OK, so we already know leather is not environmentally friendly. Raising the cattle uses lots of resources and tanning their leather requires a lot of harmful chemicals that threaten nearby communities and our water systems at large.
But leather is a very useful product. So, finding alternatives is key to moving away from so much leather production. The brand Desserto has come up with a kind of faux leather made from cactus. This product is organic and vegan, and is supposed to be quite a strong fabric.
Much of the sustainability effort made by Desserto involves the process of planting and harvesting the cactus. It is grown on a ranch in Mexico where nothing is cleared or cut down for the crop to grow. Instead, the cactus is allowed to grow within the existing ecosystem, aiding in the protection of biodiversity in the area. This is excellent.
The cactus crop requires no irrigation, relying on rain water instead. This is also excellent, making this kind of leather even more environmentally preferable to real leather since it is much less water intensive.
The cactus leaves are cut only when mature, allowing for a new harvest every 6-8 months. The leaves are then cleaned and mashed, then left to dry in the sun. Next, non toxic chemicals are used to process the cactus leaves which are then shaped.
Desserto diverts the leftover cactus to the food industry, which is a great way to keep waste from the landfill.
Though this brand makes it quite clear that their cactus itself is environmentally sound, I would like to know a lot more about Desserto and its practices. Sustainability is more than just the ingredients in products themselves, it is also about working conditions, fair wages, equity, and MANY other social factors that Desserto has not addressed. It is essential that this brand does so, if they want their model to be considered sustainable.