Do you ever feel like everything has a con to it? You think you're doing things relatively sustainably and ethically, and then you remember the social or environmental downside... and then the eco-anxiety sets in, again.
Generally speaking, I feel like I do fairly well. I make conscious decisions about eating a more plant-based diet, buying organic produce, drinking natural wine, walking or taking public transport instead of driving. My nemesis though? Leather. I have spent years unable to work out what the best option is.
I do wear animal leather, despite having almost stopped eating beef altogether. I have some treasured handbags which are made of leather and I convince myself that taking care of them and using them for years and years would be better than giving them away in a rash cruelty-free stance.
Then, putting the animal-cruelty aside for a moment, I consider the human element behind the leather industry. The tanning process is hugely detrimental to local communities, causing illness, disabilities and deformities in those who bathe and drink from water supplies that the tanning chemicals have run into. This is a problem particularly prevalent in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Cue... the solution of vegetable-tanned leather. Real leather, but coloured using barks and fruits to ensure that local communities don't suffer in the process of leather consumerism.
I also wear vegan leather. In fact, my everyday backpack for the last two years is a vegan Matt & Nat Katherine bag. Yay (!) to cruelty-free fashion, but I often feel conflicted that the material my backpack is made from is hardly sustainable either. PUC is a crude oil bi-product, which no doubt has a negative impact on the environment.
So, where does the solution lie? Pinatex seems to be the ray of sunshine in our confused lives. Made from the long fibres of pineapple plants, which is ordinarily a waste product from a single-harvest fruit, Pinatex has also given farmers a secondary income. The fibres are felted into a material that looks and feels like leather, used to make shoes, bags, belts and wallets. Still a niche material that needs to become more accessible, but definitely our best option for now!