Is leather sustainable?


There was a time when leather products were designed to last a lifetime. But the "fast fashion" craze has swept up this once sustainable material in its path. So is leather sustainable and can we justify buying cheap leather to satisfy passing fashion trends?

Leather is increasingly being mass produced on the cheap and imported from all over the world. This involves unsustainable transportation costs, and the hazardous chemicals and by-products that ensue from mass production. Not to mention unethical treatment of workers and the animals themselves.

Sustainability problems

To turn animal hides into leather they have to go through a tanning process to ensure the material is more durable and won't degrade.

The most common process for tanning in the fashion industry is chrome tanning which produces toxic wastewater that can contaminate soil and water systems.

Transportation around the globe leads to a massive carbon footprint. This, combined with mass farming, oil-guzzling machinery, hazardous industrial chemicals, and massive water and energy consumption represents an unsustainable model.

There's no way round it; leather production does inevitably put a strain on the environment. Unless we all return to the soil we have to accept the fact that our actions do have an impact. 

Changing approaches: how can we make leather sustainable?

Things are changing though; consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their purchases. And we're seeing a renaissance in small scale, artisanal manufacturers who are dedicated and passionate craft makers. Not mega corporations merely looking for mega profits.

artisan leather work

At Colville Leather we are always striving to ensure our practices are sustainable. We put an emphasis on providing products built to last a lifetime, reducing the environmental impact of leather manufacture and rediscovering a culture of maintenance and mending instead of an unsustainable throwaway consumer culture. 

Quality for a lifetime

We are committed to making belts that last a lifetime. This is the single best way to ensure sustainability in the long run; to create quality products that wont just be discarded as duds after they inevitably fall apart 18 months later.

We also want to encourage an ethos of sustainability by changing the way people think about their leather products... as cherished items that will endure whilst fashion trends come and go.

Low impact process

We only ever use veg-tanned leather, and never buy leather that uses the environmentally harmful chrome-tanning processes.

When some of the leather we use hits our workshops it is untreated. We often merely use a combination of olive oil and beeswax to re-moisturise the leather and bring out its natural characteristics. When we do use dyes they're mostly natural and eco-friendly.

To offer a wider range of colour options we do sometimes use oil based dyes. Whilst there are some sustainability issues with these kinds of dyes, we are making objects that will last you a lifetime; not the disposable items that are constantly churned out by large corporations.

There are two sides to sustainability. There are the recourses that manufacturers can take to minimise our eco footprint... and there are the steps that customers can take to ensure you don't chuck out that leather belt the second PVC comes back into fashion. Taking good care of your leather products will ensure they last for decades. To make this as easy as possible for you we offer lifetime support for the aftercare and maintenance requirements of the products you buy from us.

We also offer a lifetime warranty on all our products to ensure that you get the quality sustainable products you desire... and that the planet deserves. This is part of our ongoing commitment to sustainability and creating a more caring and discerning market for quality leather goods.


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