustainable than leather from cows. The upper material of these shoes begins as leftover/unsold fruit sourced from Dutch distributors. The seeds are removed from the mangoes which are then mashed and boiled. Next, the pulp is spread out to dry and is ready to use once it cools. So far, this process has avoided the horrible environmental impacts of raising cattle AND the toxic chemicals released by tanning cow leather. Excellent!
Beyond the use of mango leather, Saye sets an example in local sourcing and production, as these processes are all done in Europe. This sets Saye apart from many other apparel companies that rely on labor and cheap materials sources across the world to make their products. In addition, Saye works with a supplier called You Shoes which emphasizes worker’s rights and sustainability. Workers are paid fair wages, have 8 hour days five days a week, 22 paid days off each year, and have paid overtime which it limited to two extra hours. When it comes to sustainability, facilities have natural lighting, low energy consumption, and half of the waste produced is recycled (with the goal of 100%).
Saye should be commended for making use of food that would otherwise have contributed to waste in a landfill somewhere. This company should also be recognized for their commitment to sustainability in regards to workers rights and local production. This kind of thoughtfulness in creating products needs to be replicated by more, and hopefully even larger apparel companies.