A while back I wrote a post about the environmental footprint of leather, saying we should buy less of it and buy better. Better in this case meaning locally sourced hides, vegetable tanned, high quality and handcrafted where you live.
But, then came the question; If we are to buy fewer leather bags – are there any durable, good-looking, made in USA, vegan handbags out there we can buy instead?
When it comes to “pleather”, a plastic, leather-looking material, often found at H&M and Forever 21, I have one thing to say: no thanks. It breaks, it doesn’t look as good, and we don’t like plastic anyway, now do we? There is a new material in town though, Piñatex, which looks a lot like leather, is durable and also eco-friendly. Piñatex fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest so no extra land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them. However, shops are not exactly overflowing with this material yet, and why if we don’t want leather would we have bags that look like leather?
I say screw that! Instead why not venture out and pick one of these five nothing-to-do-with-leather materials:
Cork is super sustainable and as it turns out, super stylish.
Did you know that a cork tree that has its bark removed every nine years will absorb up to five times as much CO2 as a tree that doesn’t? In other words using the cork is good for the tree, good for the environment and good for, mainly, Spain’s and Portugal’s economies.
One brand to keep in mind if you’re into the look and durability of cork, is Nest Pure. Handcrafted, high quality bags and accessories, made right here in Minnesota. In addition to the main material, cork, the bags come with various colors of organic cotton.
2. Recycled Sails
It may sound like a bit of a stretch but old, no longer usable sails from boats become the most awesome tote bags up in Maine. You may have read my blog post a few weeks ago about Seabags of Maine and my new turtle tote? If not, check it out here for more details about this cool brand.
PS. The fabrics are not really recycled, they’re “reused” :)
What’s wrong with the look of cotton? Actually, nothing as far as I’m concerned! I’ve been sporting my cotton tote bag quite a bit on the blog actually.
Cotton is great because it’s natural, yet durable and easy to wash. (Organic cotton is obviously better for the environment than conventional cotton is, but let’s keep focusing on the vegan thing and just say cotton bags are cool!)
4. Waxed Canvas
Canvas is made from either linen, hemp or cotton – all natural materials – and make for durable fabrics when waxed. What about the wax you say? Well, yes, using beeswax means this fabric is not vegan, so I’m cheating a little, but it is still far from the eco-nightmare of leather. In my opinion, using beeswax makes much more sense than using a poly-based (fossil fuel) wax. But that’s just me.
Newton Supply Co. out of Austin, Texas, makes the cutest waxed canvas bags. (Some do come with natural color, veg-tanned leather details so look out for that.) This company is extra awesome because they’re partnered with Open Arms, a division of the Austin-based Multicultural Refugee Coalition which empowers refugee women by providing living wage employment. Cool.
5. Seat Belts
It may be unusual, but yes, Harvey’s makes bags out of seat belts, in sunny California. There are endless styles, colors and sizes to chose from. My good friend has a backpack, which is lightweight, well made and sized “just right”.
The company started out using actual old seat belts, salvaged from broken cars, which was super sustainable! I’m pretty sure the current handbags are made from newly woven “seat belts” though. Still, this unusual “fabric” makes for a fun, vegan handbag.
6. Bonus Tip: If all else fails, go second hand
Here’s what, if you can’t stand carrying a purse that doesn’t look like leather or in fact IS made of leather, yet you’re not keen on another cow dying and more pollutants being released; second hand will be your saving grace. Mom’s or grandma’s closet is normally a great place to start browsing! It’s made, it’s there, give that leather bag a new home.
(And yes, I do know that a vegan would never go for option number 4 or 6, but not all leather-skipping readers are. It’s all about inspiration to shop differently ;))
Anyone still in the mood for a leather bag made in China??!