12 eco-friendly alternatives to animal leather

eco-friendly alternatives to animal leather

Surely by now you are aware of the ethical dilemma and environmental impact of using animal skin for leather.

Due to this dilemma, there is a growth in investment to find and develop sustainable alternatives to animal leather.


tea leather

Green tea leather is a new biodegradable leather material, produced from the by-products of fermented green tea.

It was developed by researcher Young-A Lee and her team at Iowa State University (1).

The most remarkable thing about this product is that it consists of turning food waste – a by-product of fermented green tea – into raw material.

Lee discovered that a cellulosic material made from green tea can perform as well as leather, and after the team combined this material with a hemp-based lining on the inside, the result was the tea leather; an eco-friendly alternative to animal leather.

musky leather

Muskin leather is produced from mushroom skin. This type of vegan leather is strong, versatile and has already been adopted by brands in the fashion industry. The mushroom needed here is harvested from the caps of mushroom species that we don’t eat and then processed in a natural tanning process.


The final product has a suede feel.

Malai coconut leather

Coconut leather is another plant-based leather material that features the cell wall of coconut water and banana fiber that would otherwise be wasted. This vegan leather has been dubbed “Malai”, which means “crème de la crème” in a northern Indian language.

The production process involves the collection and sterilization of coconut water for the bacterial culture to feed on; its fermentation, refining and subsequent enrichment with natural materials of vegetable origin until obtaining a product similar to leather. The result is Malai leather, an organic product with no plastic or synthetic ingredients.

cork leather

Natural cork leather is made from the bark of the cork oak tree and is often considered durable because the entire tree does not have to be cut down to produce the material.

Highly durable and with a distinctive look, cork leather is also waterproof, stain resistant and easy to maintain.

Leather and cork fabrics have been used in the market for decades, especially in Portugal and Spain, where a large part of the raw material comes from. You’ll find cork leather in high-quality wallets, unique bags, shoes, and other accessories.

And it is that the cork is much more than a cork.


Pineapple leather, known commercially as Piñatex, is an alternative to natural leather made from fibers extracted from pineapple leaves. Created by Carmen Hijosa, this animal-friendly alternative to leather is made from pineapple waste.

pineapple leather

This innovative vegan leather is highly regarded for its softness, durability and flexibility. It is a natural and sustainable, non-woven material made from pineapple leaves, since this raw material comes from the Philippines, where the fruit grows in abundance.

Pinatex is already used in clothing, shoes and bags and has been adopted by brands like Hugo Boss and vegan shoe company Nae.

soy leather

Soy leather is organic leather made from soybeans. It was originally created in Indonesia by XXLab, a women’s collective, from liquid waste from large-scale tofu production.

To produce soy leather, they boil liquid waste, which would otherwise contaminate waters, with vinegar, sugar and bacteria until the mixture turns into microbial cellulose. It is then dried and the final product is a very resistant fabric that can replace animal leather in the manufacture of shoes, bags and other accessories.

Zoa organic leather

Zoa organic leather

Modern Meadow manufactures collagen by engineering a strain of yeast capable of producing collagen through fermentation. Zoa’s leather takes the form of liquid leather and can thus transform into all kinds of shapes.

Eco-friendly nopal leather

Eco-friendly nopal leather

Mexican inventors Adrián López and Marte Cazarez developed the first 100% organic nopal leather, Desserto, offering a sustainable, stylish and eco-friendly alternative to leather.

López and Cazarez guarantee that their product can last 10 years and has the chemical and physical properties required by the fashion, furniture, leather goods and automotive industries.

CLAE launches vegetable-tanned leather sneakers in Mexican nopal. The cactus leather shoes are the result of the collaboration between CLAE and DESSERTO. According to the sneaker company, it will be the first in the world made from a cactus.

mushroom leather

mushroom leather

Designed to be durable, natural and to mimic the experience of having a leather item, the Driver Bag is a unique alternative to this material…a leather made from mushrooms! Made from the fibrous mycelium found in the roots of mushrooms, Mylo looks and feels exactly like leather (it’s apparently pretty hard to tell them apart), except for the environmental impact, making it a qualitative step up. compared to faux leather. its appearance, resembling exactly conventional leather.

Mushroom leather is a cheaper, greener and more ethical alternative to animal leather.

Scientists are developing techniques to produce mushroom leather on a large scale with a feel and strength similar to genuine leather.

wine leather

Vegetable leather from winemaking waste: the transformation of vegetable fibers and oils contained in grape marc into a textile product ecological.

Vegetable leather with discarded fruits.

Vegetable leather with discarded fruits.

This is what some Dutch students realized, make vegetable leather from discarded fruit pulp. Its applications are limitless, from the upholstery of a Porsche to kiwi skin or banana skin shoes. Students are doing wonders with fruit residue, and companies are already eager to test the invention.

Palm leaf leather.

Palm leaf leather

A Dutch designer, Tjeerd Veenhoven, is doing his part by developing palm leaf leather rugs, which he calls palm leather. Instead of relying on resource-intensive animal husbandry, Veenhoven sources materials from the 80 million trees that currently grow naturally, creating a sustainable alternative to traditional leather.

These are just a few of the vegan leather alternatives available to fashion designers and manufacturers. If you know of any others, feel free to share them below.

(1) A humanities researcher develops a sustainable alternative to leather made from green tea

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